There are largely two kinds of culture in Cleveland. One is the Cosmopolitan Culture of Everywhere. Here you got the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art, etc. This culture is not distinctive of Cleveland or the Rust Belt, but is nonetheless appreciated in its quality as compared to other cosmopolitan derivatives. When we talk about the culture of Rust Belt Chic, or of the Rust Belt as a region, we are not referring to the Cosmopolitan Culture of Everywhere. This isn’t a knock, or a classist rant, so no need to take it as one.

Then there is the culture of Rust Belt Chic. This is everyday culture in a delineated region, with variants of Rust Belt Chic embodied in different Rust Belt cities. This culture largely arose from the average beauty and hurt found simply by living in an industrial to post-industrial transformation. This culture went underground with rampant disinvestment and decline, and was scattered by the rootlessness found in having less meaning, less sway, less purpose. However, this culture got richer  by the shame that led us to hide it, and by the self-deprecatory style that became the Rust Belt irony and wit as other cosmopolitans poked fun. This culture grew into Rust Belt Chic once those cosmopolitans laughed their way to a new rootlessness: one defined less by struggle than ephemeral aspiration. Those tired of the rootlessness in emptiness are thus turning to a culture we never gave up on. They are turning to a people and place that are finding its way.

The Cookie Table: A Rust Belt Tradition