Creativity Gets Up Early in Baltimore

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Cara Ober on CreativeMornings Baltimore

If you google CreativeMornings, you will find a sleek website with an energetic and inclusive message: get involved! Do something! The home page boasts chapters in 115 Creative Cities and states that each is organized by volunteer hosts and their teams. “Put your city on the map,” the website peps. “Start a chapter!”

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When Katie Boyts, a young pastry chef, moved to Baltimore several years ago, new in town and newly hired at the restaurant that was to become Dooby’s, this is exactly what she did.

“I had a friend in Pittsburgh who founded their chapter of CreativeMornings,” Boyts explains. “And she encouraged me to go to one to meet new people. When I realized there wasn’t a chapter in Baltimore, I suggested that Phil Han, the owner of Dooby’s, start one since he was so well-connected here. He was like, ‘YOU should start one.’ So we tackled the application together with Shine Creative, with me as the host and organizer.”

The most recent incarnation of the event (on May 15) recently filled up Center Stage in the early hours of a Friday morning, so it appears that Boyts’s efforts are paying off.

Katie Boyts

What is CreativeMornings Baltimore? It’s a free monthly lecture series hosted at a number of different locations in the city featuring area artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs, and dreamers. Events start at 8:30 am on a Friday morning, features one speaker for approximately 45 minutes, and emphasizes a specific theme determined by the national organization. Since each event is free, local sponsors provide breakfast, a welcoming venue, and help with other necessities. In return, Boyts fills their house with a bright-eyed and, obviously, highly motivated and caffienated crowd, helping to create a audience or following for new and established venues and products, and creating awareness and high morale among the young professionals in this city.

According to Boyts, the creative mornings audience isn’t one thing or another, and provides a diverse and stimulating group of Baltimore do-ers a chance to network across cultural barriers that tend to divide. “We have a variety of people who come regularly,” says Boyts. “We also feel really good that we attract a lot of new people to each event. There are a lot of artists, young entrepreneurs, tech people, and people from the business community who attend. Many are young professionals, but there’s a range in ages, too.”

From the beginning, Boyts felt strongly that the strength of CreativeMornings would be its ability to create opportunities to mingle that aren’t often found in Baltimore. “Diversity in audience was really important from the very beginning, in every sense of the word,” she says. “We wanted to create opportunities for all these talented people from different silos to come together.”

Very deliberately, Boyts has chosen volunteer partners in the endeavor like Shine Creative, Dooby’s, Strangers with Style, John Davis Photography, and Wesley Stuckey Designs. Venue partners have included Center Stage, The Walters, Area 405, Eubie Blake Center, Creative Alliance, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. “We also have an amazing team of individual volunteers who make all the wheels turn,” adds Boyts.

In addition, Boyts selects speakers who can draw a variety of different audiences and promotes their endeavors to a larger community, essentially individuals who are well respected and helping to build a better Baltimore in a variety of creative ways. Last month’s May 15th talk featured photographer Devin Allen, a photographer and West Baltimore resident, whose photos of the Baltimore riots were printed on the cover of Time Magazine on April 30, 2015.

Boyts and Allen at Center Stage on May 15 Photo from Baltimore Magazine Blog

Lauren Van Slyke, BmoreArt’s Marketing Director, attended the event. “Devin is such a great guy and the conversation was candid without being sentimental,” she said afterwards. “He brought up the separation between what the media portrays and what he aims to portray with his work, especially in reference to the events surrounding Freddie Grey and beyond. He also touched on the Baltimore arts community and our responsibility as residents to ‘show up and do the work to accurately represent the city.’ He was a great speaker and, as the host, Katie asked informed and well-researched questions that revealed more about him as a person, while also illuminating his creative process, including the events that propelled him to TIME and his process as a whole.”

Van Slyke also noted that the question and answer segment of the lecture was particularly smooth because audience members could submit their queries through twitter, rather than passing around a microphone.  Despite the early hour required, she said that there was a full house at Center Stage. Also that there were “a lot of attendees there that I do not see at typical art events in Baltimore.”

When you look at the CreativeMornings website, it’s obvious that the national network of volunteer organizations provides support and structure for local chapters – not financially, but in generating a sense of purpose and community. Monthly themes are nationally generated (although last month Boyts chose to substitute ‘revolution,’ next month’s intended theme, with this month’s: robot, based on current events in Baltimore) and the national website features video, photos, and resources from CreativeMornings talks from across the globe, which creates a larger dialogue and opportunities for sharing. Populated with peppy, ‘just do it’ graphics and inspirational quotes, this grass roots and local version of TED style talks is creating a growing movement in Baltimore and across the world.

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To attend future CreativeMornings events or find out more, you head to their website and sign up for their newsletter. 

You can follow Devin Allen on Instagram as @bydvnlln.

Photos below are from the CreativeMornings Baltimore blog.







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