Can't stop the hop: Sparx City Hop goes virtual for its 18th year in Cleveland

If you’ve seen a trolley with a film crew making its way through Cleveland in the last few weeks, consider it a spoiler alert.


Now in its 18th year, the SPARX City Hop is an annual celebration of arts and culture held throughout downtown Cleveland and surrounding neighborhoods like Tremont and Ohio City. Typically, exploration happens via trolley tour, but this year, the festivities will move almost entirely online in response to COVID-19.


“SPARX City Hop is designed to explore all pockets of the city, especially those areas that house a lot of the arts communities,” says Heather Holmes, vice president of marketing and public relations for Downtown Cleveland Alliance. “We’ve worked hard with our partners and the city to continue this tradition while still allowing people to stay safe.”


For this year’s event, that mindset will translate to virtual trolley and behind-the-scenes gallery tours; interactive art workshops held on Zoom; livestream musical performances; and more—all held over a two-day lineup on September 11 and 12, 2020. Scheduled virtual tours include Lake Affect Gallery, 78th Street Studios, and Playhouse Square, as well as neighborhoods such as North Coast Harbor, The Flats, and Gordon Square.


“Our goal is to give Clevelanders the opportunity to explore hidden arts and cultural gems in the community,” shares Holmes. “We also hope to create more opportunities to support local artists and makers and retail [shops].”


Budding artists will also find plenty of support via interactive workshops on natural tie dye (hosted by Praxis Fiber); dance (hosted by Karamu House); and back-to-school crafts (hosted by Fusion Live). Additionally, chef demos will be in play during happy hour live streams from Lago and the new Sixth City Sailor’s Club, followed by musical performances by Brent Kirby and Taylor Lamborn, respectively.

According to Holmes, the event aligns perfectly with Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s mission to boost downtown’s status as a vibrant place to work, live, and play. The original SPARX City Hop event was actually started in the early 2000s by local artist Susie Frazier, but Downtown Cleveland Alliance adopted it as one of its signature events in 2007—and it has since become the city's largest arts and culture festival.

For her part, Holmes is happy that the show will go on even in the face of the pandemic. "Through my work with SPARX City Hop and #VoicesofCLE, I have a whole new appreciation for the local arts community," says Holmes. "These times have shone an even brighter light on the need for art as expression."

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.