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CIA grad keeps the 216 in his heart, offers kids hope through dance

It's a fair June evening and Nehemiah Spencer sways stageside at Wade Oval Wednesday, clad in black-on-black Converse and a crew neck festooned with the familiar red curves of the Coca-Cola logo. Today’s theme is “Reggae Night,” and the assembled families are chatty and sporting Bob Marley T-shirts. Spencer has picked up a loose branch in each hand and moves his arms in easy rhythms, improvising a deft twirl of one wrist in time with the band. A few huddled couples smile at him from their blankets, unsure if he’s part of the show.
 
Spencer, a graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts (CSA) and Juilliard, is now a company dancer with the Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York City. The Glenville native is preparing for a new show with the company in Israel. So what’s he doing in Cleveland on a Wednesday night?

Continue reading.

Mark Oprea's social media reporting of the RNC

A roundup of Mark Oprea's observations during the RNC, from Little Italy to the Q.

Bob Perkoski's social media photos of the RNC

A collection of RNC moments caught by our managing photographer Bob Perkoski.

Doug Guth's social media reporting of the RNC

A roundup of Guth's social media reports throughout the RNC, both on the street and in the Q.

Karin Connelly Rice's social media reporting of the RNC

Here is a rundown of Rice's social media reports on Facebook and Twitter throughout the RNC last week.

Erin O'Brien's social media reporting of the RNC

From her trip downtown last Saturday to pick up Fresh Water's media credentials, to the protester's squabbles, to demonstrations of love and kindness, Erin O'Brien was on the street for the RNC from beginning to end.
 

DADApunk Cabaret Party to close out RNC week with rebellion, absurdity

In 1916, the laws of art were dissolved behind the doors of Swiss nightclub Cabaret Voltaire when Hugo Ball delivered the Dada Manifesto. With nonsense and surrealism, the anti-movement of Dadaism challenged the conventions of art, World War I-era politics and culture.
 
100 years later, Dadaism’s experimental and rebellious nature, often steeped in off-kilter performance art, continues to inspire creators today to embrace absurdity. Among those artists is Mark Mothersbaugh, the focus of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland’s current exhibit, Myopia.
 
To celebrate that ideological coupling, on Friday, July 22, at 8 p.m., the museum will transform into the Dadapunk Cabaret Party extravaganza. Performances by neo-vaudevillian variety show WizBang will be followed by a dance party with Justin Long, a Chicago DJ and host of the aptly named Hugo Ball dance night. Dada and punk costumes are encouraged, though not required – and the more peculiar, the better.
 
The anything-goes soiree pays tribute to Mothersbaugh and his Dada influences.
 
“He seduces you with humor and color and form; it’s whimsical and disarming,” says MOCA deputy director Megan Lykins Reich. “And a Dadaist event is meant to bring your view of the world right now and gather others to share that [view] in a way that’s non-judgmental," she adds, noting that it's a healthy way to have discussions about more serious things. "It’s a way to break the ice.”
 
Dada’s boundary-bending nature became a driving force in the emerging DIY punk scene that bred Mothersbaugh’s Devo. The name of the new wave pioneers’ band itself comes from the word “devolution,” a rejection of structure true to Dadaism’s form. Even as their popularity began to grow, they rejected the stylishness that permeated the rock ‘n’ roll scene in favor of offbeat costumes like hazmat suits, garbage bags and construction overalls that radiated Dadaism.
 
“Dadaism was a movement that was anarchic, celebrating disorder and chaos through art,” says Lykins Reich. “In Devo, the band would start very rigidly with music that was very ordered, and as the concerts would go on, it would start to unravel and become loose and open and free and unbound.”
 
And what better time to indulge in the spirit of chaos than as the Republican National Convention comes to a close?
 
WizBang plans to bring the same eccentricity of Dadaism that defines their usual performances, which are filled with mischief and misfits.
 
“It’s giving us this new breath of inspiration to try to infuse some of Mothersbaugh’s mayhem with our own mayhem,” says WizBang co-founder Jason Tilk.
 
