Weapons of Mass Creation draws talent from across the globe to Playhouse Square this weekend

Upon its launch in 2010, the Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC) art and design conference was envisioned as a small meet-and-greet for area artists. Fifty people attended the event's first iteration, starting a tradition that in recent years has reached beyond regional and even national boundaries.
Now in its seventh year, WMC is expected to draw more than 1,000 professional and aspiring artists, designers, small business owners and other makers of all innovative stripes. The three-day happening, hosted August 5-7 at the Ohio, Kennedy and State Theatres in Playhouse Square, features TEDx-style talks with a diverse panel of speakers, interactive workshop sessions and live podcasts.
Among this year's speakers are Grammy award-winning designer Stefan Sagmeister and Cleveland kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight, who will discuss the healing power of art and art therapy. Cleveland designer Aaron Sechrist will host a creative celebration that includes live art battles and podcasts.
Bill BeachyFounded by Cleveland-based design studio Go Media, the annual arts conference has grown in popularity due to a unique mix of guests, programming and educational offerings, says event director Heather Sakai. Attendees will learn how to create everything from a captivating comic book storyline to a profitable design business. New this year is a free "desk yoga" class that teaches simple poses busy artists can do while working. 
"The general feel is inspiring and authentic," says Sakai. "There's a good sense of community here. We offer a little bit of everything."
Positive word-of-mouth has broadened WMC's audience, as web developers and videographers now mingle with artists from traditional media.
"Cleveland is huge for design, arts and culture," Sakai says. "When people come to town, we try to expose them to all the city has to offer."
WMC moved downtown from the Gordon Square Arts District to give the metro area better exposure. About 60 percent of program patrons reside outside Ohio, coming from arts enclaves within cities such as Los Angeles and Austin. International visitors from Australia, India and the United Kingdom round out the packed event venues.
Sakai says broadening the guest list to include non-artistic residents can put a focus on both Cleveland and its emergent creative hub.

"Fundraising is one of the biggest challenges WMC faces," she says. "People love the idea of the arts in Cleveland, but it's hard for them to follow through with raising funds. Hosting a premier design conference is a great way to make art accessible to any Clevelander."

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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