Ingenuity Festival celebrates the fusion of technology and art

Katelyn Park, Contributing Reporter

If you ever want to immerse yourself in an former scrap metal recycling plant whose rooms are filled with art, technology, vendors and music, check out Ingenuity or IngenuityFest next year. This electric three-day festival showcases the artwork and ideas of Northeast Ohio creatives that’ll leave you feeling inspired.

The idea for Ingenuity was conceived in 2004 by two friends, James Levin and Thomas Mulready, who wanted to create an event that would celebrate the region’s musical and artistic creativity, while also drawing attention to downtown Cleveland. 

An important aspect of their vision was to incorporate technology and tech projects, which is why you might find affiliations with Case Western Reserve University on some of the projects at Ingenuity.

Exhibits included interesting uses of technology such as a fully interactive zen garden that translates light into meditative sounds. 

But most memorable was a virtual-reality experience by Dave Braun, who had recently created this piece for his graduate thesis. 

“I created this to serve an artistic purpose and not so much for gaming,” Braun said. “I wanted to show that VR has the potential to be its own artform and I’m glad I can do it at Ingenuity.”

The festival continues to maintain its vision but has since made changes that enhanced its mission. For instance, the multi-day, multi-location event that used to color the downtown area made Saint Clair Superior its permanent home in 2016. 

The new location provides a hub for Ingenuity where it can expand its core mission and showcase more of Cleveland’s strengths. The space hosts multiple programs such as lectures, workshops, and classes in addition to entrepreneurs from local businesses. And if you’re still not impressed, the space is open year-round.

With most of its vendors and creators being Cleveland natives, one can find a summary of the area’s evolving art scene at Ingenuity. By perusing each room, you can find sculptures made of scrap metal, self-made kiosks, two old beds centered in the room, used mini trampolines as swings and more. 

In two words, Cleveland’s current art landscape can be described as, “scrappy” and “DIY” as said by Ingenuity’s Artistic Director Emily Appelbaum. Appelbaum is from Cleveland but has returned from her time in the Bay Area creating art and outreaching to underserved communities.

As she continues to work with Ingenuity and watch it grow, she also recognizes the art scene is evolving.

 “I think Cleveland is finally pulling up its slacks and owning its art,” Appelbaum said. “We know we’re not like New York City or Los Angeles or any other big art city for that matter, but we don’t care. Screw ‘em.”  

Appelbaum’s contagious, champion spirit and excitement for Cleveland is a testament of this city’s rich sense of community and creativity. She reminds us to recognize and pay attention to Cleveland’s growth even if it may be small compared to bigger cities. Whether it is in the spirit of ingenuity or not, anyone can participate in and observe the exciting growth and change of Cleveland and its art landscape.