Ingenuity was formed in 2004 as a Festival that would showcase the wide range of cultural strengths in the Northeast Ohio region, while simultaneously inviting and cultivating the means to intersect the arts with technology. The first IngenuityFest in 2005 drew more than 30,000 people to an underused area in the heart of downtown Cleveland. It included a unique array of renowned and/or cutting-edge work such as NASA’s collaboration with DancEvert on a performance involving wind-tunnel technology, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s display of 3-D digital educational content, and composer/technology artist Phil Kline’s motion sensing musical installation called “Symphony for 21 iPods.”
Subsequent Festivals have featured a dance- and-brain-wave-technology performance; the debut of a computer game by Cleveland Institute of Art designers; “King Lear”in a gutted department store; opera performed in an alley; and a soaring video-balloon installation that digitally captured Festival crowds at play. In 2010, with an audience of over 40,000, a temporary waterfall created by Cleveland Institute of Art faculty was installed on the street level of the Veterans Memorial (Detroit-Superior) Bridge and fell over 130 feet into the Cuyahoga River. The 2011 IngenuityFest, on September 16-18, featured a collaboration with Squonk Opera and drew the largest number of people to the bridge locations, 45,000.
Ingenuity serves all of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. Our annual audience surveys show a balance of genders, attracting a broad audience from college students and families, to young urban singles and over-60 arts aficionados. A 2009 Team NEO report found that the Festival had a $4.5 million dollar economic impact in the region.
Organizations that Ingenuity has collaborated with over the years include: Case Western Reserve University, City of Cleveland, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cuyahoga Community College, Cuyahoga County, Baldwin Wallace College, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Kent State University, NASA, MOCA Cleveland, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, University Hospitals, and more.
Ingenuity was conceived as a movable feast, a multi-day, multi-venued event that would move from location to location, downtown, inviting NE Ohio residents and tourists to re-discover their city, to see it alive and vibrant, animating storefronts, abandoned alleys and interiors of buildings that had long been ignored. Launched along Cleveland’s iconic Public Square, the Festival moved to Gateway/East 4th Street, Playhouse Square, the Cleveland State University campus and then the Streetcar level of the Detroit Superior Bridge.
James Levin in 2004 envisioned an art and music festival that would take place in downtown Cleveland, celebrating the creativity of Northeast Ohio and contacted his friend Thomas Mulready (Director of the Performance Art Festival that Mulready founded in the late 1980s at Levin’s Cleveland Public Theatre) to partner with him on “Ingenuity.”
Their intent was to create an event that would not only showcase this area’s vibrant art and music community, but would also draw focus to downtown Cleveland. Following the good advice of Tom Schorgl, President of the Community Partnership of Arts and Culture (“You need more than art and music to bring tourism here… you need to create a more distinct event.”), and building on Mulready’s background in technology, the Founders decided to expand the aperture of the vision to include tech projects. They created “Ingenuity, the Cleveland Festival of Art and Technology.”
Mulready continues to champion Cleveland’s cultural and entrepreneurial scene through his online network, CoolCleveland.com; Levin is forming a new organization, Cleveland Bridge Project Inc., that would open up the current location of Ingenuity as a pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare year round.