Building Cloud City

Joel Oliphint
Isaiah Boyd, Cassie Young and Sam Rothstein of Cloud City

Sam Rothstein wanted to build a city. He wanted it to feel like it had been there a long time, and that it would be there well into the future. And unlike most cities, this one would be built by artists.

What the city would contain, though, was an open question. To help flesh out a vision, Rothstein, a rapper and co-creator of recurring hip-hop events under the Pipeline brand, began meeting with Cassie Young of local journalism startup Matter News and marketing-minded musician Isaiah Boyd of hip-hop act It’s (I). “They really helped fill in the blanks for what we can actually put in [the city] and give it a lot more purpose and meaning,” said Rothstein, seated in a Short North coffee shop alongside Boyd and Young. 

Over time, the co-creators came up with the concept of Cloud City, a “multimedia bazaar” that will take over 400 W. Rich St. in Franklinton on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 2 p.m. to midnight. The new fest, fiscally sponsored by Wild Goose Creative, will feature more than 20 music performances from EDM and hip-hop acts, plus comedy, fashion, photography, dance, film, virtual reality, podcasts, mindfulness and more. 

“It’s for the general public, but it's specifically for artists and creatives, and we're marketing it in that way rather than trying to appeal to just the general public. We want them, too, but we want people to realize that this is somewhere that they can come and they're going to meet people that they want to work with,” Young said. “One of the reasons that we have so many different things at the event — including mindfulness, gaming, all that stuff — is because our local economic, social and spiritual movements are very disjointed, and I think that there's a huge interest and spirit of wanting to be more connected.”

“There's not a lot of people in black communities that know about mindfulness or meditation and yoga,” said Boyd, who wants to bring together “these privileged points of knowledge.”

Just like a real city, all these seemingly disparate aspects will be put next to each other in one location. “There’s very little opportunity for this type of stuff to exist in the same space. So many festivals have music and live painting, or music and a little comedy, or music and whatever. And that's great. It's those festivals that we saw over the years that inspired us to want to putway more stuff together in the same pot,” Rothstein said. “I miss Independents' Day festival. I used to perform there and I loved it. We just wanted to take it a step further and cover other elements of multimedia that don't get a lot of shine outside of their own little worlds.”

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Building on the metropolitan theme, Cloud City will feature a mayor’s race (“The Cloud City mayor should be someone who is advancing local culture and bringing people together,” Young said), as well as a fashion show headed by Bobby Couch that will spotlight six local designers and 28 models. “Each building in Cloud City is its own dedicated space. So there's a news station, there's a comedy club, there's a meditation den, there's a movie theater, there's a podcast lounge,” Young said. “We want to highlight these mediums in a way where that element isn't just in the background.”

“I’m not from here. I’m from Lancaster, Ohio. I never saw anything like this when I came to Columbus. I never saw the kind of diversity of crowds that we're getting. Everything was so much more homogeneous and off in its own corner. And I've always judged the success of my events based off the diversity of the crowd,” Rothstein said. “I talk to so many older musicians, and they always tell me about the glory days in their scene — the two or three years where everybody was on fire for it. The question is, though, when it dips off, is it in better shape when you left it as it was when you found it?

“That's how I've always tried to look at things, and I definitely think that we're leaving Columbus, the art scene in general, in a much better place. If Cloud City is the last thing we do, I think that it's one of the most positive things that's happened to the art scene in Columbus in a while.”

2 p.m.-midnight Saturday, Sept. 7

400 W. Rich St., Franklinton

Cloud City