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Photo: FNRttC /Night Ride Cycling UK
UK participants in the Friday Night Ride to the Coast enjoy the casual pace. Smaller, more family-oriented night riding can be found in cities like Cleveland.

I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for ages — ever since I started seeing Mary Ann’s joyful Facebook posts on cycling at night with friends, family, and like-minded strangers in Cleveland.

In an article by Sam Walker at the Guardian, we learn that night cycling is a thing in England, too, but for more miles.

Walker writes that the Friday Night Ride to the Coast is a “carefully organised event run by the ‘Fridays,’ a club devoted to the singular cause of safely delivering you at a conversational pace from the Smoke to the sea. They do this every month from spring through autumn, requiring only third party insurance and an annual membership fee of £2.

“The FNRttC, as it’s known to veterans, has been spreading the joy of night riding for almost 15 years, flying quietly under the radar of most cyclists. …

“It was started by Simon Legg, who spent a decade escorting thousands to Brighton, Whitstable and other destinations with decent transport links. When he retired he entrusted his legacy to a group of seasoned ride leaders who take turns as mother hen.

“The distance ranges from 55 to 75 miles, and popular routes can attract more than 100 participants. There are tail-end Charlies and human waymarkers, sometimes recruited on the spot, to ensure nobody is lost or left behind.

“Rides begin at midnight with a chat about safety and etiquette, jokes optional. Mechanical problems along the way are met with expert assistance, though you’re advised to give your bike a thorough checkup beforehand. …

“It’s a great social mixer, but there are also opportunities for solitude as you pull each other along on an invisible stretchy rope. Punctures are a communal affair. ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ one of the minders will more or less transmit to the front, and so all will wait, grateful it wasn’t them. This time. …

“We ride at night because it’s there, conveniently out of the way of the usual routine. Less traffic is a bonus, but magic moments are made of more than this.

“There’s the moon, for a start: those times when it paints the road silver and the mist mysterious, inviting you to dabble in poetry. When not moonstruck, the darkness itself is the draw, a coverlet silencing the day’s concerns, yet granting permission for thoughts to drift forever out into space. …

There are bats and badgers and other nocturnal creatures clocking in, which helps rouse you out of any stupor you may have been falling into. Hills become easier. Shrouded in mystery, their summits mere conjecture, they are far less daunting.

“But possibly the biggest draw is the intimacy of cycling with people all on the same mission, getting a buzz off their energy, their tired happy faces in the morning’s light a mirror of your own.

“ ‘Why are you doing this?’ I’ve asked fellow riders … Answers ranged from: ‘I’m getting miles in to help with Paris-Brest-Paris’ – a 1,200km jolly – to: ‘My friend talked me into it.’ There were plenty of dreamy shrugs: ‘Why not?’ … For some, it’s an answer to a question they may not even have been aware they’d been asking themselves.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photos: MOCA Cleveland
This museum is experimenting with new ways to be more inclusive, including free admission.

I’m impressed by the museum in this story because it has free admission every day in order to be more inclusive. Very unusual. The big museum where I live, Boston’s MFA, has one free day. It does have decent student hours, but it’s prohibitively priced for families on most days. Cleveland is going to have to raise a lot of money from grants.

Sarah Douglas writes at ArtNews, “If there is one word that has been on the agendas of almost every American art museum in the past few years, it is inclusion: How do institutions make diverse audiences feel welcome? The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland [has] announced a comprehensive plan to infuse inclusiveness into the museum on a structural and programmatic level.

