Meet our Team!

Ingenuity Staff

Emily Appelbaum

Emily Appelbaum

Executive Artistic Director

Emily joined Ingenuity in 2015, after returning to Cleveland from the Bay Area where she helped make places awesome through collaborative design, large-scale public art, earthshaking events, and outreach to underserved communities.

She has a degree in Architecture and Urban Studies from Yale, and she has a passion for creative place-making through artist involvement. She serves as Art Director for Brite Cleveland, and worked previously with LAND studio, City Architecture and Westlake Reed Leskosky (Cleveland); and (in San Francisco) American Steel Studios, the Box Shop and the late, great San Francisco Bay Guardian. She has been instrumental in visioning and bringing the Hamilton Collaborative to life.

Alyssa Perna

Managing Director

Alyssa joined Ingenuity as their Managing Director in 2019, coming to the organization with over a decade of operations and event leadership experience. Prior to joining Ingenuity, she led the business performance for the Americas division at a global conference production company which produced 30+ events in North and South America. Her experience includes designing and producing events, overall budget management, and leading a diverse team of event professionals towards achieving financial growth.  As Managing Director for Ingenuity, Alyssa is charged with managing general operations and revenue-generating efforts including individual and corporate giving, planned giving, sponsorships, event rentals, memberships, our IngenuityLabs incubator program, and many facets of the Ignite! program.

In 2016, she was named Corporate Event Planner Rising Star of the year by Cleveland Business Connects Magazine. Alyssa is a Cleveland native, and a graduate of Notre Dame College, and owner of Experience Events. In her free time, Alyssa enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 daughters, gardening and playing with her backyard flock of chickens.

Alyssa Headshot_RET

Russa Wenzel

Operations Manager

Russa is a Cleveland native who has spent the last decade overseeing all kinds of events within our city! With a strong passion for inclusive spaces and community engagement Russa first came to Ingenuity in 2018 as a Volunteer Coordinator, her role has since grown to Operations and Sustainability Manager- helping to grow Ingenuity's programming, Ingeneers and annual festival.
In her free time she enjoys kayaking and exploring the outdoors with her dog Kovi.

Kierra McDade

Program Manager

Kierra is a Cleveland Native with a Degree in Social Work. She enjoys creative writing and attending local arts events for leisure. In 2016, Kierra began her own performance arts platform, Temple of Passions, to provide a safe space and more visibility for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ artists.

Kierra has 9 years of combined experience in community organizing and outreach and has joined Ingenuity in 2022 as Program Manager.


Ingenuity Board of Directors

Executive Committee

Lisa Curll, Dominion Energy
Board President

Kristen Hoover, McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman Co., LPA
Vice President

John Paximadis, Blackwing Holdings

Melissa Jogan, CBIZ


Brett Altier
Ulmer & Berne

Robert Elmore
Key Bank

Hui Feng
Progressive Insurance

Cena Hilliard
Case Western Reserve University

Jen Holland
Reaching Heights

Holly Little

Dalindyebo Shabalala
University of Dayton

Nigamanth Sridar
Cleveland State University

Lisa Vinciquerra
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Emeritus Board Members

James DeRosa
Commissioner of Real Estate, City of Cleveland

Doug Hoffman
Principal, Weber Murphy Fox

Joe Marinucci
President & CEO, Downtown Cleveland Alliance

Grafton Nunes
President, Cleveland Institute of Art

Tony Sias
President & CEO, Karamu House

David Tabor
Director of Gas Operations, Dominion Energy

Deborah Wilcox
Partner, BakerHostetler, LLC

Ingenuity Founders

In 2004, James Levin envisioned an art and music festival that would take place in downtown Cleveland, celebrating the creativity of Northeast Ohio. He contacted his friend Thomas Mulready (Director of the Performance Art Festival that Mulready founded in the late 1980s at Levin’s Cleveland Public Theatre) to partner with him on “Ingenuity.”

Their intent was to create an event that would not only showcase this area’s vibrant art and music community, but would also draw focus to downtown Cleveland. Following the good advice of Tom Schorgl, President of the Community Partnership of Arts and Culture (“You need more than art and music to bring tourism here… you need to create a more distinct event.”), and building on Mulready’s background in technology, the Founders decided to expand the aperture of the vision to include tech projects. They created “Ingenuity, the Cleveland Festival of Art and Technology.”

Mulready continues to champion Cleveland’s cultural and entrepreneurial scene through his online network,; Levin has gone on to found the Fire Fish Festival in Lorain, Ohio, and continues to work toward public access on the Detroit Superior bridge through Cleveland Bridge Project Inc.