From steam powered to Space Age: IngenuityFest is back in full force

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity at the Hamilton Collaborative, as the folks at Ingenuity Cleveland have been working to bring together the community, artists, performers, and inventors to put on an epic IngenuityFest 2022 this weekend, Friday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 25.

After two years of hosting IngenuityFest outside, this year’s event offers the opportunity for attendees to wind their way through a newly expanded festival footprint at IngenuityLabs in the multi-level Hamilton Collaborative warehouse—with 12 uniquely themed villages and featured installations, each highlighting dozens of individual exhibits.

This year’s theme, Expo: Ingenuity, draws on the best traditions of World's Fairs and (Inter)National Exhibitions, including the ability to highlight those scientific, technological and social innovations that have driven progress, igniting the creative spark by tracing a history of imagination through time and place, highlighting the ability of expositions to bring people together to uplift achievement and human ingenuity.

"This year’s festival will be an immense, enormous celebration of our coming together once again,” says IngenuityFest executive artistic director Emily Appelbaum. “[There will be] more music, vendors, and exhibits than ever before, plus a few special surprises.”

The highlights
IngenuityFest 2022 will bring the return of Makers Mecca, which will showcase everything from robotics, virtual reality, and 3-D printing technologies to tinkering and crafting, allowing the young and young-at-heart to get in touch with their inner DIY enthusiast and make hands-on creations.

The new Inventor’s Emporium will celebrate the more whimsical side of the World's Fair with imaginative exhibits that wend their way dreamily through Expos past. Attendees can find early arcade machines and zoetropes, or and step inside a giant Camera Obscura.

Mechanique Biotique merges industry with sustainability, while Ideation Station allows entrepreneurs and creatives to mingle with business leaders and attend panel discussions and workshops.

Appelbaum says there is truly something for everyone. “We have a good showing from some festival favorites that will be exhibiting new and different work,” she says. “We have a whole newly designed show with the Tesla Orchestra, which will incorporate multimedia and originally composed music, and we have the Rolling Buckeyez pop up roller rink, and Recess Cleveland.”

Hands-on experiences include painting rain barrels with Linda Zolten Wood's painted rain barrel project, and visiting Ingenuity’s year-round urban microgreens container farm to support local urban agriculture with Lettuce Tree Farms

Of course, what’s IngenuityFest without fire? Large Scale Flame Exhibits from Cap'n Nemo's Flaming Carnival and IngenuityLabs' own The Fire Guys, LLC. Additionally, Appelbaum touts the aerial acts scheduled, including “Sacred Space: Return to the Feminine Devine,” which Appelbaum describes as a circus performance-meets-sacred reflection.”

“We’re going to float a lady 20 feet in the air—I'm not sure quite how much to say because I don't really want to give away the secret—but she's going to be working on aerial rigging and reciting poetry,” says Appelbaum. “And there's a huge physical space component to it where she's elevating this enormous fabric.”

Live music is another requirement. Six stages will host music from hip-hop, to folk, to honky-tonk delights. The various sounds include an intimate feel and Victorian circus vibes with The Cabaret; local and touring acts at Music Meadow; bass beats and fast rhymes on The Dock Stage, and the ever-popular upstairs bar and hang-out at the Crystal Palace Stage.

Performances include Beat Freak, Roots of American Music, Cleveland Comedy Festival, and Temple of Passions. Headlining performances on Tesla’s Polyphonic Stage include the Tesla Orchestra, Crooked River Circus, and Dixon’s Violin.

On Friday, Sept. 23, the Speakers Stage at Ideation Station will feature PechaKucha Cleveland’s Volume 28, while on Saturday, Sept. 24, Ignite with Light x FutureLand will host entrepreneurship workshops a panel discussion and a social mixer focused on digital and tech-focused entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurs of color. 

One of the panelists will be Alysha Ellis, who Appelbaum says is a rising star. “She's just a super amazing young mover and shaker focused on entrepreneur the entrepreneurship community among people of color,” she says.

Family-friendly activities can be found at Locomotion Central, including Toddler Town, a sensory friendly room, and a nursing room. Exhibitions range from large-scale flame exhibits and Tesla Coils to hands-on learning opportunities with Cleveland Public Library and more than a hundred individual artisans and exhibitors.

Neighborhood bonds
In the past two years with programming being limited because of the pandemic, Appelbaum says Ingenuity Cleveland has instead focused on building partnerships within the St. Clair Superior neighborhood.

Over the past few years, nobody's really done huge programming,” she says. “Instead, [we’re] took that time to hone in on our immediate landscape, who our partners are, and what we need to do to work together effectively.”

For instance, Appelbaum says they’ve been working with Famicos Foundation and the St. Clair Superior Development Corporation the Rediscover St. Clair Superior Masterplan with the Cleveland Metroparks CHEERS study and Bike Cleveland's Better Streets Committee on neighborhood improvement projects, and how the key players can work together to strengthen the St. Clair Superior neighborhood—even after IngenuityFest.

It's one thing to have a great festival that welcomes everybody, that’s accessible, and is a little bit lower cost and more diverse in its approach than some of our peers around town,” says Appelbaum. “But what do you do with that sense of community and energy after the festival door close? Maybe you make an awesome campaign of decals and street art to make the neighborhood look better, maybe it's about placemaking neighborhood wayfinding.”

Appelbaum says in the past year Ingenuity has also been working with Fab House Cleveland, a maker space in Glenville, on a community storytelling project. As a community-based innovation space, Fab House Cleveland is teaching people of all ages digital fabrication technology skills with collaborators from all over the world.  to bridge the opportunity divide through technology and human capital.

“Those are the types of community projects that are really kind of strongly on exhibit in this year's festival,” says Appelbaum. “These have really been the culmination of those two years of work away from the festival.”

IngenuityFest 2002 runs Friday, Sept. 23 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday, Sept. 24 from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 25 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.  at IngenuityLabs in the Hamilton Collaborative, 5401 Hamilton Ave. Tickets are $10 to $26.18 for a weekend pass, and $125 for an Agents of Ingenuity membership. Children ages 12 and under are free.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.