Cincinnati will be a hot spot on the international creative scene March 6 thanks to the Contemporary Arts Center’s efforts to bring the world-famous creative conference, OFFF, back to the city for round two (OFFF first made a Cincinnati stop in 2011). The Aronoff Center for the Arts, the location for the conference, will be brimming with artistic energy, fueled by a selection of today’s most creative and ground-breaking thinkers from around the world.
OFFF founder Héctor Ayuso’s explosively innovative, Barcelona-based event has named Cincinnati as the conference’s exclusive U.S. location for 2013, following a widely positive reaction from attendees at OFFF Cincinnati 2011. James Victore, Onur Senturk and James Paterson are just a few big names on the OFFF Cincinnati roster of presenters who are already drawing a crowd.
Described as part festival and part conference, OFFF is anything but ordinary. It is an effort to bring together today’s most forward-thinking creatives to discuss their projects, ideas and techniques with one another. While the Contemporary Arts Center’s Public Programs Manager Janelle Hopper heads planning and organization on Cincinnati’s end, Ayuso works with each presenter on an individual level to bring his vision for the conference to life.
“Sharing their own experiences, from a very personal and intimate point of view — that’s one of the big things at OFFF,” Ayuso says. “Speakers understood that OFFF is something different. OFFF is inspiration, creation, engagement, [sharing], and you kind of feel that in their presentations.”
Raphaela Platow, director and chief curator of the Contemporary Arts Center, says she and her fellow staff members were eager to make Cincinnati a hub for the conference’s international tour after first discovering OFFF.
“Since we have such a strong sort of commercial artistic community in Cincinnati, we thought it would be amazing to bring it here,” she says. “Because as an institution, we’re always interested in creating dialogue between the artistic creative programming that we have here and all the creativity that happens in the city.”
A group of the CAC staff members attended the Barcelona conference and began talking to the curators about bringing the event to Cincinnati.
Ayuso agreed with enthusiasm, and so began the effort to bring the biggest names in art, design, technology and creativity to the Queen City.
Platow says each attendee brings home a different experience from OFFF, but the vision Ayuso and the CAC share for the event is simple.
“The impact that we are hoping, seeking to create is just for new, stimulating ideas to exist in our city,” she says. “And to open up a dialogue between people who live here and work here and people who live in other parts of the world.”
The CAC hosted the city’s first OFFF conference in 2011 in the museum’s black box theater, where 150-170 attendees filled the space to capacity. Tickets sold out rapidly, however, and not everyone who wanted to take part in the experience was able to attend due to limited space. OFFF moves to the Aronoff Center this year in order to expand ticket availability to roughly 400 attendees, allowing for more individuals and businesses to come together and view presentations, network and discuss new ideas and opportunities.
“The common thread among the individual presenters is boldness — they are all people who are pushing boundaries,” Molly O’Toole, the creative director of the Contemporary Arts Center says. “The presenters are all new this year. Some are well known names, some aren’t. That’s the beauty of OFFF Cincinnati — there’s a sense of discovery embedded in the experience.”
This year, ticket holders can look forward to presentations from James Paterson, Onur Senturk, James Victore, Sara Blake, Jon Burgerman, Brendan Dawes, Ramon Escolá and Multitouch Barcelona.
O’Toole describes Victore as one of the more well-known names on the roster, and an “incredible change agent” through his work as a designer, teacher, art director, author and filmmaker. Senturk is recognized for his animation visual effects work for films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Dark Knight Rises. Each presenter’s resume of projects and accomplishments is distinctly different, but equally impressive.
Bringing so many different creative leaders into the same space results in an inspirational energy that benefits everyone in attendance. O’Toole stresses that OFFF is not just for designers, technologists and marketers. It’s for everyone who is interested in learning about the ever-changing world of art and technology and wants to incorporate that knowledge into their own daily lives and businesses.
“When I went the first time, I didn’t exactly know what to expect and I was mesmerized by absolutely every single speaker,” Platow says. “So I look forward to what every single speaker has to share, and their work, and what they stand for and what they’re thinking about because it’s really sparked my own imagination and given me inside [access] into a world for digital media and coding.”
This year, OFFF has added an extra dose of action to the festivities with the opening of ON! Handcrafted Digital Playgrounds, a hands-on exhibition curated by Ayuso. OFFF tickets include admission to the opening party with entertainment by DJ /rupture and special one-night projects from Joshua Davis and Multitouch Barcelona. Presentations make the leap from two-dimensional screens to the three-dimensional world by bringing presenters’ projects to life, where participants can play and interact with an array of artistic creations meant to bring out childlike curiosity within in a visual space.
“You need to feed your visual [imagination] every day in order to express yourself,” Ayuso says. “It doesn’t matter if you are doing graphic design, fashion, motion, film or whatever, it doesn’t matter if you are young or old. At the end we all share the same goal: We all want to create an experience and get some kind of emotional response.”
OFFF takes place March 6 at the Aronoff Center (650 Walnut St., Downtown). Tickets: cincinnatiarts.org.