The first FireFish Festival was staged in 2015, celebrating the region’s freshwater link to Lake Erie and the Black River and its storied industrial heritage. Drawing more than 10,000 visitors and showcasing art, dance, and theater, it culminated in a dramatic pyrotechnics display. This new FireFish Festival will culminating in the annual FireFish FINALE – ritual processional and “Burning of the Fish,” scheduled for Saturday, September 18, 2021.
James Levin, founder of the Gordon Square Arts District, Cleveland Public Theatre and IngenuityFest, produced the inaugural fest and the three that followed. As an organization we owe a great deal of gratitude to James Levin, as our founder and executive creative director of the first four festivals. FireFish is an event known for its high quality, wide-ranging signature and unique performances in unexpected places, as well as its fiery finale. That vision and history continues to inspire and drive our work.
In the past seven years, those of us involved in FireFish have watched downtown Lorain evolve from a barren corridor full of empty storefronts to one that has come alive with small businesses, eateries and bars, and creative and arts-based entrepreneurs, supported by innovative public and private partnerships. Lorain is truly emerging as a city re-imagined by those very people that are investing their creativity, energy and resources, all working together to create an exciting downtown poised for future. This year seemed a perfect time to re-imagine what a FireFish Festival could look like, to reflecting these very unique but yet hopeful times.
For FireFish 2021: A Festival Reimagined, the signature arts programming that has been a anticipated hallmark of the FireFish Festival takes place this year over twenty-one days and four themed weekends (August 29 – September). According to Board of Directors president Frank DeTillio, “As FireFish continues to mature as a responsive arts organization, we are harnessing the creative energy of the whole community, including artists, our partners, and the downtown business community. Working together to achieve mutual goals and respond to current challenges, including those caused by the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as new opportunities, this “reimagined” festival offers ongoing opportunities for the community to engage both in FireFish festival arts and performance, expanded FireFish activities, and in a revitalized downtown Lorain.
As FireFish Arts continues to mature as an organization, we continue to be mission-drive in our work to enhance arts, cultural, civic, and economic development in Lorain by providing visionary arts events, pioneering arts programming, community arts education/enrichment, and critical arts leadership. In addition to FireFish 2021: A Festival FireFish Arts now features monthly programs developed by our Community Artist Board aligned with the Main Street Lorain “Broadway Block Party on First Fridays” schedule, launching June 4th. At those events, FireFish now offers fire, audio, and video performances presented by Community Artist Board Members, including family friendly activities and at the “The Bank,” located at 383 Broadway. Described by developer and program partner Vic Nardini as an emerging arts and entertainment development, the site has been a favorite site of artists and community members at past FireFish Festivals.
New additional FireFish summer programs officially launched on Memorial Day Weekend at Riverside Park with live painting and activities surrounding the painting of a new mural on the LoCo Yaks storage and shipping container by Lorain artist Carida Diaz. Located at the Loco Yak’s new location and launch site at 123 Alabama Avenue in downtown Lorain, the mural features the natural and waterfront location and a planned surrounding pollinator garden. LoCo Yaks is a local kayak rental company located on the Black River and they are a close partner of FireFish Arts.
Summer 2021 will also feature ongoing “Broadway in Bloom” installations of large-scale cut layered painted wood floral installations, “planted” along Broadway Avenue to complement Main Street Lorain’s bloom plantings.
Other monthly programs highlight the work and creative passions of the Community Artist Board.