Of anyone in Europe, the residents of Germany's Ruhr Valley would have some empathy for the plight of Cleveland. While they were decimated by the decline of the coal mining industry, the effect has been akin to the factors leading to the Rust Belt plight here.
Like Northeast Ohio, the Ruhr Valley (actually a region, rather than a single city) has struggled with reinventing itself in such a way that might reverse the economic tide. As a way to help out, the powers that be have declared the entire region the European Culture Capital for 2010.
To celebrate, the Ruhr Valley will play host to thousands of cultural events and an anticipated 5 million visitors.
Let me repeat: thousands of cultural events and millions of people.
The planned events will be both high and low culture, from opera and fine art to a day-long picnic on a temporarily closed section of the region's busiest highway.
After attending last fall's Detroit Avenue Bridge event and seeing how geeked and excited people were about it, can you imagine what a whole year of such events would be like? You can say the same thing about the Asterisk at Ingenuity event or even the CMA reopening party.
Sure, this stuff costs money and the big cheeses in this city will find a way to waste 80% of whatever is raised, but maybe something on this spectacular scale is a way to kickstart something new here.
4 years ago