Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ingenuityfest: A Study in Contrasts

After almost 5 years of trying, I finally made it to the Ingenuity Festival, a three-day long extravaganza of technology and art held each year here in Cleveland.

I say, "trying," because I really have had good intentions of going to the fest the last several years.  Arriving back in Cleveland, shortly before the second year of Ingenuity, I signed up to be a volunteer, thinking it would be a cool and easy way to get a free ticket. Of course, I never actually ended up volunteering and for the next several years life seemed to get in the way during the annual weekend of Ingenuity.

This year seemed to be no different, with a planned trip to Pittsburgh falling on the same weekend as Ingenuity. When one of my instructors mentioned that we could receive 5 extra credit points for going and writing about what we saw, I knew that was the motivation I needed!

I arrived early on Sunday, the third and final day, and was instantly greeted with the contrast of the location: a bridge. Yes, that's right, a bridge. Actually, the fesitval is located on the obsolete trolley level of the bridge, while cars sped along the upper span. The bridge connects the east and west sides of the city above the Cuyahoga River. Yet, more contrast.

Entering into the cavernous space created such a different experience than if the event had been held in an open lot or even in an enclosed area. I started walking toward the span of the bridge, where there were a hodge podge of displays, everything from local political endorsements to non-profits to the odd assortment of vendors selling taffy, jewelry, etc. Interspersed among this were small exhibitions and random musical performers.

Passing by the man-made waterfall, I approached the east side of the bridge and headed  toward the blaring sounds of a youthful rock band. Bypassing that in favor of the Art Gallery area, I began to be slightly impressed with the installation art pieces that thoroughly used the bridge's architecture as inspiration.

Walking back to the other side of the bridge, I contemplated how much better the curation of the art could have been. Several mixed media pieces were interesting but didn't really fit into the scope of the festival and/ or use the space that well.

On the west side of the bridge, in another cavernous space, more art installations filled the area. Some were fascinating and others just trite and almost art-schoolish. The entire puppet show concept was overdone on the East Coast 10 years ago. Finally, the soothing sounds of Angelin Chang, a local professor and Grammy-award winning musician made the my time there worth it.

In my opinion, if the Ingenuity festival could bring in more quality artists like her, then then maybe it would have been a worthwhile experience for me. As it is it appears, it is currently a very amateurish Spoletto Festival. With better curation and more "real" artists, Ingenuityfest could really be a noteworthy arts festival. Sadly, now the best thing it has going is the space and the location.
  • Did you go? What did you think?

1 comment:

Kristian said...

Thanks for writing about this. I was there Sunday around noon or so and found it fairly interesting. It was my first time there and I liked its location on the bridge (the span was a little overwhelming at first).

It reminded me of a "centro sociale" (social center) in Italy where they take over abandoned slaughter houses and other buildings for art exhibitions, film showings, political movements, concerts, etc. Just a little more Cleveland-esque.

I blog about Ohio Festivals and the post for Ingenuity is scheduled for tomorrow (Oct 6).

If you want to check it out, it's at http://300poundadventures.blogspot.com