“The five components of the initiative, which is called ‘Open House,’ are free admission for all, the creation of a diversity-focused curatorial fellowship (the first recipient is LaTanya Autry, who has held curatorial positions at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Mississippi Museum of Art), an engagement-guide apprenticeship program, enhanced onsite programming for families and teens, and the addition of an education specialist. …

“Jill Snyder, who has led the institution as its Kohl Executive Director since 1996, [says,] ‘We are taking what we hope is a noble approach that has a high quotient of humility, which is that we are really listening to what is going on in our community.’ …

“The museum’s lead investment in ‘Open House’ is the result of being the first recipient of a brand new grant from the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation called ‘Bold Initiatives,’ which gives $500,000 over three years to small and mid-sized institutions to enact comprehensive plans that affect outreach, diversity, and inclusion. …

“One of the components of Open House, the engagement-guide apprenticeship program, which the Thoma Foundation grant is supporting, gets to what Snyder refers to as the integration of ‘welcoming, collaborative practices into every aspect of our business.’ The museum is creating a cohort of 10 to 12 part-time positions, with hiring based on the diversity ratio of Cuyahoga County, and will mentor these hires in visitor services, guarding art, and how to talk about art. It will be designed like a fellowship program, and the hires will be given board mentors and guided as to how they can apply their new skills elsewhere. Snyder describes it as workforce training in the cultural sector. …

“ ‘We set about defining initiatives moving toward our 50th anniversary in claiming that this idea of a Kunsthalle in the Midwest had a specific meaning,’ Snyder said. … ‘We saw that with artists, that what they were doing was not mediated through an art-world ecosystem, because we don’t have that here. There is no proliferation of galleries, collectors, and art criticism — those filters. So there is a more direct engagement between artist, museum, and community.’ …

“Open House [is] meant ‘to lower barriers to entry and to work on inclusion and accessibility. Even if we get people in the door, how do we make the encounter with new art rewarding?’ ” asks Snyder. That will be the ongoing challenge, but Cleveland is up for it.

Read more at ArtNews, here. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, museums offer free admission this summer to people on public assistance. And then, there’s this about a gift to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art that will allow for free admission.

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Photo: Douglas Trattner
A Cleveland co-op trains refugees and others for produce-growing jobs.

I continue to find it fascinating that so many people who are making products for sale are also intent on providing job opportunities for refugees, ex-offenders, and others with challenges.

Douglas Trattner writes about one such effort at Cleveland Scene.

“It’s a brisk late-winter morning in Cleveland, but inside the greenhouses of Green City Growers it feels more like Tampa. …

“At 3.25 acres, this site is one of the largest urban greenhouses in the country, and it happens to sit in the heart of the economically depressed Central neighborhood. Inside the state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse, some 300,000 plants at various stages of growth float in shallow pools of nutrient-rich water. There are leafy heads of butter lettuce, colorful mixed-green blends, peppery upland cress and fragrant Italian basil.

“Opened in 2012, Green City Growers has had a promising, albeit challenging, run. Part of the ambitious Evergreen Cooperatives, which includes Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and Ohio Cooperative Solar, the greenhouse was the only one of the three employee-owned companies to not be profitable. That should change this year, says Jeremy Lisy, VP of sales. …

“As a chef and former owner of the specialty produce company KJ Greens, Lisy reached out to his former colleagues to see what types of products they were interested in. He added different lettuces and blends and beefed up sales. This year, the company is expected to hit $3 million in sales, doubling what it was just two years prior. …

“Green City Growers provides 38 people with living-wage jobs and a path to ownership. Working with programs like Refugee Response and Towards Employment, the greenhouse employs many people who might otherwise find it hard to secure gainful employment. On the current roster are people with nonviolent criminal records and immigrants from Bhutan, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“After one year of employment, workers get to join the co-op, which includes benefits like credit management and car and mortgage assistance. When the company begins to turn a profit, that money goes to the worker-owners in the form of bonuses and savings for retirement.

“Laurie ‘Spike’ Cook did [time] in the state pen but she currently is the transplant supervisor at the greenhouse and she sits on the board of the co-op. After leaving prison she searched in vain for a job for a full year until she took a class with Towards Employment. A week later she had a full-time job.

” ‘I haven’t missed a day of work in over a year,’ says Cook, who arrives an hour and half before her shift begins every day.

