Why Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 4 Changed My Life

We here at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and Go Media are still reeling from what we feel was the most moving, inspirational, simply the best WMC Fest yet.  As we strike the set, pack up the gallery and sweep the floors of the gorgeous Cleveland Public Theatre, we cannot help but to reflect on a year’s work of planning, months of preparation, and the best three days of our collective lives.

Each year teaches us lessons, makes us better, pushes us to create something greater than ourselves.  We’re far from perfect but we’re passionate; we love what we do, and we believe that this festival is life-changing.

We asked, You Answered:

Why Did wmcfestlogo

Change Your Life?

– Jeff Finley, WMC Fest Founder, Partner at Go Media

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Jeff Finley and Todd Gauman. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Three days that will change your life indeed! I am overcome by a sense that what we (The WMC Team) have created is soo much larger and transcendental than our imaginations could have ever grasped. I am humbled and so very truly honored to be a part of Weapons of Mass Creation Fest!  We didn’t create an event, we’ve created a movement.”

Todd Gauman, Event Director of WMC Fest

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Joseph Hughes, organizer of WMC Fest speakers. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios.

“Though I’ve been involved for three years now, I’d have to say that this year’s WMC Fest was my all-time favorite. I feel like we really hit our stride with the combination of the new location, amazing lineup of speakers, and excited crowds. I’m like a proud parent – it’s so hard for me to pick just one favorite speaker or moment. What I’ll remember most about the weekend is the feeling of excitement and motivation I felt after it was all over. If you didn’t leave WMC Fest 2013 wanting to do big things, I don’t think you were paying attention.”

– Joseph Hughes, WMC Fest Speaker Organizer

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Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“A creative immersion performance like no other; WMC and Go Media came out with weapons blazing! My brain was in overdrive by the time the curtain dropped, but I’m more energized and focused than I’ve been in years. I’ll be back WITH FULL FORCE”

– Scott Fuller, WMC Fest Participant

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Troy DeShano and Stewart Scott-Curran. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“This was my first time at WMC Fest, and it completely blew me away. There were several highlights for me. The honesty of the speakers was breathtaking. Often we can sit and listen to people talk about how successful they are and the great work they have done and they gloss over the failures, the hardships and the disappointments that all of us have experienced to a greater or lesser extent. None of the speakers that I saw did that. They were so down to earth and honest about the challenges that they have faced.

Speakers like These Are Things and Troy deShano really connected with me on an emotional level. I don’t think anyone who was in the room for those two talks were left unmoved.

Aside from these incredible moments, the thing I take away from WMC 2013 is the wonderful sense of community. Meeting people in real life that I have known on the internet for quite a while was amazing. As was making brand new friends. There was a palpable sense of togetherness and love throughout the festival. A sense that we are all in this together and that we all share the same hopes, dreams and fears. That will live with me for a long time.”

Stewart Scott-Curran, WMC Fest Speaker

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American War. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“It reminded me of why I do what I do. It reinforced my faith in humanity, artists and the creative kind.”

– Valerie Mayen, WMC Fest Speaker

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Aaron Sechrist jumps into action at Ink Wars. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Faces and real life voices are put to twitter handles and avatars and that’s the most valuable and unreplaceable aspect of the WMC experience for me. The conversations and connections I have throughout the WMC weekend are what keep me energized and focused until the next conference or show. It’s become a yearly mile marker for me to see how far I’ve come as a designer and professional but also how I’ve still got such a long road to travel. It’s an odd mixed feeling of being spent (in the best way) but also wired by the end of the Fest.”

Aaron Sechrist, WMC Fest Vendor, Ink Wars Participant

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Adventures in Design Podcast. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Starting a magazine has been a challenging experience, oftentimes filled with doubt. Not only did the stories told at WMC Fest 4 validate all of the risks we’ve taken – but it’s kicked us in the pants to be even more convicted to our project. It’s refreshing to know that other folks have found success doing what they love, and despite any hurdles in our journey, a little hard work and perseverance is going to go a long way.

Furthermore, the inclusiveness of WMC Fest was an inspiration. Meeting folks from all over the world and from all walks of life gathered for the weekend in Cleveland really proves that there is something happening here – and that this region has a bright future.”

