#CLEative Groove: Meet Teraza Kandah, creator and collector of all things eclectic

Our #CLEative Groove series features Q&A profiles on our city’s creative makers and shakers! Read on for our next installment with collector and creator Teraza Kandah, otherwise known as @MushroomHobbit and @TheKoolAidGurl on Instagram.

How long have you lived in Cleveland, and where do you currently live? I was born and raised in Lakewood and currently live on the West Side in North Olmsted. Cleveland is my home forever—I love this place and truly feel like it’s underrated!

Lion and BlueName something local that helped to shape your creativity as a kid: Where do I even start? We have such a strong art and music culture here, not to mention amazing small businesses. What a place for an artist to thrive. As a kid, I lived in Lakewood and went to art festivals, local coffee shops, and amazing small shops like Flower Child and Lion and Blue that introduced me to new worlds of things. I had such a cultured childhood growing up in Cleveland. As an adult, I now have so many artist friends!

Share a bit about your professional and creative paths to date: I have mainly worked in natural health selling herbal supplements, and more recently have worked in the interior design field, but my creative pursuits are my intended career path. As an artist, I do paintings, graphic art, paper mache mounts, and most recently, music. I also am a huge collector of vintage pop culture advertising memorabilia.

A glimpse of Kandah's creative spaceMy inspiration for everything I do creatively is nostalgia, youth, and human emotions. I love to watch people and how their minds work, and I like to explore the depths of my own mind as I grow mentally and experience life. Since I was a kid, I've sworn my soul came from the 1950s-1970s; I’ve always been infatuated with old music, collecting things, and old-school TV shows and ads. That inspires everything I do. My art is my identity… without it, I don’t even know what would be left! 

In your opinion, what are Cleveland’s best-kept cultural and creative secrets? Cool vintage shops like Sweet Lorain in Cleveland, amazing cultural/spiritual shops like Lion and Blue in Lakewood, and coffee spots like Mojo's in Bay Village, Caffeine in Lakewood, and The Root Cafe in Lakewood. There’s actually an incredible little coffee shop inside Lucky’s Market, too, and while you’re on Clifton, you can always get amazing food at My Friends Restaurant & Deli (probably the hottest 24-hour diner in Cleveland with an insanely big menu)! 

Kandah's rendering of rapper Nipsey HussleWhat are some of your other creative passions and how do you indulge them locally? Watching my friends perform live music at local venues! Some of my favorite local musicians include Bassah, AkaFayvayen, Westside Lo, Loddy Da, Luv Azhar, SunnofRa, 10.Stacks, DJ Steve, and Fascin8.

Any quirky Cleveland stuff people need to check out? The local breweries, the flea markets, the art museum, the botanical gardens, or even just an outing to go explore some of the abandoned-buildings-turned-masterpieces. Also, we have amazing plant nurseries, such as Gale's in Westlake and Uncle Johns in Olmsted Falls.

Share a fun fact about you that might surprise other people: I am Middle Eastern! A lot of people don’t know that when they meet me, but I always get a look of shock when I share that with people and talk about my culture.  

If you were a Cleveland landmark, which one would you be and why? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because to me it represents success, freedom, living out your dreams, and being incredible at your creative passions. It’s full of people to idolize, and I would love to inspire on that level.  

A typical day in your life might include… work, hula hooping, making music, designing some art, lots of coffee, maybe a show to see a friend, hanging out with my niece, watering my plants, hitting an antique shop. Every day is an adventure to me. 

Support Teraza's work here, and keep up with her on Instagram at @thekoolaidgurl and @mushroomhobbit. Also, stay tuned for more #CLEative Groove profiles! You can also follow @CLEativeGroove on Instagram here, or send suggestions for people to profile here.

Read more articles by 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.