This place gave me a second chance. It makes me want to do better, stay better and do the right thing. Without this job I might have messed up. This job, right here, is the reason I wake up every morning. I plan on staying here until I retire.’

More here.

Photo: James Alan Edward
The nonprofit Beautiful Day trains refugees for the US job market. But if a refugee has a learning disability, the speed of doing even simple tasks may be too slow for a future employer. Let me know if you have a Providence-area job for a cheerful but challenged refugee. There’s someone I’d like to help.

033017-BeautifulDayRI-trainees-photo-by-James-Alan-Edward

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At my former magazine we focused on lower-income issues, which meant we sometimes published research on topics such as prison reform, the criminalization of addiction, and job programs for ex-offenders.

Recently, I saw an article that reminded me of those efforts. It’s about an unusual fine-dining restaurant in Cleveland.

Jenn Hall covers the story at Paste, “Though the numbers vary by state, roughly three-quarters of ex-convicts are rearrested within five years, and more than half of those return behind bars. Ask Brandon Chrostowski about it, and he’ll tell you that it’s more than a problem. It’s a civil-rights issue — and that’s why he decided to do something about it.

“For diners at Edwins Restaurant in Cleveland Shaker Square, fine French cuisine is an initial draw. The setting is nouvelle-chic, befitting a Francophile menu that garners praise. Bar service is sophisticated, with a wine list that runs deep. But the reason to return goes beyond the plate. In almost every position, both front and back of house, ex-offenders are training to launch new careers.

“It’s the only white-tablecloth restaurant of its kind in the U.S.

“The trainees are part of Edwins’ six-month Restaurant and Leadership Training Program, of which Chrostowski is founder and CEO. (Edwins is a portmanteau of ‘education’ and ‘wins.’) Covering everything from mother sauces to white-tablecloth service, the program aims not just to equip ex-offenders with skills, but also to power them with the confidence to apply them.

“It’s a program borne of careful planning. Chrostowski first had the idea in 2004, secured approval to operate as a 501 (c) (3) in 2008, and then spent six years perfecting the pedagogy before opening the restaurant’s doors in 2013. Now, 20,000 diners visit Edwins each year.

“But job prep and a fine French meal is just one part of the story. Ultimately, Edwins is a support network for those determined to challenge statistics. So while participants indeed learn a perfect braise, they also get help with everything from reinstating their driver’s license to securing medical care. It’s a humanizing approach to a sobering problem, and perhaps that’s why it’s working. The Edwins-alumni recidivism rate stands at just 1.2 percent. …

“Asked what drives him, he says it’s about paying forward a break he was given. Growing up in Detroit, Chrostowski had a legal run-in and was lucky to land probation instead of a prison sentence. That ‘aha’ moment primed him to take stock, find a mentor and launch a fine-dining career …

“Though he reads like an optimist (and is when it comes to a belief in transformation), Chrostowski sees himself as a pragmatist. Given the chance, he says, many ex-offenders have the capacity and strength to rebuild. They just need that all-critical chance.”

To read Hall’s interview with Chrostowski, click here.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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Here’s a good one from The Atlantic’s City Lab on how Cleveland is turning a traffic circle into a park.

Eric Jaffe writes, “To hear Clevelanders talk, Public Square is a place you pass through to reach somewhere else. When Moses Cleaveland laid out the town in 1796, he imagined the open area at its center as a New England-style commons: a gathering space for settlers, a grazing area for livestock. …

” ‘Over the years, it just turned into more like a series of big traffic islands,’ says the landscape architect James Corner. …

“Locals who find themselves in one of the quadrants have a tough time getting to another. If the cars aren’t enough of a hindrance, the lack of things to do or see in the area is: of the square’s 10 acres, more than six are paved over with concrete or asphalt. …

“By the time Cleveland engaged Corner’s help, in 2008, many ideas for how to revamp the square had come and gone.

“They all suffered from the assumption that traffic around the site could not be disturbed. Corner came in with a bold idea: if we can’t remove the streets, let’s build an elevated park above them.

