Weapons of Mass Creation Highlights Creative Class in Cleveland

Creative explosion

Now in its sixth year, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest has become the region's premier design industry-centered professional conference. Throughout the weekend, Playhouse Square's Allen Theatre will host 14 speakers, three panels, eight workshops, 30-plus vendor tables, live artwork, interactive demonstrations, portfolio reviews and much more.

WMC Fest 6 is hosted by Aaron Sechrist of OkPants.

"WMC Fest is about helping to shape the ever-evolving new class of creatives by bringing together designers, artists and creative minds from all over the world and celebrating and inspiring each other," Sechrist says.

The weekend-long conference was founded by local design firm Go Media as "three days that will change your life." The festival centers on networking, sharing ideas and collaboration, as well as equality and embracing one other's uniqueness. Again this year, organizers are showcasing Cleveland's revitalization, introducing (and re-introducing) the festival's many out-of-town guests to the many positive changes taking place throughout Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

"Weapons of Mass Creation is different than any design conference you'll find out there," explains WMC Fest co-organizer Heather Sakai. "It's got soul and it's got grit. It's Cleveland through and through. It's that one place where you can go, check in, lay all your cards on the table and, at the end, feel recharged and accepted by other authentic, hardworking creatives who are experiencing the same struggles and successes you are."

Discussing this year's changes, she continues, "We're on board with the rest of our city, fighting the current stereotypes that exist. With this year's move to Playhouse Square and with our Cleveland Studio Tour, we are aiming to show our attendees how breathtaking Cleveland really is and all it has to offer. We feel that all of this — the venue, the location, the line-up and the palpable intensity that WMC Fest is known for — will deliver a resounding message: Cleveland is to be respected and recognized."

The weekend begins with a sold-out Cleveland Creative Studios Tour. The afternoon includes tours of Balance, Burkle Hagen, Go Media, JakPrints and LeanDog. A VIP Mixer will take place from 5 to 7 p.m., and open to the public at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., Ink Wars will showcase eight artists drawing live on 8-foot canvases with a special impromptu theme. Ink Wars is hosted by Lenny Terenzi of Hey Monkey Design. The judges are Jenny Lee (Ideas of Jenny Lee), Alex Shyn (The Only Good Alex) and Blake Stevenson (Jetpacks & Rollerskates).

Saturday and Sunday begin at 9 a.m. with a Morning Hangout Over Rising Star Coffee. At lunch, Go Media will broadcast it's podcast with WMC Fest co-organizers Bryan Garvin and Heather Sakai discussing the event with speakers, vendors and attendees.

"I'm looking forward to meeting everyone in person who I've talked with on Google Hangouts during the last 8 months," says Garvin. "So many new faces join the community this year. So many positive vibes coming out of everyone we've talked to. I'm looking forward to talking shop and sharing downtown Cleveland with awesome working-class creatives."

All day Saturday and Sunday, a Vendor Village and Maker Space will feature 30 tables, including designers, artists, merchandise distributors, agencies, shirt makers and printers. Additionally, a number of interactive exhibits will feature 3-D printers, t-shirt presses, button makers and a sketch space. This year's participating vendors include Go Media, JakPrints, Real Thread, Brick Ceramic and Design Studio, Bunny Paige, Cheer Up Press, OkPants, ImageLab Media Services and many more.

At 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, aspiring designers, illustrators and motion graphics artists are invited to bring their portfolio to be reviewed by a panel of the industry's leading professionals. On Saturday, portfolios will be reviewed by William Beachy (Go Media), Stephanie Burris (Marcus Thomas) and Stacey Cooper (Barkley). Sunday's reviewers will be James Hsu, Jon Stahl (LeanDog) and Jacinda Walker (AIGA Diversity & Inclusion Task Force).

The weekend includes a number of one-hour educational workshops. This year's workshops include (in chronological order) Food and Dimensional Tyopgraphy with Danielle Evans, How to Be a Girlboss! hosted by Kat Hanratty, The Creative Entrepreneur's Workshop to Authentic Branding by Kimika Hudson, Dustin Lee's How to Create a Passive Income for Your Design Business, Prototype as Pitch by Moonshot Lab, Boost Your YQ with Michael Cavotta and Jen Margolis, Networking a New Way hosted by Wesley Hoffman and a Minimalist Poster Design Wokshop hosted by Paolo Appley, Charlotte Chang and Will Kesling.

Speakers at WMC Fest 6 include Michael Rivette and Christina Sharp, Aaron Kaufman and Will Dages, Jude Goergen, Michael Bierut, Ludvik Hererra, Michael Cavotta, Debbie Millman, Wilfred Krenn and Mark Brickley. Panels include Viewing Cleveland's Creative Process Through a Lens," and "State of the Merch."

Weekend passes and tickets for Saturday have sold out. As of Monday morning, a few tickets remain for Friday and Sunday. No ticket? In Cleveland, there's always next year.