Art lends a helping hand in finding the true meaning in a fake holiday


Naji Saker

CMA takes a minimalist approach to Valentine’s Day.

Tobili Hatcher, Staff Reporter

If you were hoping to be bombarded with hordes of pink and red balloons, red roses galore and tons of gushy “I love you” texts to show that the event was taking place, then the Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA) Valentine’s Day event is probably not what you were looking for. 

This year, CMA chose to celebrate the holiday by being very minimalistic. In fact, there were only two indicators they were celebrating the holiday. The first was the red wall next to the “Tiffany in Bloom: Stained Glass Lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany” exhibit—albeit, it’s red every day of the year. The second was the assortment of Valentine’s Day treats that Provenance Café had created. 

Although it was nice to have the sweet treats to remind you of the special day, it was a bit disappointing to see that there wasn’t a single decoration that denoted the holiday that the event was supposedly celebrating. 

With a Facebook event and hashtag given to patrons to help them share their own love story within the museum, one would expect there to be a little bit more (okay, a lot more) celebratory hoopla than there actually was. 

Little differentiated the event from your run-of-the-mill Friday night at the museum. There wasn’t a single red, pink or heart-shaped item that could be seen within a 5-mile radius.  The student tour guides didn’t even wear red shirts. 

Although, when you look back at how your night went, minus all of the visuals you were hoping to see, you realize that the museum was potentially sending an even bigger message that you may have missed had you spent all of your time focusing on what corporate America wanted you to spend your time on. 

What the museum lacked in visual representation of the holiday, they made up for with different activities, guided tours and exhibits meant to be explored by “date-night couples, serendipitous singles and everyone in between!” 

By not having any distractions around them, visitors could focus on the different exhibits. Whether you came clad in your date night best or for a casual night out, there was something for everyone to do. 

Some highlights included being able to walk through the new installation, “PROOF: Photography in the Era of the Contact Sheet,” which opened on Feb. 7. Located in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall, the exhibit showcases photography work by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan and Flip Schulke. 

If photography isn’t your speed, there’s also the showing of “Tiffany in Bloom,” which can be seen in the Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery.

For those who wanted a bit of guidance for their night out at the museum, there were four guided tour sessions. The tours were a great way to guide you toward love-themed artwork, thought-provoking questions and an overall more sensual and titillating walkthrough of the museum you wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

There were also a lot of couples who used technology to give them a helping hand through the ArtLens app, which helped guide their exploration throughout the museum. The two favorites for Valentine’s Day were the First Date tour, which helps new matches, budding couples or two people who happened to have met at the museum that night by fate to get to know each other with a range of get-to-know-you questions, and the Coupling Up tour that shows guests around to representations of different couples from within CMA’s collection. 

Overall, the experience wasn’t what you expected nor where you were looking for, but maybe, just maybe, it was the experience that you needed. As they say, not all heroes wear capes. 

And, to that same point, not every Valentine’s Day date needs to be adorned in an abundance of red and pink extravagance to show the person you went with (if you went with someone) that you care. 

Instead, it’s the simple gesture of going to the museum together, exploring the different galleries and getting to know each other that really make the holiday worth celebrating. This is something CMA was able to get across in their minimalistic showing of the usually over-blown holiday. 

Even if you didn’t get a chance to spend Valentine’s Day with someone special, at least you now know where to go if you want to appreciate some fine art, and a thoughtful reminder that there’s more to the day than just the decorations.