“The hilltop-park concept didn’t pan out, because of the cost and complexity, but [Land Studio executive director Ann Zoller] says it got locals reimagining Public Square as a place prioritizing people over cars. A traffic analysis determined that the city could close one of the streets and narrow the other to a passage for buses, which could be rerouted during major events. Construction started this spring on Corner’s final design, which is estimated to cost $32 million.”

Read more here on how cities are thinking about improved public spaces.

Image: James Corner Field Operations
A rendering of the new design  for Public Square in Cleveland

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The New York Times had a story not long ago about friendships between young people and old people in Cleveland. How does it happen? They live in the same retirement home.

John Hanc describes a home’s musical evening: “Janet Hall grimaces as she hits an off note on her violin, one of the few heard here at Judson Manor’s Friday afternoon recital, held in the chandeliered ballroom settings of the first-floor lounge of this residence for older people.

“As an audience of 56 mostly older adults watches expectantly, Ms. Hall, 78, quickly recovers from the miscue. She slides her bow across the strings of her violin, drawing out the sweet and sonorous notes of a Gabriel Fauré suite.

“Looking on and smiling is her accompanist on piano, Daniel Parvin, a 25-year-old doctoral candidate student at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“Over a half-century apart in age, Ms. Hall and Mr. Parvin share some things in common besides this duet. A home, for one: Both are residents at Judson Manor, formerly a luxury hotel, built in 1923, in Cleveland’s University Circle section. A love of music, for another …

“Here at Judson, young and old play nicely together, part of an intergenerational program that has led to harmonious relationships beyond the concerts. … The artist-in-residence program provides furnished one-bedroom apartments to three graduate students from the Cleveland Institute of Music at no charge, for the duration of their studies. In exchange, the students perform regular concerts at Judson Manor. …

“The students were required to submit a résumé and an essay. ‘Basically, “Why I wouldn’t mind living in a senior residence,” ‘ says [Richard K.] Gardner, a committee member.  …

“Experts say there is much to be learned from an intergenerational living program based around the arts like the Judson program. ‘We’ve heard people talking about doing something like this, but I’ve never seen it at this level, sustained and consistent,’ says Gay Hanna, executive director for the National Center for Creative Aging in Washington, a nonprofit organization designed to promote creative arts programs for older adults. ‘It’s a bellwether for the future.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times  
Tiffany Tieu, a violinist and student at the Cleveland Institute, talks with Peggy Kennell. “When I tell people I’m living in a retirement home, they think I’m joking,” Ms. Tieu says.

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Photo: Century Cycles 

In September, Mary Ann participated in the Neocycle night ride in Cleveland with 1,500 other cyclists and shared photos and enthusiasm on Facebook.

Joshua Gunter covered the story for the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Glowsticks and headband lamps replaced headlights in eastbound lanes of the Shoreway on Saturday evening, when about 1,500 cyclists took over the road for the first NEOCycle Night Ride.

“The unique ride, which started at Edgewater Park and featured the Detroit-Shoreway, Gordon Square and North Coast Harbor neighborhoods, was a highlight of the weekend-long NEOCycle — Cleveland’s newest cycling event and the Midwest’s first urban cycling festival.

“Cyclists as young as 8 joined the casual ride, whose full tour covered 15 miles, or two laps of the 7.5-mile course.”

For tips on getting ready for a night ride, check out Ohio-based Century Cycles, here.

Photo: Joshua Gunter.The Plain Dealer 

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Photo: Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer
Zumba instructor Kelly Perkins, center, leads a group dance-walking  through Shaker Heights on Friday. The local version of the craze was organized by Shaker resident Jennifer Lehner.

Mary Ann is one of Cleveland’s biggest boosters. This week she’s been posting on Facebook about a dance-walk outing she joined Friday.

Janet Cho at the Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewed dance-walk organizer Jennifer Lehner.