Satori Circus, who has roots in the Detroit punk scene, will bring his bag of avant-garde carnival tricks as well. Champion juggler and bearded wonder Will Oltman, who goes by the stage name “Will Juggle,” will perform his gravity-defying balancing acts. And, of course, Tilk and his wife Danielle – better known as Pinch and Squeal – will engage in their ragtag routine of magic, music, gags and other oddities.
 
“WizBang has always been this no-holds-barred, let’s grab onto this, twist it around and present it to an audience in a way that really surprises them kind of thing,” says Tilk.
 
Expect to also hear their take on sound poetry – the performance-based orations that eschew any structure or familiarity that were made popular by Hugo Ball. 
 
“It’s all phonetically put together to sound beautiful like a poem, but really it’s gibberish,” says Tilk. “I see a close relationship with Mark’s music, which has this repetition and then it breaks down and then it layers up again. It almost turns into these poems.”
 
For a perfect example within the Myopia exhibit – which, along with the entire museum, will be open throughout the Cabaret – look to the Mothersbaugh’s display of handmade oddball instruments, “Orchestrations.”
 
“These very organized instruments play restructured compositions, but they have very open, free, projecting parts to them,” notes Lykins Reich of the quirky sculptures.
 
Mothersbaugh himself has always tiptoed between personal, unorthodox art and applied art. Just as Dadaism has transcended a century, Mothersbaugh’s world has spanned generations, from creating music for PeeWee’s Playhouse to Wes Anderson films.
 
And just like he blurs the lines between intimate creations and commercial soundtracks, such as his collection of 30,000 postcards in the Akron Art Museum counterpart Myopia exhibit, WizBang’s performances will blur the lines between entertainer and consumer. Not only can revelers expect to be pulled on stage, costumed performers will roam through the party long after the curtain is drawn.
 
The immersive experience is part of the museum’s inclusive programming that draws Northeast Ohioans of all ages into Mothersbaugh’s wonderful world. From the kid-friendly Myopiawesome Art Studio programs each Thursday through August 25 to the upcoming Bound Art Book and Zine Fair on August 26 and 27. That event will explore the DIY, alternative scene of self-publishing, which Mothersbaugh was part of with his own My Struggle, Booji Boy, a 300-page, illustrated art book that was equal parts zine and Dadaist-surrealist memoir.
 
“It’s all very accessible, whether you’re a practicing visual artist or not,” says MOCA’s curator of public programs Deidre McPherson of Myopia. “Mark has experimented with so many different things, and he has connection with so many parts of our culture.”
 
From the delivery of the Dada Manifesto in 1916 to the political statements of Devo, Dadapunk partygoers will kick off the movement's next 100 years with abandon.
 
“At its core, the idea of freedom of expression and an alternative approach to creativity is something that will probably never go away,” says Lykins Reich. “In moments of political tension, artists are always the ones that show us how to essentially break out of that mentality and appreciate diversity and what that brings to a culture.”
 

Hiram student's invention promotes water-fight fun without guns

Hiram College student Nathaniel Eaton is aiming to make a big splash in the summertime toy market with an invention that enhances the old-fashioned water fight.
 
Eaton's "Water Dodger" is a simple plastic shield embossed with the slogan, "Can you stay dry?" In back is a net pouch that carries a half dozen or more water balloons. The idea is to offer an alternative to suggestively violent squirt guns while creating an active, competitive environment limited only by a user's imagination.
 
"It's like Laser Tag or paintball, but in the form of water," says Eaton, 24. "Plus it gets kids moving around outside."
 
Eaton, graduating from Hiram this fall with a bachelor's degree in business management and a minor in entrepreneurship, began with a drawing that evolved into a cardboard cutout and then a foam shield. He built the original foam model in his dorm room, and is now preparing to send to market a final plastic version of his product.
 
Using $1,500 in prize money from Hiram's 2016 Ideabuild competition, Eaton applied for a provisional patent and trademark. The South Euclid resident also devised four games to play using his water-centric brainchild: Solo Madness, Team Fusion, Captain Protection and Intruders.
 
