CWRU alumnus brings annual One World Festival to University Circle


Andrew Hodowanec / Observer

Case student Krithika Rajkumar performs at the One World Festival, which was held at Rockefeller Gardens on Sept. 13 and 14.

Alexander Wheaton, Contributing Reporter

The Cleveland One World Festival took over the Cultural Gardens of Rockefeller Park last weekend for a day of free authentic ethnic food and drink, as well as musical, theatrical and artistic entertainment.

The festival expands on the garden’s One World Day, which has been held at the gardens for the past 66 years. It was founded and directed by Case Western Reserve University School of Law 1979 graduate James Levin.

Levin has a long history in the city of Cleveland. After graduating from CWRU, he founded the Cleveland Public Theater in 1982. He then founded the Gordon Square Arts District, a project that he said “used arts as an economic engine to invigorate and renovate neighborhoods.”

This is a theme that runs throughout Levin’s career. Since its inception, the Cleveland Public Theater has grown to five buildings and has grown from being a volunteer organization with an annual budget of $5,000 to being a million-dollar, nationally recognized theater that has brought life back to the west side of Cleveland.

Levin also started the Ingenuity Festival in downtown Cleveland, which showcases mergings of technology and art. Ian Charnas, manager of think[box], presented the now famous Tesla Orchestra at the festival in 2009.

Work on this year’s One World Festival began in 2012, when Levin resigned from Ingenuity to work on other projects. He wanted to organize an event that would help unify Cleveland’s 110-plus distinct ethnic groups. Much like his other projects, Levin designed the One World Festival to be an economic trigger for the Glenville neighborhood, inspiring business activity in the area through the park.

Each country had a different garden, filled with sellers, restaurants and stages. The 15 stages hosted performances from a number of different groups, but each performance was located in another country’s garden.

Even if you stayed in one place, said Levin, the entire world might pass before your eyes.

“Many of the ethnic communities in Cleveland are very insular,” said Levin. “But this festival helps to break down those barriers and invite people to explore the things that make us different.”

Over 100 organizations were involved in the festival, including Oberlin College, Cleveland State University and a number of local museums. CWRU students and faculty permeated almost every aspect of the event, with a diverse array of student organizations, from the International Club to the CWRU Juggling Club, helping to bring the festival to fruition. Levin also said that CWRU’s Senior Director of Local Government and Community Relations Latisha James was also instrumental in bringing the festival together.

Levin said that he is looking forward to further coordinating with CWRU as he considers plans for a 2015 and 2016 festival, the latter of which would take place on the garden’s 100th anniversary.

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