Photo courtesy of Squonk Opera.
Ingenuity Cleveland is an organization all about creativity. Their mission is “to ignite the creative spark where the arts, science, and technology intersect.” So a group like Squonk Opera, a multimedia performing arts company who created their first show in a Pittsburgh junkyard, was a perfect fit for IngenuityFest this September.
IngenuityFest is a 3-day event that features hundreds of performances in many genres, as well as installations, large artworks, hands-on and “maker” activities, and more. Some of the artists and performers are professionals, but Ingenuity Cleveland also encourages non-professional, community, and school groups to perform and attend.
The festival is housed in a former factory in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, just outside downtown Cleveland. The neighborhood has struggled with population loss, crime, and vacant and dilapidated buildings. In recent years, however, there has been redevelopment and revitalization in the community. Ingenuity Cleveland sees their festival as a chance to “celebrate the resilience and spirit” of the area while providing a “fun and exciting weekend of activities for local residents to enjoy the arts.” To ensure the involvement of the community, Ingenuity widely distributes free tickets to nearby schools and community organizations and provides free shuttle services.
IngenuityFest’s industrial space. Photo by Jack Brancatelli.
With Squonk Opera, Ingenuity focused on engaging high school-aged students by partnering with several local schools. Squonk performed a show called Pneumatica, which “is an event about air, made of air, and powered by air.” It features a 40-foot tall figure called “Lady Pneumatica,” and the musicians play their instruments to activate inflatable set pieces and costumes. According to the IngenuityFest staff, “The performance was dramatic, enjoyable for its sheer energy, scale, and dynamism, but also encouraged audiences to think about air, breath, and ephemerality…It benefited our audience to see their blend of arts, and reinforced our message that creativity is expressed in many ways.”
After each performance, audience members were encouraged to go behind the scenes to see the set pieces and inflatables and investigate how they worked.
Ingenuity Cleveland is a first-time Arts Midwest Touring Fund grantee. Many of the artists that perform at their festival are local, but they were eager to Squonk Opera showcase their innovative work, as well. The extra financial support from the Touring Fund allowed them to bring the group from Pittsburgh to Cleveland for the weekend to explore art, science, and creativity.
Inflatables engulfed the crowd during Squonk Opera’s Pneumatica. Photo courtesy of Estrella Studios.