#CLEative Groove: Meet Haley Himiko Morris, artist-entrepreneur and owner of Cool World

Our #CLEative Groove series features Q&A profiles on our city’s creative makers and shakers! Read on for our next installment with artist and entrepreneur Haley Himiko Hudson Morris, the creative mind behind Cool World in Detroit Shoreway.

How long have you lived in Cleveland, and where do you currently live? I have lived in the Cleveland area since my family moved here in 1999 and in the city since 2005. I live on the Near West side.

<span class="content-image-text">The Cool World shop</span>The Cool World shopWhat do you do for work? Share a bit about how you get into your CLE-ative GrooveRight now, I’m pretty deep full-time in running my own shop Cool World, located in Detroit Shoreway/Gordon Square. I opened the shop in October last year—the opportunity came about very fast and unexpectedly in Summer 2021, but I’d actually had the idea for the shop for going on 10 years.

I had dreamed of opening a notebook and journaling shop and had my proposal rejected the first time I applied. My work over the past seven years has been pretty focused in planning and throwing themed dance parties and events with Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood. It really gave me a platform to embrace installation art and interior design, which blossomed into a great relationship with Ingenuity Fest. I moved into a studio space in their building that I called “Himikoland,” and it was a part of my 2019 festival installation.

The Cool World shop was the next step and is pretty much the culmination of my love of installation/interior design—particularly 80s/90s whimsical and outlandish themes, journaling, and collecting kitsch and vintage. I want the shop to represent the original work I do and also celebrate color, whimsy, and introspection. These are all the things I consider while filling the shop. Like most people, the pandemic certainly shifted my focus, and I’m enjoying my focus on the shop project.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve made to date, and favorite art installation you’ve done? That is a very hard question to answer! I love so many of them, but I think my favorite piece to date would be my public art work for Miriam Ortiz Rush Park playground on Madison Ave. in Detroit Shoreway. I worked with the City of Cleveland and Rust Belt Welding to create a streetscape fence decoration that includes an arch entry.

I love arches and gazebos, as well as color-blocking and patterns, so it was such a honor to create work on this scale, outdoors, that is the entry to a park playground—in my own neighborhood no less. It’s this joyous blast of color on the street that makes me so happy. And for all I know, it will outlive me because it’s made of powder-coated steel.

<span class="content-image-text">From Venus To The Valley NYE 2018 Dance at Mahall’s</span>From Venus To The Valley NYE 2018 Dance at Mahall’s[As far as my favorite] art installation, I think might have been the space I created working with local artist Megan Mohler Wallace for the From Venus To The Valley NYE 2018 Dance at Mahall’s. It was a pivotal point for me in my work. I felt like I found myself in the particular theme that was inspired by one of my favorite movies, Earth Girls Are Easy, and the universe of comedian/writer Julie Brown. I went deep into Memphis Milano design, night club interiors, and I haven’t come up for air since, so to speak! To me, it’s given everything I did before and have done since new and more context.

In your opinion, what are Cleveland’s best-kept cultural and creative secrets? I doubt I have any real whoppers of knowledge here, but I do feel like Cleveland is lucky to have some great resources for reuse, thrifting, and salvage of materials. Habitat For Humanity, Upcycle Parts ShopRebuilders Xchange, and HGR Industrial Surplus are excellent places to go and get inspired by materials. They’re my go-tos for finding surprises and amazing materials, props, and decor that guide my work.

Ingenuity is one of the coolest organizations. Many people know them as the annual arts festival, but the gears never stop turning there. In non-pandemic times, they’re always lights-on putting together weekly meetings and gatherings for crafting, building, planning. What they do is very inclusive and diverse, and I’d point anyone looking to get involved with creative things in town to Ingenuity first.

Cleveland’s drag performance community is also totally incredible. I’m in awe by the work they do and how much work they put into filling the year with dazzling events. The work I’ve done feels like nothing in comparison.

When not making art, what are some of your other creative passions and how do you indulge them locally? I’ve enjoyed recording and performing music over the years with my bands Pleasure Leftists, Donkey Bugs, and solo as Kiernan Paradise/Himiko, as well as DJ-ing dance parties. I love writing songs, composing music, and singing.

Any favorite local artists/galleries? There are so many whom I’ve had the joy to work with over the years, but on my mind at the moment I think would be Jess Sheeran. Jess runs Cool Critters, her own stuffed animal-making business, and has also been creating bigger and bigger fantasy pieces for art installation. Susie Underwood is incredible and does great installation work that is infused with whimsy and humor. I have loved our collaborations. She has also facilitated a lot of opportunities for other people in the work that she does.

[I also admire] filmmakers Jasmine Golphin & Nat Cherry, and I also want to mention singer-performer Konstanza, who is from Chile but lives and works in Cleveland making absolutely amazing Italo Disco-inspired Dance music. Hers is my favorite music coming out of Cleveland right now.  

Share a fun fact about you that might surprise other people: I hosted a weekly radio show at WCSB 89.3 FM Cleveland from 2010 through 2020 called Pleasure Leftists (like the band), where I collaged audio from a different movie each episode with electronic and experimental dance and ambient music and rattled off playlists with different character voices rather than my own. I also got a TCIA Tree Care Specialist certification from Holden Arboretum while working with their Tree Corps program in 2018. I love trees! 

If you were a Cleveland landmark, which one would you be and why? Maybe the small Art Deco bridge at W. 49th and the Memorial Shoreway. I love it and dream of painting it. 

Favorite Cleveland mural or piece of art? “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench” by John Francis Morell at E. 9th & Rockwell downtown, the Rock Hall building designed by architect I.M. Pei, the Camille Walala-painted Pop Life Life bank building in Waterloo…for now!

A typical day in your life might include… They all usually begin with coffee and a lot of anxiety … who really knows from there! Tears of a clown.

Learn more about Haley and Cool World here, and stay tuned for more #CLEative Groove profiles! You can also follow @CLEativeGroove on Instagram here, or send suggestions for people to profile here.

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.