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Artist-Run Festival Creates a City Within a City

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Artist-Run Festival Creates a City Within a CityCloud City showrunners Sam Rothstein, Cassie Young, and Isaiah Boyd. Rothstein and Young are co-founders. Photo by Taijuan Moorman.
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Summer in Columbus has included weekend after weekend of festivals, from the new and obscure to decades-long veterans. You may consider it festival overload or a much-needed change of pace. Regardless, residents having so many festivals to choose from can make it hard for organizers to stand out from the rest.

Cloud City, an inaugural festival taking place Saturday, Sept. 7, is hoping to do just that. Run by a slew of creatives and led by Cassie Young, Sam Rothstein, and Isaiah Boyd, the festival will literally resemble a small city, with designated spaces to explore music, fashion, film, podcasting, comedy, gaming, and meditation.

Young and Rothstein were brought together moving through Columbus’ music scene: Rothstein being an artist who, along with DJ Raiden Labs, curates and runs the hip-hop show Pipeline and monthly EDM-centric party Space Camp, and Young being on the scene as an overall fan who attended events around Columbus.

Young is a project manager for a government agency and the co-founder of Matter News, a Columbus-based digital media startup. Young says she approached Rothstein with the idea to throw a festival; Rothstein had already considered the idea, but knew it would take some planning to create something on the level of similarly promoted festivals like Breakaway, What? Festival, and others.

Young was much more in tune with connections outside of the Columbus music scene, and a very “let’s get some spreadsheets together” kind of person, says Rothstein. Together they pulled from Columbus creatives to create a festival that had some edge, had a purpose, and could be fully immersive and interactive.

“We wanted it to be a reflection of what we had seen from Columbus,” says Rothstein. “Cloud City to me is my thesis paper on the art scene of Columbus, and what we really have to offer.”

Young and Rothstein recognize a difference in their team versus the teams that typically organize festivals. A lack of diversity in terms of race and gender, sure, but even more a lack of artists actually running the show.

Cloud City, they say, brings together people of diverse backgrounds and walks of life, displaying the work of a variety of genres and mediums.

“There’s so many great things happening in Columbus and so few big events that really showcase or really do justice to the amazing things,” says Young, “and not just do justice to those things but really bring different things together [to] different groups of people.

“It’s important to, even as an artist, be aligned with other people, whether it’s an event or an organization, or collective,” she says.

A first-time festival is a risk for anyone — putting thousands of dollars behind an event that hasn’t been proven yet to succeed is nothing to scoff at.

But Young, Rothstein and their team truly feel Cloud City is something that could move Columbus culture forward.

“There’s just a lot of young people, especially in like the 20 to 30-year-old range like we are, who are realizing that if we want to build platforms, if we want to build community, we have to just kind of take risks and throw events that are different,” says Young. “But we know that it’s possible and it’s what people really crave.”

Cloud City takes place Saturday, Sept. 7 at 400 West Rich from 2 p.m. to midnight . For more information, visit cloudcity614.com.

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