Ingenuity Festival (Behind the Scenes Part II)

It's early May when Ingenuity Festival co-director James Levin blows into Thomas Mulready's dining room, his mood turned all the way up. He's jazzed about an interactive piece by Ben Kinsley, star of the Cleveland Institute of Art's graduating class.

Kinsley will project pictures of people on four huge screens arranged in a circle in the Cleveland Trust rotunda. The closer the viewers get to the screens, the more the people seem to react to their presence -- singing, laughing, screaming, hiccupping and making all sorts of nonverbal noises. Eventually the projected people and the real people form a kind of musical composition.

It's a real fusion of mind and machine, of art and tech. "This is a museum piece," says Jurgen Faust, CIA's dean of integrated media.

When Levin tells Mulready about it, his excitement crests to a level usually reserved for big donations.

You see, everyone thinks the Ingenuity Festival sounds cool. Artists. Scientists. Businesspeople. Media people. Republicans. Democrats. The Lake Erie monster. Who doesn't like ingenuity? Who doesn't like festivals?

But a festival running purely on ingenuity won't happen. It needs money.

Levin and Mulready are working on it every day, attending meeting after meeting, making presentation after presentation. All to make this festival, this universally acknowledged very cool thing that would be good for Cleveland, a reality.

"That's all I've been thinking about -- the money, the money, the money, the venues," says Levin, arms crossed, veins taut from the cocktail of enthusiasm and sheer worry coursing through them.

Levin, an actor-lawyer-activist, started Cleveland Public Theater and is creating the Gordon Square Arts District. He runs on inspiration.

Mulready, a refugee from the corporate world, is more business-minded. The e-letter founder is unfurling a new movement of creative optimism here by highlighting all things local and progressive.

It's tempting to draw analogies: Levin is the gas, Mulready the brakes. Levin is the right side of the brain, Mulready the left. But that would be oversimplifying things. And though they will tell you how different they are ("Thomas loves technology, and I'm a closet Luddite," Levin says) and how much they disagree (one thinks his approach nailed a large donation, the other thinks it came close to sabotaging it), both are totally passionate about the arts and Cleveland.

"A lot of people generate great ideas," Mulready says. "Few can make it happen."

And, as their track record has shown, that's another thing they have in common.

The Ingenuity Festival runs Sept. 1-4. For more information and an updated schedule, visit

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