DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND Ingenuity Festival will combine art, technology in family events
The four-day festival will feature more than 200 exhibits spread out over 20 sites.
By JOHN BENSON
CLEVELAND -- A small step for Northeast Ohio, a big step for Cleveland is how organizers characterize the first Ingenuity Festival of Art and Technology taking place Sept. 1-4 on the streets of downtown Cleveland.
"I think to most people, Cleveland is known as an industrial center where they build cars and have steel mills," said Ingenuity Co-Director Thomas Mulready.
"And really the emerging economy here in Cleveland is more about technology -- high-tech, bio-tech, nanotechnology. So, we wanted to focus more on that aspect and have it actually collaborate with art where the artists and technology people can share technology, inspire each other and do showcasing back and forth."
The result is a four-day festival that features more than 70 organizations, nearly 1,000 artists and more than 200 exhibits spread throughout 20 venues. Organizers are closing down Euclid Avenue and E. 4th St. to construct four outdoor stages.
In addition, an intimate 200-seat theater, constructed on the E. 1st St. alley, will act as a live theater, poetry and movie-short festival area.
"We've got an old bank building at the corner of E. 9th and Euclid Avenue, the venerable and beautiful Tiffany stained-glass ceiling building called the Cleveland Trust Rotunda," Mulready said. "That will become our technology temple. We're doing some really intense art-tech exhibits in there."
One Youngstown area person involved in the inaugural year of the Ingenuity Festival of Art and Technology is Struthers native Christine McBurney, and Shaker Heights High School Theatre Arts Department chairwoman.
The Struthers High School graduate is producing her high school's senior ensemble group, which is performing at the event.
"They're a movement group, and they do a lot of the work that is very similar to Pilobolus Dance Theatre," McBurney said. "It's very physical, very difficult, very beautiful. It's not really theater; it's not really dance. It's somewhere in between."
Among the more interesting or surreal exhibits is Morris Dance's examination of dance. In fact, this performance alone epitomizes the vision behind the festival. Morris Dance is presenting one of its dancers, performing in front of a video screen, which will be showing elbow surgery footage. That's right, e-l-b-o-w video footage.
Perhaps sensing that a dancer performing movements in front of operating room highlights wasn't quite enough, organizers have decided to put an EEG (electroencephalograph) brain scan monitor on the performer's head, with their brain waves, also projected onto a screen, enhancing the experience.
Out there? You bet. But art isn't art unless it challenges your mind. The same rule applies somewhat to technology, which is what Mulready and his organizers are hoping to get across.
"We're really pushing this for people who love the arts and culture," Mulready said. "We're also pushing it for people who are interested in technology, and that's almost everybody these days."
What else is planned
Other notable exhibits include a corporate drum circle for business people, a hands-on hip-hop demonstration, a Cleveland Museum of Art showcase, displays from NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and a "Symphony for 21 iPods," which allows visitors to create their own unique symphony based on the listener's movements.
If you're thinking for a second that this high-minded festival will be a one-time thing, think again. Organizers are already planning five years out. Next year, the exhibit moves to the Nautica Complex in the Flats followed by Playhouse Square Center and, after that, University Circle.
Plus, Mulready envisions this event blossoming into a monthlong extravaganza that draws people from around the world.
However, he's willing to start with bringing in Northeast Ohioans this year.
"I'll tell you one of the keys is we want families to come out to this," Mulready said. "We have a family stage programmed from noon to midnight with cool, artistic, high-quality family events, with groups like the Great Lakes Science Center and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
"And we have an indoor pavilion in the Colonial Marketplace with demonstrations, hands-on stuff, balloons, magicians and really fun stuff for the whole family. We expect it to be very accessible, not just to the people who love technology or people who love the fine arts, but also to families with kids."