Experience Cleveland like the 1920s
By Imani Stephens, Image by David Brichford, courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art
There's a reason people who weren't even alive during the Jazz Age tend to have a certain fascination with the era. The Jazz Age in Cleveland was a time of grandeur, opulence and splendor punctuated by a generation defined by its bold expression. The 1920s ushered in a transformation of America's definition of beauty, architecture, and art.
But here's the great thing: you can still get a taste of what that time period was like. Cleveland has many locations and events that transport you directly into the swinging '20s, where you can forget the tech-riddled current world and indulge in jazz music, cocktails and unmatched fashion.
Get your toe-tappin' shoes ready for a night out on the town at these jazzy hotspots.
Now until Jan. 14
The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s
The Cleveland Museum of Art has one of the most astonishing exhibitions currently on display, called Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s. The era helped to push the boundaries in design and decoration, which all are highlighted in this exhibit.
"The Jazz Age helped bring modernism to Cleveland," said Stephen Harrison, the Curator of European and American decorative art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. "Prior to the 1920s, Cleveland was thought of as a very, very conservative city—its architecture and its art were very much rooted and grounded in earlier historical styles. During the 1920s, we see a move toward modern design, modern architecture, and even modern thought."
During the Jazz Age, artists and architects began incorporating cultural influences from European and African design into patterns of clothing and home decor. Traveling throughout the exhibit, you can see the beautiful transition from traditional, floral and muted decor to more modern, boldly colored, geometric, architecture-inspired design in artwork, furniture, accessories and even fashion.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is a mesmerizing chandelier from the Paris 1925 World’s Fair, crafted with 30,000 crystals. It's a sight that causes you to catch your breath, and is a stunning example of the boldness and lavishness of the Jazz Age.
Before the 1920s, not many people were contending against societal expectations. This iconic era paved the way for expression and freedom.
"The Jazz Age represents an era of the 1920s specifically in which people were breaking out of the conventional norms," Harrison said. "They were pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable."
The Harlem Renaissance was taking place during this time, and was represented through cultural, social, and artistic expression. This was also on the heels of the Women's Suffrage movement, which furthered women's right to vote in America. And let's not forget the failed attempt at Prohibition, limiting America's ability to purchase alcohol.
The Jazz Age had an answer to each of these cultural shifts, usually in defiant and daring style.
"This exhibit evokes a sense of glamor, a sense of abandonment and indulgence, mischief and naughtiness, sort of letting loose, cutting loose, independence and freedom," Harrison said.
The exhibit showcases some of the very clothing and jewelry that Cleveland "flapper" women wore for a night of revelry. Jazz night clubs and speakeasies began popping up, (discretely) celebrating the designer cocktail and public dancing.
It displays cars that were built to cruise, with smooth lines meant for style and status. The furniture mimics the architecture of the day, where less is more, and strong geometric lines are king. Glamorous, brightly colored jewelry draws the eye to every corner of the show room.
The exhibit was showcased at the Smithsonian Design Museum before coming to Cleveland, its final stop. It runs through Jan. 14, 2018, so make plans to visit now before it's over.
Other places to get your jazz fix in Cleveland:
This legendary Cleveland hot spot has hosted jazz greats like Count Basie Orchestra, Stevie Wonder, Benny Golson and Brooker T. Jones (and many, many more) in a building originally built in 1920. With six separate dining rooms and three bars, Nighttown hosts an eclectic mix of patrons from all over the world and all walks of life gathering together to tap their toes to live performances each week. With music most nights, Nighttown is the only place in Ohio on DownBeat’s list of the Best Jazz Clubs in the World.
Take 5 Rhythym and Jazz
Come for Friday and Saturday night live shows and indulge in great food and music in Downtown Cleveland's jazz lounge. Groove to top-rated national artists while treating your taste buds to fine soul food.
Cleveland Jazz Orchestra
“You Should Hear Us Now!” is the slogan of the Jazz Orchestra's 2017-2018 season. For more than 30 years, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra has been promoting jazz in its historical and contemporary forms by performing concerts and fostering young musicians toward a future in jazz.
Cleveland History Center
See how fashion has changed from then to now. Open through April 22, 2018, the Cleveland History Center's "Wow Factor: 150 Years of Collecting Bold Clothes" exhibit showcases real-life fashion from the Jazz Age and other eras, donated by Cleveland designers.
Velvet Tango Room
Listen to a well-known live jazz trio every weekday night at the Velvet Tango Room. Freshly made 1920s-themed cocktails makes this a high-demand stop for those looking for an intimate night out with inspired drink choices.
Go below street-level and step back in time at the Society Lounge, where you're welcomed by a twist of modern and old-school jazz style. Here, you're treated to hand-crafted cocktails created with an attention to detail in a dim setting that evokes "an era when socializing transpired face to face, men shined their shoes, hats were never worn inside and a door was always opened for a lady."
The Brothers Lounge
Satisfy all your personality needs here with three separate areas to be entertained. Have a beer in the Pub, try a little of everything on the menu in the Wine Bar (with its own intimate stage and piano), and then jam out in the Concert Hall, which hosts jazz bands as part of their extensive lineup.
Bop Stop @ The Music Settlement
Part jazz club, part education center for music-loving adults and kids, Bop Stop is an intimate setting with a Lake Erie view. With tiered seating and an open floor plan, you'll have a great line of sight to the stage no matter where you're seated. Arrive early for snacks and drinks at the bar, featuring an assortment of food from local chefs.
House of Swing
Head to the House of Swing (where jazz is king!), a blues and jazz bar that features live music every Friday and Saturday night. They don't serve food, but encourage you to bring your own. They make up for it by extending happy hour until 9 p.m.