“It's like a water balloon fight in reverse, whether it’s between two players or 20-plus," says Eaton. "The driest person or team wins."
 
Launching his invention is the next step for the company founder and CEO. To that end, Eaton partnered with a Case Western Reserve University industrial design student, who will help the budding entrepreneur build 10 plastic Water Dodger prototypes. He also connected with nonprofit startup accelerator JumpStart for assistance with funding and formulating a business plan.
 
"I'm starting off targeting independent toy stores with a good customer base," says Eaton. "This is my full-time job. I go everywhere with the Water Dodger in hand. When something's new, you have to inform people about it."
 
Eaton has been conceptualizing inventions and business ideas in a sketchbook since his freshman year of college. The Water Dodger was originally a wristwatch water squirter, which Eaton transformed into an entirely new product that sends a message of hot-weather fun without water guns.
 
"This is something you can promote to summer camps, because it's not a gun," says Eaton. "I show kids the shield with water balloons in a pouch, and they get excited."

High-tech rebranding initiative markets Cleveland as a 'medical capital'

Cleveland is home to more than 700 bioscience companies, a powerful ecosystem that draws strength from a clinical, research and educational foundation dedicated to growth and medical innovation. A new rebranding initiative led by a host of area institutions is ready to send this message out into the world.

Called "The Medical Capital," the campaign's centerpiece is a website where visitors can access information regarding biomedical investments and start-up activity in the region. Organizers are also offering a video showcasing the region's burgeoning tech-based assets, complete with testimonials from investors and CEOs. Social media is another facet of the effort.

BioEnterprise president and CEO Aram Nerpouni, whose not-for-profit business accelerator is helping to administer the project, says the website will aggregate locally generated biomedical industry news to share Cleveland's rebranding story all in one place.

"Cleveland and Northeast Ohio have an incredibly rich history in healthcare innovation," says Nerpouni. "Over the last 10 years, (biomedical) has become an important part of the economy where you're seeing investors commit capital to the region."

According to BioEnterprise, Northeast Ohio has attracted more than $2 billion in biomedical start-up equity funding since 2002. About $1 billion has been raised by 160 biomedical companies in the last four years alone, which proponents view as a sign of an increasingly robust innovation economy bolstered by research and commercialization.

Organizations collaborating on the new initiative include BioEnterprise, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland State University. Though Cleveland is not the first city to promote its high-tech attributes online, the venture is unique in its collaboration of multiple nationally ranked and independent institutions, all striving to promote a unified biomedical environment.

"There's a breadth of participation through industries and philanthropic and civic support,"  says Nerpouni. "Everyone in the region should know that healthcare and biomedical are key to our economic growth."

The Medical Capital campaign will also push Cleveland's story outside of Northeast Ohio, adds the BioEnterprise official. Long term, a sustained influx of funding and talent will further nurture the area's biomedical network.

"It's about creating a critical mass that's self-sustaining and thriving," Nerpouni says.

"It's a remarkable time for Cleveland. We want biomedical to continue to be part of the city's renaissance." 

New music studio rocks Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland

Since May, members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland (BGCC) have been rapping, mixing and riffing at the nonprofit's Broadway Avenue location thanks to a partnership with a national organization that builds, equips and staffs after-school recording studios.
 
Notes for Notes, now with 12 studios at Boys & Girls Clubs and other sites throughout the U.S., chose Cleveland for its storied rock history and the local BGCC's impact on area at-risk teens. Built with funds secured by Turner Construction Company and the Hot Topic Foundation, the 800-square-foot studio at 6114 Broadway Ave. offers a variety of instruments and DJ gear, along with podcasting stations and a mixing room.
 
"Kids see these kind of things on YouTube, but don't get an everyday chance to use them," says Notes for Notes regional director Ryan Easter. "Now they can get hands-on with these products."
 
Open to BGCC members from 15 regional clubs, the space is not just for the musically inclined, says art director Matt Bott. Over the past five years, more than 200 club youth nationwide - many of whom had never previously touched an instrument - have been exposed to private and group instruction or mixed their own music in the studios.
 
