How long have you lived in Cleveland and where do you currently live? I grew up here, left for college and various jobs in Boston and St. Louis, then came back 11 years ago because I met my husband.
Name something local that helped shape your creativity when you were younger: As a child, I took art lessons with my best friend at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I still remember how excited I was to visit the museum – an exhibition on Paul Klee was going on one of the times we attended, and it made a big impression on my brain. Another formative experience was taking poetry classes at Kent State’s Creative Connections Institute. These classes helped me find my voice and feel at home somewhere.
Annie meets Duran Duran in 2000 at BlossomPlease share a bit about your professional background and how you got started: Locally, my career as a professional journalist began at Alternative Press, a magazine I grew up reading as a child. I was an intern and later an editorial assistant in college and then became a contributing writer for them. This job really launched my career and helped me start building a writing portfolio.
By the time I graduated from college, I had started writing for the Boston Phoenix, the Cleveland Free Times (RIP), billlboard.com, and Amazon.com. This led to more local work with Cleveland Scene and The Plain Dealer; finally, I also gained lines in Cleveland Magazine, Crain’s Cleveland and FreshWater!
Share some of your recent Duran Duran and Lady Gaga books. Any fun behind-the-scenes stories or details about your process that you can share? The Duran Duran book is part of the 33 1/3 book series, which includes short album-based books. My book focuses specifically on the 1982s Rio, one of the greatest LPs of all time! Lady Gaga’s book is an illustrated biography full of photos that details her entire career, from her days in New York to global stardom.
Annie at Rock Hall with her book Duran DuranBoth books mean a lot to me: I’ve wanted to write 33 1/13 about Rio since 2007 (I started pitching it then!), and I’ve been a huge Duran Duran fan since the early 90s. , one of my first shows was the Lakewood Civic Auditorium show in 1997, so I brought decades of knowledge and fandom to the process. Fandom can sometimes be interpreted as negative, but to me it means that you are passionate and knowledgeable about your subject, which can help you write a better and more informed book.
Lady Gaga’s book was also a joy to do. I’ve followed her career since her debut album and have always admired her creativity, fashion sense, music and versatility. The book is a biography of her life, but it is complemented by these inspiring photos of her fashion and performances. I did a lot of research for this one and tried to dig up some things that even mega-fans might not know.
The bop stopWhat do you think are Cleveland’s best-kept cultural and creative secrets? I think it’s starting to get more attention now, but the Bop Stop is a fantastic place to see a show, as is Mahall’s in Lakewood. I also love seeing movies at Nightlight in Akron! I know it’s not necessarily a secret, but the Capitol Theater is also one of my favorite places to see movies. (Plus, you can go play pinball at Superelectric right after!)
And, finally, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Archives is one of the city’s greatest underrated assets. I’ve researched books there many times, and the collections they have there are totally priceless and impressive.
Are there any quirky things in Cleveland people need to check out? The Big Bad B-Movie Show, continuing the city’s proud tradition of B-movie and late-night comedy!
Do you have any favorite artists/galleries or local businesses you want to thank?
I’m a huge fan of Angela Oster’s art, which is whimsical and creepy at the same time. The Cool Critters are also adorable and monstrous, a perfect combo! I also own a lot of work by Arabella Proffer, especially the surreal Garden Party Biomorphic, and then other more rock ‘n’ roll oriented pieces. I also like strolling through Genghis Con or the Cleveland Bazaar.
cool worldCommercially, Whiskertin Lighting makes the kind of unique and radiant fixtures that I always look for. Cool World in Gordon Square is basically my retro dream come to life.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention all the local record stores here, especially My Mind’s Eye, Blue Arrow, The Current Year, Record Den, Bent Crayon, etc. We are very spoiled here with great record stores and owners who do a great job bringing great music to everyone here. Local bookstores too (including Visible Voice, Mac’s Backs, Loganberry, etc.) are also treasures.
Share a fun fact about yourself that might surprise others: When I was little, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I was always drawing, coloring, crafting and making my own greeting cards; later I was great at cross stitch.
If you were a Cleveland landmark, which one would you be and why? The agora. There is so much amazing history in the name and the current building – love the WHK tiles in the front! — but they’re also creating new history by booking so many great new bands. Call it a perfect blend of respect for history and a desire to keep moving forward.
Your favorite Cleveland mural/artwork? I love the Prince of Glen Infante mural at the edge of the Flats!
A typical day in your life might include… My ideal day consists of sleeping, leisurely shopping, reading on the porch, enjoying excellent sushi, a good glass of wine and relaxing company.
Learn more about Annie and her work here, and follow her on Instagram at @anniezaleskiauthor and Twitter at @anniezaleski. Also stay tuned for more #CLEative Groove profiles! You can also follow @CLEativeGroove on Instagram here, or submit suggestions for people to profile here.