Michael & Noah of Rustbelt Almanac, WMC Fest Participants

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Sean Dockery at Ink Wars. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“WMC Fest more than any other summer vacation/getaway re-energizes me – came back feeling so ready to put the pedal to the metal. Just being able to talk to people who understand your language is awesome enough, but to have people whose work you admire share so much about their work, process + life…truly a gift.”

Chrissy Jensen, WMC Fest Sponsor

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Ann Friedman & Dylan Lathrop. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Through the week I meet with many old and new friends, some that I’ve only known online and had not yet met in person. It was great to met fellow designer/Illustrators like Jason Carne and Jessica Paoli as well as catching up with the guys from Warpaint Press and Threadbird.

It was completely epic to just hang out all weekend with legends like AngryBlue and Brandon Rike. These guys were so great and so open to sharing experiences and advice. I learned a lot from talking with these guys! And Sunday, I had the pleasure of talking with Jacqui Oakley, I’m one of her biggest fans.

Ink Wars was an opportunity for me to face my fears of “Public Performance.” It was really fun to step out on stage in a sense, and share with an audience what I do as an artist.  This is a trip that I will not soon forget!”

– Derrick Castle, WMC Fest 4 Designer and Ink Wars participant

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Steve Knerem at Ink Wars. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“There’s no better place that shares the willingness to connect, the stories of failure and success, and the sheer dedication to our craft. With all of the hard work and sacrifices we make, day in and day out, WMC Fest reminds us why it’s worth it. It was an honor to be a part of Ink Wars and WMC Fest, especially amongst some of the best people I’ve ever met.”

Sean Dockery, WMC Fest Designer and Ink Wars Participant

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Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“WMC Fest is so many things to so many of the attendees and contributors. The trip home, after WMC Fest ends, is always a memorable recollection of moments from the fest, as well as an exciting optimism about things to come. We all leave feeling inspired, and encouraged by the countless conversations that we get to have.

Personally, I was honored to be able to speak at this event, and to be able to speak open and honestly about my craft. It was humbling to step down from the podium, and be overwhelmed with handshakes and pats on the back.

As creatives, both having and being aware of a support system is crucial to our own psychological well-being. WMC left no shortage of encouragement and appreciation to a group of creatives in desperate need of a reason to push harder, and to stay positive about their work.

We don’t realize how much we need creative community until we get a chance to feel the exhilaration that the WMC community brings. If maybe only for a short while, us creatives get to feel bulletproof as we get back to work.  Looking forward to next year.”

– Brandon Rike, WMC Fest 4 Speaker, Vendor

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Questions for the speakers. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“One word can sum it up for me. Friendships. I drove over 1900 miles on an 11 day journey that ended in WMC Fest. All alone in my car with the AID Podcast to keep me company. But the second I arrived in Cleveland until I pulled out for home 4 days later I was surrounded by selfless, giving people who immediately made me feel welcome. From my friends who came from GA and FL (Mike, Scott and Mat – INK WARS FTW!) to all the new friends I made I felt part of something. Like my chosen profession was the right path for me. After 15 years of floundering and aimless wandering so much became crystal clear because of WMC Fest. Be good to people, Be good to yourself. Make cool stuff. Share it with the world. That is my to-do list going forward. Thank you Go Media, WMC Fest and Cleveland for making me feel like I was home when I was so far away from it. “

Lenny Terenzi, WMC Fest Participant

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Host Mark Brickey. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Our experience of speaking at WMC Fest was truly unforgettable. As we put together our talk, all we knew was that we wanted to share our full story – the ups and the downs. Little did we know that this community would embrace our story so fully. This weekend will certainly go down in These Are Things history as one of our highest highs.”

– Jen Adrion & Omar Noory of These Are Things, WMC Fest 4 Speakers

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Jeff Finley. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“I’ve never attended this event in the past, but I’m so honored to have been part of it this year and I can’t wait to attend next year. Not only do I feel more motivated as an artist – but getting to stand next to artists and have my work up next to people I’ve admired for years was completely life changing. I just graduated in May – and I’ve had my work shown in a few exhibitions and shows around Cleveland, but nothing as amazing as this. I can’t explain how absolutely excited and awesome it felt.

