Friday, June 8, 2012

The Other Weapons Bush Didn’t Find in Iraq: Cleveland's Weapons of Mass Creation Festival

Designer Jeff Finley's festival celebrates Cleveland as a scrappy creative engine. He has taken his passions for art, design, music and entrepreneurship and smashed them into a 3-day extravaganza of raw talent, the Weapons of Mass Creation Festival in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District.

The festival, in its third year, runs tonight through Sunday. It includes 20 speakers, 20 designers and 30 bands, including Tad Carpenter (an illustrator/designer who has worked with Macy's and Hallmark, among many others), Three Bears Design (a Cleveland-based creative collective) and Gregory and the Hawk (a New York-based band with multiple albums and EPs). Many are local. Other featured designers and entrepreneurs are traveling from as far as Nova Scotia, Chicago and San Francisco.

Four locations along Detroit Avenue between West 52nd and West 54th streets, including the Reinberger Auditorium and Saigon Plaza, are hosting concerts, an art show, workshops and what’s billed as the “biggest break-dancing/b-boying battle in Ohio.” Tickets range from $5 for tonight's opening party to $60 for a three-day pass to all lectures and music.

I talked to Finley, who's also a designer and partner at the Cleveland creative design agency Go Media, to find out more about the innovative missile that is WMC.

Q: What does this event bring to of Cleveland that it hasn’t seen before?

A: There’s been an Ingenuity festival and art fests, but as far as commercial art goes, and graphic design, we’re the premier event going on in the Midwest. The types of artist we’re bringing in are the thought leaders in the industry. There’s a young creative class and we’re scrappy and hardworking and trying to build something for the future. We’re really showcasing we have and making it an attraction for other cities to show Cleveland’s really doing something inspiring.

 Q: How were you able to get all of the different people to come to Cleveland?

A: Cleveland is well known but it doesn’t have the reputation of being a creative powerhouse. If you have an event in San Fran, they’ll want to go. We have to work hard to make a compelling reason for people to come here. Making friends in the design community, we’ve built a strong reputation. So we get big-name artists and designers from New York or Chicago to spread the word about last year and now hear how everyone is excited to come back.

Q: What will people who aren’t into the design and indie or punk rock music scene getting out of the event?

A: [It’ll appeal to] people who have this burning passion to do things their own way and start their own business. [It’s about] doing what you want to do, staying scrappy and being an entrepreneur. The common message last year was, “Work hard and make shit.” Just come to be inspired, because we’re all in this together, especially in Cleveland.

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