"Equipment is cost-prohibitive for students, so this (programming) is good for them," says Bott.
 
The curriculum includes an introduction to MoTown, complete with a meet-and-greet with R&B singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson. Participants are also working on musical concepts for a faux-commercial on football helmets protected by anti-concussion materials. And while some students may try a guitar or drum set, many are excited by the audio production aspect, using synthesizers and sound-editing equipment to produce original tunes.
 
Easter, who has an 18-year career in studio production, says podcasting is another avenue for club members to learn about the music or entertainment industry. A video challenge planned for later this month will test students' podcasting interview skills.
 
"Kids will pick three topics they want to talk about," says Easter. "They'll have to do research in taking topics from the news. This can build their confidence outside the building and change how they feel about speaking in public."
 
Future projects could include song collaborations with a Notes for Notes studio in Los Angeles or New Orleans. For now, having a big-time recording space in Cleveland can be an outlet for healthy self-expression, project leaders say.
 
"I'll push the envelope by making a contest between me versus the kids," says Easter. "It could be a battle rap about Steph Curry's jump shot or Iman Shumpert's hair," he adds.

"We're creating something, and they want to be better than an adult." 

Cleveland Codes graduates its first class from intensive tech program

Nonprofit coding camp Cleveland Codes celebrated its first graduating class on June 30, a milestone that founder and social entrepreneur Matt Fieldman says is only the first of many for the tech-based certificate program.
 
Eleven of the coding school's initial 14-member cohort will move onto paid internships at companies including Medical MutualThird Federal Savings & Loan and Hose Master. As the venture seeks to place its last three graduates -  which, like their compatriots, are low-income adults from Cleveland -  Fieldman is confident area businesses will want coders with the skills his former students possess.
 
Over the 16-week class that began in March, participants learned coding languages in an intense, demanding environment, says Fieldman. Students were also taught critical soft skills such as resume writing and interviewing.

A high-pressure atmosphere creating a potential labor source has already been proven by Edwins Restaurant and Leadership Institute, an upscale restaurant co-founded by Fieldman that trains and employs the formerly incarcerated.
 
"If you give people the right training and support, they're going to rise to the challenge," he says.
 
About 120 applicants were pared down to 15 for the coding camp's first year. Though one student dropped the course, the remainder stayed on to harness free schooling, transportation and meals, paid for through grants from the Tri-C Foundation and the state's OhioMeansJobs program. Forty percent of participants were women, while 40 percent of the entire cohort represented minorities.
 
Newly-minted grads showcased the fruits of their hard work June 29 during an event at the Advanced Training & Technology Center (ATTC) on Cuyahoga Community College's metro campus.
 
As part of a class capstone project, students built an app based on NEO+natal, a proposal that took second place at the Cleveland Medical Hackathon last year and is designed to combat the region's high infant mortality rates. The project features a unique risk profile for mothers based on publicly available demographic and geographic data. With this information in hand, the Cleveland Codes app creators drew up a short questionnaire that could be used by a community health worker to assess a mother's risk level.

Efforts such as NEO+natal, says Fieldman, are emblematic of a talent pool ready for full-time technical work that can earn them upwards of $50,000 at the entry level.
 
"When you learn a skill that will propel your career for the next 50 years, that's really exciting," he adds. "It's great to see people who work with their hands have a bright future."
 
Cleveland Codes' second cohort starts in August, with two more planned for the fall. Fieldman envisions bigger classes that, upon graduation, move on as a whole to companies such as Hyland Software.
 
"We want to see this model grow and serve more communities," he says. "Companies complain about the lack of coding talent. This is an alternative where we want them to say, 'Yes, we want to work with you.'"

Chess program a checkmate for Northeast Ohio students, says founder

Chess is a game that crosses racial, language and socioeconomic barriers, say its players and proponents. South Euclid resident Mike Joelson is doing his part to teach the millennia-old tradition to thousands of Northeast Ohio students.
 
Joelson is founder of Progress With Chess (PWC), an organization that offers after-school programs and camp-based instruction to 50 regional K-12 schools, reaching about 2,500 students annually. In harnessing a mission to improve the lives of area children and teenagers, PWC works with private schools as well as students from Cleveland's inner-ring suburbs and inner-city.
 