After I realized how much inspiration and awesomeness was in one building, I really came out of my shell. It’s beautiful how normal – everyday people are actually extraordinary.

I learned that comparing myself in a healthy way to people that I admire really can help me grow as a person and as a young person in this field. It’s experiences like this that make me choose to be a working artist in the Cleveland community everyday.”

– Lucy Williams, WMC Fest Designer

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The Modern Electric. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“I have mixed feelings about working at a design agency. I find myself in a constant struggle of balancing my life, the agencies goals and most importantly; the client’s vision. I would say, at my agency the pro’s heavily outweigh the con’s. That being said, designer burnout and personal development are topics myself and my agency take very seriously.

This is where WMC comes into play. I go to WMC to recharge my creative battery. Just because WMC is small, doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. The high concentration of creative people makes this my favorite conference, hands down. Upon return I’m ready to face personal and client challenges. Band posters by night and product keynotes by day. My Agency can see a bold change in the designers they send to WMC and consider the ROI priceless.

On a personal note, Ok Pants and AngryBlue took time to hang out with me at the event. Hearing about their processes and having actual face time with designers I admire was invaluable to my growth as a human. WMC is a place where I can talk design with designers and have no holds barred conversation with people I can relate to. Not to mention the 12 posters I came home with.”

– Ryan Flowers, WMC Fest participant, Designer at Duarte

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B-Boy Battle. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“I’ve gotten so much more out of WMC Fest than I’ve put into it, and every year I meet someone that inspires me to do something new. WMC takes such a broad view of design, and encourages so many different perspectives, it makes the community bigger. It makes the community stronger.”

– Caroline Moore, WMC Fest Speaker & Photographer

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Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“There is so much I love about WMC Fest that keeps me coming back year after year. It has been particularly awesome to develop real relationships with kindred spirits. Those who were once internet connections became acquaintances and now real live friends.

This year WMC Fest was very special because it offered me the chance to rediscover how much I love public speaking. It had been many years since I’d been able to share my story with a large audience, and the energy in the room was intoxicating. I’ll be actively pursuing more opportunities to speak from here on out, and can only hope future audiences will be as gracious and positive as the WMC Fest crowd.”

– Troy DeShano, WMC Fest Speaker

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Alonzo Felix. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“I loved seeing everyone’s hard work come together to pull off an awesome event! Some of my favorite moments were definitely Ink wars, photobooth fun, and watching the breakdancing battles! Such great energy!”

Sarah Traxler, WMC Fest Volunteer

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Speaker Jon Contino. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“I work at Duarte, where we help amazing speakers craft their stories every day so I was looking forward to the lineup of talks at WMC. I was simply blown away. The willingness and courage to be honest and open, the sincerity, humor and the diversity of presenters was quite an experience.  As a designer and as a person this was a refueling event.”

– Fabian Espinoza, WMC Fest Participant, Senior Designer at Duarte

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Nick Disabato. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“Interacting with young designers at the Ask A Pro Table was extremely rewarding. It’s fun to interact with enthusiastic bundles of talent that are pointed slightly askew. I give them some feedback ranging from design advice to interviewing/career advice. I see a lightbulb go on in their mind – they have an “a-ha moment.” It’s fun to witness that.

They are usually so thankful that I had an inbox full of thank-yous from everyone that talked to me.”

– William Beachy, Go Media President

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Bob Nanna from Braid. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“This was my first time at WMC Fest, so I thought what better way to get the full experience then to not only attend all 3 days, but volunteer as well.  It was an experience beyond my expectations; from the people I met to the talent I observed and the the inspiration that followed.   I laughed ( a lot ), cried just a little, but mostly I think I gained some valuable friendships and advice that will help me grow as a designer.   It was thus far the highlight of the year… and I’m already looking forward to next year.”

– Christine McCloskeyWMC Volunteer

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Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“It’s the people! I met a group of inspiring and aspiring people at WMC Fest. Talking about ideas and techniques really makes my world go around.  I’ve made the type of connections with people that you have to be in this sort of fertile grounds to experience. WMC Fest builds a community around Cleveland and across the country.”