“The idea came out of a backyard barbecue,” Cho writes. Lehner “was chatting with her friend Karen Katz, wife of Fire Food & Drink’s Doug Katz, about the fun YouTube video where WNBC television reporter Ben Aaron convinces New Yorkers to strut their stuff with him down the city streets.

” ‘We should do that!’ Katz said.

” ‘About one hour later I went home and bought the dancewalkfitness.com domain, set up the website and the Facebook page,’ she said. ‘You know, that’s just how I roll.’ …

“Lehner envisions tying the dance-walks in with her monthly Flash Cashers events, since the group might end up having lunch at a local restaurant after the workout.

“Flash-Cashers summons consumers to descend upon a local Shaker Heights-area business to spend at least $20 each during the cash mob event, giving the merchant a welcome one-night boost and increasing awareness among residents who may never have stepped foot in the store before.” Read more at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, here.

And here is Ben Aaron, who started the whole thing.

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Luke Jerram’s street-piano movement is coming to Boston. We blogged previously about the artist here (his solar chandelier installation) and here (the street piano concept).

The pianos will be scattered all around Boston, and everyone is encouraged to play. The Boston website says, “Touring internationally since 2008, Play Me, I’m Yours is an arts project by artist Luke Jerram.  When the project goes live in Boston on September 27, over 1,000 street pianos will have been installed in 37 cities across the globe, bearing the simple invitation to Play Me, I’m Yours! The project has already reached more than four million people worldwide.

“As a thank you to millions of loyal patrons and to celebrate its 75th anniversary season, Celebrity Series of Boston is presenting Play Me, I’m Yours ‘the Street Pianos Boston Festival’ from September 27 – October 14, 2013.”

More here. The website also provides details of where all the pianos will be found starting Friday.

YouTube video: Dani Rosenoer of Three Days Grace punching on a street piano @ Cleveland.

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This was such a nice story. It’s about idealistic young adults who join Teach for America , get sent to poor, rural areas, and decide they like the simpler life. When they settle down, they bring new energy and business — while receiving in return local wisdom and friendship.

Bret Schulte writes from Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, for the NY Times, “If you are from around here, you know Doug Friedlander is not.

“Born in New York City and reared on Long Island, Mr. Friedlander is Jewish and vegetarian and has a physics degree from Duke.”

He and others who fell in love with the Delta “arrived through Teach for America and stayed beyond their two-year commitment.

“Mr. Friedlander is now the ambitious director of the county’s Chamber of Commerce. He frets over the kudzu that is devouring abandoned buildings. He attends Rotary Club meetings, where he sidesteps the lunch offerings for carnivores. He organizes workshops to modernize small businesses and pushes tourism and the development of a decimated downtown along the banks of the Mississippi. …

“Matty Bengloff, 28, is one of [the new] people. He grew up in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Now he owns a three-bedroom home in Cleveland, as well as a hip new yogurt shop called Delta Dairy, with his fiancée, Suzette Matthews. …

“Residents cured Mr. Bengloff of his Yankee ways. Soon after arriving in the South with Teach for America, Mr. Bengloff was in a school speaking to a receptionist. When he could not hear the man’s words, Mr. Bengloff asked, ‘What?’ The receptionist said: ‘I can tell you’re not from around here. When you don’t understand something, you say, “Excuse me, sir?” Or, “Sir?” ‘ ”

More.

Photo: William Widner for the NY Times
Matty Bengloff, who grew up in Manhattan, in his frozen yogurt shop in Cleveland, Miss. The unofficial motto is “Keep Cleveland Boring.”

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In addition to poetry, art often brings comfort. (Artists don’t usually want to make anyone “comfortable,” which has a different connotation.)

One reason art brings comfort is that creativity generates surprises, and surprises may bring delight.

So although I’m still preoccupied with Boston, I’ll leave Boston for today and write about Cleveland.

Thank you, Mary Ann, for pointing to the Gwarlingo blog, which recently said of the art scene in Cleveland,”prepare to be surprised.”

