If you're like me, most mornings involve struggling to get out of bed, contemplating an outfit for what seems like forever and then rushing out the door only with the incentive of coffee. This was the case in November when I went to CAM Raleigh for CreativeMornings, a monthly series of talks with local chapters all over the world that "celebrates a city's creative talent" while promoting an "open space to connect with likeminded people."
It's 8:30 a.m. and the place is packed with people who look happy and alert, I thought. Don't they have to get to work?
Tina Roth Eisenberg, a designer and entrepreneur, founded CreativeMornings in New York in 2008 with a simple objective: to host free talks aimed at visionary professionals and students. Since then, the series has sprouted up in more than 100 cities from Moscow to Tijuana. Its Raleigh chapter, usually held at CAM on Fridays, also features complimentary breakfasts catered by local vendors.
Taylor Medlin has been the chapter organizer of CreativeMornings/Raleigh since 2013, and has coordinated 17 talks. Each event features a speaker, a Q&A and brief "mix and mingle" session. All of this takes place in an hour and a half, because people do have to get to work, apparently. The talks are grouped into series with topics such as "Urbanism," "Community Through Food" and "Living a Minimal Life." This week, Raleigh mixed-media artist and designer Luke Buchanan opens the 2015 series by speaking on the topic of "Ugly."
Medlin says the main reason this local offshoot has grown immensely in the past couple of years—it usually draws around 150 people—is that there's no mercenary reason for rallying this wide demographic of freelancers, artists, writers, marketers, musicians and designers, other than to learn, explore and share ideas.
"I think people appreciate that they're not being sold anything," Medlin says. "Tickets are free, as well as the food and coffee, and there is no catch. Lots of people generously donate their time and goods to create an environment where someone can hear a great talk from a local artist or entrepreneur and get inspired."
The talk I attended featured advertising company Baldwin& founder David Baldwin. The prior month's speaker, Sean Wilson, happened to sit down beside me. Wilson is the owner of Fullsteam Brewery, but there he was, taking notes on marketing. He told me he attends CreativeMornings regularly for the opportunities to learn and the sheer enjoyment of interacting with a diverse group.
"It can be oddly lonely as a leader of a business, and getting out of my element is good for my brain and spirit," Wilson says. "Preparing and presenting my talk on 'Crossover' helped me be a better leader. We're so busy in our everyday lives, and forcing myself to think through a presentation like this reminded me to heed my own advice."
That's the general vibe of CreativeMornings; people are eager for ideas and inspiration. Medlin says one of the key components to a successful event is a speaker who can not only motivate but also offer a glimpse into lessons they've learned through their experience.
"Optimally, an attendee would leave with a fresh perspective and ways to challenge themselves in their own work and life," Medlin says.
Buchanan thinks he was chosen as the keynote speaker on "Ugly" because, as a muralist, his work tends to focus on restoring abandoned buildings and other spaces that people may consider unflattering. But he also wants to discuss the development of the art community in Raleigh, which he says has grown tremendously. He's building on that momentum with the artist cooperative Peregrine Projects (see the INDY's recent story), which has cross-disciplinary goals similar to those of CreativeMornings.
"We hope to stage several events a year that will bring members of the art community in touch with those from the music and food scenes, as well as provide the people of Raleigh with an opportunity to interact with art and artists in a new setting," Buchanan says. "We also plan to work on large scale group projects that will promote public art, and hopefully inspire others to do the same."
"I have found through my public art projects that people want to be involved, but they just don't know how," he continues. "We're all kind of figuring this out as we go along, but we can work together to make our city an even better place to live, with more art and more opportunities for artists at all stages of development."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Brain food"