Seven years ago, Cleveland-based design firm Go Media launched Weapons of Mass Creation Fest as the region's premier design conference. In the years since, the festival has grown and evolved. Now held at Playhouse Square, WMC Fest brings artists, designers, illustrators, art directors, freelancers and students to downtown Cleveland for three days of inspiration, networking and exchanging ideas. However, as more guests discover each year, you don't necessarily need to be an industry insider to enjoy your time at Weapons of Mass Creative Fest.
"Weapons of Mass Creation Fest is a feast for the senses and appeals to anyone who loves and appreciates art or creativity of all kinds," says WMC Fest event director Heather Sakai. "You don't have to be a professional to enjoy events such as our free yoga class, Ink Wars (a captivating live illustration battle), our vendor village, Jakprints After Party or TEDx style talks by inspiring speakers like Cleveland hero Michelle Knight and Grammy Award-winning designer Stefan Sagmeister."
This year's WMC Fest takes over Playhouse Square's Ohio and State Theatres, as well as the State Theatre lobby. A nationally recognized, weekend-long design conference, the seventh incarnation of WMC Fest features eight workshops, 10 guest speakers, three panel discussions, interactive demonstrations, a vendor village with more than 20 vendors, live artwork, podcasts and more.
Each year, the event attracts more than 1,000 attendees. Hosted by Aaron Sechrist of OkPants, WMC Fest features special guest speakers Jillian Adel, Mark Brickey (with Adventures in Design), Lily Rose Lee, Isabel Urbina Pena, Wilson Revehl, Stefan Sagmeister, Sean Starr, Darius Stubbs, Jeral Tidwell, Jay Wallace and RA Washington. These diverse presentations cover a variety of topics and could be considered the TED Talks of the design community.
"How aspiring designers and artists learn their craft has changed a lot over the past decade-plus, so we don't aim for WMC Fest to be like school or a seminar," explains Sechrist. "It's a conference on paper only. That's only a part of the whole experience though. WMC Fest has really grown into a tight-knit community over the past six years and the person who spends a weekend experiencing it can look forward to being a part of the whole thing, not just being a passive observer. It's a really good opportunity for someone who feels lost and has no idea how to go about becoming a creative for a living to start figuring things out."
The weekend commences Friday evening with Ink Wars, a live drawing competition pitting eight artists and illustrators against each other. Each artist is given an 8-foot canvas and some markers. This year's theme will be chosen by the audience and announced during the event. You can submit a topic to firstname.lastname@example.org or bring it for the judges on Friday. Seven artists have been announced, and the eighth will be selected from the crowd before the event. Contestants include Brittany Barnhart, Joe Baron, Chris Corsi, Aaron Lee, Lisa Lorek, Dylan Menges and Remo Remoquillo. Supplies are provided by Blick Art Materials. Ink Wars takes place during Friday evening's meet & greet from 8 to 10 p.m.
The weekend-long conference was founded by local design firm Go Media as "three days that will change your life." The festival is centered on networking, sharing ideas and collaboration, as well as equality and embracing each other's uniqueness.
Discussing this communal environment, Sechrist says, "WMC Fest feels a lot like DIY shows I used to play in bands, in that the show itself is just one element of the experience. Making friends and meeting new people is really where I've found the good stuff to be. Everyone is very accessible on every level. The keynote speakers, podcasters, me (the emcee), et cetera, aren't on pedestals; we're just out here to connect like audience members are. This festival at its core exists really to just show the design community that it needs to exist in real life beyond social media and email. I think that, in and of itself, has a lot of appeal to people."
Whether you're a casual attendee with no design experience or a professional designer, WMC Fest can and will inspire your own passionate creativity. After all, there's just something really inspiring about listening to experts discuss the topics they are most passionate about.
"I've been a friend and collaborator with the good people at Go Media, who founded and put the event on, for quite a while," Sechrist adds. "I was ecstatic when they took a chance and launched it seven years ago. I didn't quite know what I needed at that point in my life as a graphic artist, but WMC Fest was the thing that was missing. If I felt that way, I was pretty certain other creatives were looking for that experience as well — and not just in Cleveland. My involvement has grown from there. It's not my show, but that's the charm of WMC Fest: Everyone feels like it's theirs and they're not just another guest."
Tickets, especially three-day passes, are expected to sell out quickly. For more information and a complete schedule, as well as to purchase tickets, visit wmcfest.com.
Weapons of Mass CreationPlayhouse Square, 1519 Euclid Ave.