Blogger Michelle Aldredge writes in part, “It is possible to experience the best of Cleveland culture entirely on foot. …

“According to Ann Craddock Albano, the director of The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, the 550-acre area that encompasses the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cleveland Symphony, the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland Institute of Music, and numerous university and medical facilities is the most concentrated neighborhood of world-class cultural institutions in the country. …

“The latest jewel in the Circle’s crown is Farshid Moussavi’s new building for the Museum of Contemporary Art. MOCA is Moussavi’s first museum design, and also the first American project by the Iranian architect, whose firm, Farshid Moussavi Architecture, is based in London.

“A few blocks away from MOCA, at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management building, silver planes slice through red brick like paper in a windstorm. While Frank Gehry opted for flamboyance, Moussavi wisely chose a simpler, less ostentatious design for MOCA—one that is unique and engages the surrounding neighborhood.” More.

BTW, I wouldn’t mind hearing what other folks do for comfort.

Photo: Michelle Aldredge
The zigzagging stairwell is the most eye-catching feature inside the new MOCA Cleveland

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Yvonne Zipp wrote a nice article about a Christian Science Monitor-designated Difference Maker. He is Mario Morino, a philanthropist based in Rocky River, Ohio, outside Cleveland. He wrote the free book Leap of Reason to help large nonprofits demonstrate that they are serving the public in the ways they think they are.

Zipp writes that in 2009, after a day of meetings with three different nonprofit boards, Morino was about to burst from frustration.

“At each, a board was discussing how it would assess its nonprofit group. The problem? ‘There wasn’t a nonprofit executive in the room,’ he says.” How could the people who run nonprofits and the boards that assess them ever get agreement on worthwhile measures?

“Morino, who owned his own software development business in the 1980s before setting up the Morino Institute and later Venture Philanthropy Partners, went home and fired off one e-mail, then another. After a fourth, he had what became the core of his book, Leap of Reason, which has more than 40,000 copies in circulation so far – an impressive number for a book about the rarefied topic of nonprofit management. …

The book isn’t aimed at small nonprofits or “civic-minded individuals, Morino says. ‘They represent the strongest core of philanthropy in the US. You don’t want to touch that.’ He likens these folks to his long-ago neighbors in Cleveland, where, ‘if somebody’s building a garage, everyone helped build the garage.’

However, “of the 1.5 million nonprofit groups in the US, 40,000 have budgets of more than $1 million, according to Bridgespan [an organization that consults to nonprofits]. They are the targets of Leap of Reason.”

More here on how the data-driven approach outlined in the book has helped some large nonprofits become more effective.

By the way, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, where WordPress blogger Judith once worked as a writer, addresses the same issue. And Zipp’s article lists other organizations that advise charities.

Photograph of Mario Morino, Ken Blaze / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

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My son mentioned this Jane Scott obit the other day. He knows how much I like stories about older people who stay in the fray because they love their work. Writes the NY Times:

“In four happy decades as a rock writer for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ms. Scott, who died on Monday at 92, braved mud and mosh pits, foul weather and fouler language, ‘a drop of bleached blond and pink polyester in a roiling sea of blue denim and black leather,’ as The Philadelphia Inquirer once described her. …

“Ms. Scott, who took up her beat in 1964 at 45 and retired nine years ago at nearly 83, was often called the world’s oldest teenager, a description she hastened to correct. ‘Second-oldest,’ she would say. ‘After Dick Clark.’ …

“But what troubled Ms. Scott … was her inability to share her passion with her peers.

“ ‘I finally convinced a friend to come see Deep Purple with me,’ she told The Washington Post …. ‘I called her before the show to confirm, and she said, “Oh, Jane, I can still remember dancing with Ben at Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and we danced ‘When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls.’ ” ’

“ ‘I thought: “Oh dear. I hate to tell you …” ‘ Ms. Scott continued. ‘I ended up taking her grandson.’ ”

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