"We serve the entire spectrum of the community," says Joelson, a card-carrying national chess master who founded PWC as a nonprofit in 2000.
 
After-school sessions are held one hour per week. Though hourly instruction costs $9 per class, PWC also offers free programming to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), paid through foundational and corporate grants.
 
"We have more demand than we can fill," says Joelson. "We're always looking for additional funding to help us serve more schools."
 
Chess skill level doesn't matter, as PWC takes on everyone from newbies to more seasoned players. 

"Students are divided into groups based on their age and skills," Joelson says. "We start off showing what the pieces do and how to play a legal game. More advanced students are taught advanced strategies and checkmate patterns."
 
Young chess charges are taught by two dozen independent contractors, some of them tournament veterans themselves. PWC instructors will be out in force this summer at chess camps in Beachwood, Parma, Westlake, CMSD's Patrick Henry School and elsewhere.
 
Joelson, who continues to play chess competitively on a local, state and national level, says the grand game embraces higher-level thinking abilities like pattern recognition and strategic planning, along with the critical life lessons of sportsmanship and perseverance.
 
"Every move you make has consequences, similar to life," says Joelson. "If you lose you're cool early, you'll keep that habit for the rest of the game."
 
Chess - and by extension PWC - is also a wonderful vehicle for exposing young people to those of different backgrounds.
 
"Multicultural and multiracial players are sitting in the same tournament and having a dialogue," says Joelson. "It's a win for everyone." 

StartMart entrepreneur hub to welcome community during open house

StartMart, Flashstarts’ 35,000-square-foot coworking space in the Terminal Tower, is opening its doors next month to welcome the community to explore the budding entrepreneurial hub.
 
StartMart's open housescheduled for July 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., will show off a startup atmosphere that pools Cleveland's business incubators and accelerators into one continuously buzzing space, says community manager Anna Buchholz.
 
Hub officials hope to draw 300 guests for the event, guiding them through a collaborative environment designed to propel participants to success. Early returns have been positive, at least in terms of filling StartMart to capacity since its founding last September by serial entrepreneur Charles Stack.
 
About 140 individual tenants representing 30 different companies - among them We Can Code ITWheedleHandelabra Games and <remesh - are utilizing StartMart's prime downtown space, which is also bolstered by meetups, startup training and hackathon events.
 
"We want to show how much we've grown," says Buchholz. "Back in September we didn't even have furniture in half the space."
 
Although you can sign up for a waiting list, every one of StartMart's 250-square-foot private offices, called "startpods," is occupied by new companies including a full-service design agency and a variety of tech-related enterprises. Desk space is also available to entrepreneurs via a fee-based per-person monthly membership upon which StartMart has built its model.
 
"It's not just tech," says Buchholz. "We have a CPA, an attorney and other types of businesses here."
 
Since its launch, the hub has added a 3D printer and bike racks to its second-floor location at Terminal Tower. In addition, six to 10 companies that started out at a desk have since moved into private offices, a strong measure of success for a business-building effort only eight months old, says Buchholz, adding that she is confident the venture's popularity will continue to rise as members spread the word to other entrepreneurs searching for a home.

StartMart has even created enough momentum for organizers to consider expanding the hub to an additional floor
 
"We could add another 25,000 square feet," she says. "Everything took off so fast; we could accommodate so many more businesses with that extra space."

Local teen heads to high seas for research, experience

Crista Kieley, a senior from the Beaumont School in Cleveland Heights has been selected as a 2016 Honors Research Program student by the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to sail aboard exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus during one of the ship's 2016 Exploration Program expeditions, which offer participants hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.
 
"It's going to be a challenging opportunity," says Kieley. "There's going to be a lot of work involved, but I'm excited because I know we're going to learn a lot."
 
She leaves for Rhode Island on July 9, where she'll be one of eight high school seniors from across the country at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) engaging in a four-week academic summer program followed by one week aboard the 211-foot Nautilus. Students will live at URI and will work with scientists, engineers, and science communicators in a program that highlights the interdisciplinary nature of ocean science and exploration.
 