– Christen Carter, WMC Fest Speaker and Owner of Busy Beaver Button Company

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WMC Fest Gallery. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

 “This was my first year working ‘inside’ the Fest, coordinating the 123 volunteers who selflessly gave their time and energy to seeing that things ran smoothly.  I was overcome by the  kindness and enthusiasm these individuals brought to the event and loved embracing them as a part of our WMC Fest family.

I left the event proud, humbled and forever inspired by the movement that is WMC Fest.” 

Heather Sakai, WMC Fest Volunteer Coordinator

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Dan Christofferson. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Beyond meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and the opportunity to share our story on-stage this year, the greatest take-away for us is the new perspective on work and life that we gained after the weekend. We learned to focus on making work that we want to make and not stress about whether or not the work is the best, or if it will be well-received by our peers, but to judge it solely based on whether or not working on it makes us happy. And that’s enough.”

Jessica Karle Heltzel and Tim Hoover of Kern and Burn,
WMC Fest Speakers

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Ink Wars. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“Some of my favorite WMC moments included working at the merch table, seeing Campfire Conspiracy play, watching Ink Wars, talking to Astronautalis, meeting new people and seeing a lot of familiar faces.” 

Kim Finley, WMC Fest Volunteer

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B-Boy Battle. Photo courtesy of Drew Rios

“Finally being able to put real faces on avatars I’ve been exchanging with over the interwebs, sometimes for year, is awesome.

Omar and Jen from These are Things deserve at this point “the best talk I’ve seen” title. Their simplicity, honesty, and openness about their success but also their failures was amazing.

Brandon Rike is probably the second on the podium. The main message I got from his talk was “Stop bitching and get back to work.” A proper and motivating kick in the nuts. Ah, and also, to work hard, and to take pride in what we’re doing as designers. The blue collar ethic is strong with this one.

Jon Contino’s talk was great. It was my first time hearing a NY accent, and being able to recognize it as such. Filled with amazing anecdotes about his ups, but mostly downs, in his career, and how he got to where he’s at now.

Then, I got the privilege to listen to the third of my top talks of the weekend. Troy DeShano’s honest, open look at his life’s hard moments and decade of setbacks was as touching as These are Things. How this guy still finds the energy to smile and move forward is an amazing way of putting my own little problems in perspective. They aren’t as bad as they sound.

Bands were also super sweet! I was stoked to finally see Metavari on stage, and despite a dead laptop and a last minute iMac popping on stage, their set with a specially written dance piece was amazingly unique.  And finally, Tristen, man. She and her band completely rocked it out.

And then, Ink Wars, man. The concept in itself is awesome. But between Derrick Castle, James Flame (and his loud support team in the person of Mark Brickey), and the awesome sauce OK Pants, what was a cool design contest turned into the most entertaining shouting match of all. And all of the while still producing super awesome pieces of art.

There’s also the gallery I haven’t talked about. After four years of going to the fest, it’s amazing to see that I can still nerd out over shaking hands with people like Angryblue and Miss Happy Pink (they finally made it!), Jason Carne, Derrick Castle, etc. The Adobe table crew was also awesome, and their hands on demonstrations of Ideas and Muse were super fun. It’s always a pleasure to throw money at people who you support directly, without passing through a proxy that holds part of the money you want to give them. Let’s not forget to mention the cool crew of the Organization of Black Designers, and their awesome caricatures.

And let’s not forget the rest: the impromptu encounters, handshakes, discoveries, friendships, and other unique moments to treasure. In a Fest which seemed to have “letting the barriers down and open the gates” as its central theme, the ongoing feeling of genuine exchange was a very refreshing moment.

Not to be forgotten either, the talented, amazing, and all around crazy guy Mark Brickey. Without him, I don’t think the Fest would have been so fun.

All in all, a fantastic weekend I’ll be treasuring for a very long time.”

– Simon Birky Hartmann, WMC Participant

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Aaron Sechrist, WMC Fest vendor. Photo courtesy of Caroline Moore

“WMC Fest inspired me to create a job I love. Making pinatas may not be the conventional road, but I was born to surprise people. WMC Fest brought all the things I knew I was to be to the surface.  Now I can just be myself.”

Erin Barnhart of Monster Mache, WMC Fest Participant

How did WMC Fest change your life? Share your comments below or email your testimonial to Heather at [email protected]!

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