A weekend at IngenuityFest: Exploring the age of World’s Fairs

After two years away from its normal programming, IngenuityFest 2022 returned last weekend in full force to brighten up a gloomy late September weekend—delighting visitors with experiences reminiscent of old World’s Fairs but with an invigorating modern twist.

Day one of the festival kicked off with various performances on each of Ingenuity’s six stages, featuring acts by Crooked River Circus and Tribe Ostara Tribal Belly Dancing, among many others.

Upon entering the ground floor of the warehouse, festival goers were immediately greeted with towering neon structures and expansive wall-length murals as they made their way to each of the floor’s endless installations.

With absolutely no shortage of exhibitions to take part in, patrons could spend anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours on the first floor alone, taking in many of the featured sites like IngenuityLabs’ giant interactive marble machine or the breathtaking Tesla Orchestra on the Tesla Polyphonic Stage equipped with live reactive Tesla coils.

Outside, festival goers could enjoy hours of endless live music performances on either of the venue’s two outdoor stages while grabbing a quick bite from local Cleveland food trucks and a local brew from one of the sites’ many bars. 

Even more impressive was the second floor featuring the Inventor’s Emporium—home to all manners of installations, from elaborate life-sized sculptures of flora made from recycled materials to an interactive exhibit complete with old landline phones patrons could use to listen to anonymously submitted voicemails about any subject imaginable.

The Crystal Stage, an art piece as well as a functional structure, echoed the sentiment and aesthetic of the spectacle from the 1800s with the same name, built at that time to house London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, which brought together thousands of exhibitors and patrons, eager to catch a glimpse into what the future held. 

The third floor, or “Wellness Way,” communicated the IngenuityFest’s theme of sustainability and the congruence of the evolution of life and art.

Booths highlighting information about sustainable refillable toiletries, eco-conscious marketing, and nutrition programs for low-income schools featured alongside art installations about pollution and overconsumption prompted festival goers to consider the impact of their actions on the world around them.

Local artist and first time IngenuityFest vendor Anna Brown showcased her eye-catching pieces created through a specialized process called “Lichtenberg,” or “fractal wood burning.”

With this process, a high voltage tool is used to ignite pieces of wood soaked in different conductive solutions in order to create the distinctive “lightning-shaped” patterns featured in her work. The process itself, while seemingly straightforward to an inexperienced onlooker, carries a lot of inherent risk due to its use of concentrated high voltage electricity and thus requires a great deal of patience and care for the craft. Likewise, working with a tool as unpredictable as concentrated electricity means that no two pieces are alike, guaranteeing that what you see is what you get.

Brown says IngenuityFest was a chance to not only gain more traction for her pieces but to share her passion for the art of Lichtenberg itself.

Endeavors like IngenuityFest act as a catalyst; providing artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators with the tools, space, and supportive community necessary to support their evolution as creators.