"In Rhode Island, we're going to be doing some workshops and work with ocean drifters, which are used to measure currents," says Kieley, "and on the vessel, we'll be doing data logging."
 
Upon completing the dockside portion of the program, the students will become members of the Corps of Exploration on the Nautilus. The 2016 cohort includes 22 students and 17 educators from around the world that were selected by the OET from a competitive pool of applicants hailing from educational and non-profit organizations in twenty states across America and Australia. Their participation in the program is part of OET's mission to explore the ocean by seeking out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology, physics, and chemistry while pushing the boundaries of STEM education and technological innovation. Kieley's Nautilus adventure is one of several expeditions from May through September in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
 
The group will explore the California Margin, a broad area off the coast of California in that is crisscrossed by seismically active faults. Kieley and her peers will stand watch alongside scientists and engineers. They'll also participate in live interactions with shore-based audiences via Nautilus Live, a 24-hour web portal by which landlubbers can keep track of the action. The group will also communicate via social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
 
This is not the University Heights native's first multi-day mission amid the waves. She has twice participated in the Rotary Club of Cleveland's Youth Empowered to Succeed though Sailing program – Project YESS. As a "novice" in a 2014 and "ambassador" in 2015, she sailed the Great Lakes aboard the tall ship S/V Dennis Sullivan.
 
"It was not only sail training," says Kieley of her time on the Sullivan. "We did a lot of water quality testing while we were out there."
 
Even with that experience under her belt, she admits she's harboring a little trepidation regarding the forthcoming trip on the massive state-of-the-art Nautilus research vessel.
 
"I'm just nervous because it's doing something I've never done before," she says, adding nonetheless that she is excited to have such an immersive opportunity to learn about the field of oceanography.
 
"I'm really looking forward to the week at sea."
 

Expanded Startup Scaleup returns to Gordon Square on June 28

Last year, JumpStart Inc. showcased Northeast Ohio's entrepreneurial ecosystem with a half-day, festival-style event held in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District. Startup Scaleup returns this summer with a full day of sessions, pitch competitions, workshops and networking events.
 
The expanded format follows a 2015 venture that drew 1,200 guests interested in harnessing the region's array of small business-friendly resources. Organizers have added 13 program sessions from last summer's 28, with presenters including PNC Bank, Flashstarts and the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET). Marketing agency Hello LLC, meanwhile, will teach attendees how to bring life to their brands through popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
 
"We want to make sure entrepreneurs understand all the resources they have at their fingertips, whether it's funding, getting a mentor or building a business plan," says Amy Martin, JumpStart's head of marketing.
 
The June 28 event will be easier to navigate thanks to separate track programming options focusing on either start-ups or development of existing companies. The 34 agenda items include sessions such as "The War for Tech Talent," "Ice Cream Social: Small Business Finance," and "The 5 Most Efficient Ways To Connect, Communicate And Celebrate With Your Ideal Clients." JumpStart officials are expecting the day's 1,500 attendees to chart their own unique path through sessions and post-event entertainment held at 15 Gordon Square theaters, eateries and creative spaces.
 
The marketing piece is another new addition, as is the program's outreach to student entrepreneurs. Returning from 2015 is the "Sidewalk to Stage" pitch competition, where 100 new dream-chasers will present their ideas on Capitol Theater's main stage for a share of $15,000 in prize money.
 
Full-day tickets for Startup Scaleup 2016 are $20 and include a $10 lunch voucher, as well as two $5 snack vouchers redeemable at vendors throughout the arts district. Half-day tickets are also available for $10, and include two $5 snack vouchers.
 
Giving participants more freedom is the goal of the scaleup event's super-sized format, says Martin. Program organizers expect nascent business owners to move around and mingle with the investors who can help their companies reach the next stage of growth.
 
"Our job is to create an economic impact that keeps the region on par with the rest of the country," Martin says. "We're bringing all these resources to one location for one day so people can see them in action."
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