In his review of Julian Stanczak’s show on view at MOCA Cleveland, Scene art critic Douglas Max Utter writes, “The list of art ‘stars’ living in northern Ohio is short. Briefer still is the roster of those whose accomplishments are recognized internationally. Cleveland Institute of Art emeritus professor Julian Stanczak’s status as one of the premier abstractionists in the world is unquestioned — increasingly so as the decades of his career pile up and his explorations of the optical properties of plane and color continue into ever-fresh territory.” Born in Poland, Stanczak escaped a concentration camp and wandered war-torn Europe as a teen before getting his first art training at a refugee camp in Uganda. He still paints at age 81, making op-art eye candy that’s simply fun to look at. If you haven’t seen it yet, take advantage of the holiday break to check it out. It runs through January 10 at MOCA Cleveland (8501 Carnegie Ave., 216.421.8671). Admission is $4, $3 if you’re a senior or student. — Michael Gill
In a very tangible sense, Michael Stanley’s connection to Cleveland bears a strong resemblance to many heartland rockers and their home bases: Bob Seger and Detroit, John Mellencamp and Southern Indiana, Bruce Springsteen and Asbury Park. Stanley didn’t become as nationally ubiquitous as his higher-profiled peers, but he came close in the ’80s. He remains a beloved regional artist with a slavish fan base that has followed his every move for the past three decades. Tonight’s show is billed as “request night,” so sign up on Stanley’s fan forum at michaelstanley.com to suggest your favorite songs. Maybe something from the latest Resonators album, Just Another Night, or Stanley’s new solo record, Shadowland? Or how about an obscurity from 1978’s Cabin Fever or 1975’s You Broke It … You Bought It!? Chances are pretty good that “My Town” will be saved for the evening-ending encore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put it on your list. Hey Mavis opens at 8 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583, houseofblues.com). Tickets: $30-$80. — Brian Baker
Imagine this happening in the 21st century: A stockbroker loses his job in a market crash, decides to try to make a living as a painter and begins traveling the globe. At a World’s Fair in Paris, he organizes an art show at a coffee shop so he and a bunch of buddies can show off their new ideas about painting. The show — a sideshow, really — doesn’t get a lot of attention at the time but ends up changing the direction of Western art. That’s more or less what Paul Gauguin did with his 1889 exhibit at Monsieur Volpini’s Café des Artes. If you haven’t seen the small-scale reassembly of that show put together at the Cleveland Museum of Art (with the cooperation of the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam), Christmas break is a fine time to make the trip. Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889 brings together 75 paintings, works on paper, woodcarvings and ceramics by Gauguin and his contemporaries. It runs through January 18 at the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350). Tickets: $6-$12; kids under five free. — Michael Gill
Prepare to be surprised, delighted and perhaps even confused. For six years, a loosely affiliated cadre of local experimental and avant-garde musicians and artists has gathered at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124) around this time of year to hang out and see what transpires performance-wise. For the seventh year, they’re offering “an evening of inventive improvisation, cool collaborations and remarkable reunions.” Participants include Home and Garden, the longtime project of former Pere Ubu drummer Scott Krauss and bassist Tony Maimone; the Kidney Brothers, Bob and Jack, from Kent’s Numbers Band; and a reunion of sorts for Cleveland roots-rock group California Speedbag, paying tribute to their late frontman Gary Lupico. It starts at 8 p.m.; admission is $6. — Anastasia Pantsios
People joke about how Chinese restaurants have one of their busiest days of the year on December 25, serving Jewish families left out of the ubiquitous Christmas hullabaloo. The href="http://maltzmuseum.org">Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216.593.0575) pays playful tribute to the semi-tradition with its Christmas Day offering of egg rolls and fortune cookies for non-Christians or anyone who finds holiday merriment a bit bah humbug-y. They’ll sweeten the pot with family-friendly films, a scavenger hunt through the galleries and a chance to compete in “Jewpardy,” which will be beamed on a giant screen. It takes places from 1-4 p.m., and it’s free with regular admission: $7 adults, $5 students and free for kids 12 and under. — Anastasia Pantsios
A Christmas Eve service is not a performance, and it shouldn’t be treated as one. Nonetheless, Cleveland’s downtown churches will offer plenty of great sounds today. Expect them to glow within their expansive stone interiors. For Episcopalians, Trinity Cathedral (2230 Euclid Ave., 216.771.3630) begins its late-night service with a prelude at 10:30 p.m. with the Trinity Cathedral Choir and Trinity Chamber Players performing Antonio Vivaldi’s Magnificat, followed by a choral Eucharist at 11 featuring 16th-century German baroque composer Hans Leo Hassler’s choral setting, “Verbum caro factum est” (“Word is made flesh”). For Presbyterians, the Old Stone Church (91 Public Square, 216.241.6145) offers a 5 p.m. family service featuring the Old Stone children’s choir, followed by an 8 p.m. candlelight service with the Old Stone adult choir. Catholics who head down to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (1007 Superior Ave., 216.771.6666, saintjohncathedral.com) for the 10 p.m. service will find a mass with music provided by the 25-voice Cathedral Choir. The semi-professional group, under the direction of Gregory Heiselman, has released six recordings and won WCLV’s regional Jubilation Choir Competition last year. Admission to all the services is free. — Gill
45365 is a movie about Sidney, Ohio, but it really could be about any Small Town, U.S.A. The documentary by native Ohioans Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross took home the Best Documentary Feature award at SXSW 2009 and garnered nothing but praise when it was first shown in Cleveland earlier this year. Catch it this time and follow small-town life and the people who inhabit this city outside of Dayton (barely 20,000 live in Sidney). From football to crime, families to political leaders, experience an intimate portrait of this sleepy, and not-so-sleepy, midwest town through the eyes of two guys who grew up there. 45365 screens at 7:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd, 216.421.7340). Tickets $6-$8. — Vince Grzegorek
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