The three panelists at this month’s CreativeRush gathering, billed as eventors, had the credentials and horror stories to qualify as event-planning experts. You didn’t have to be cooking up your own something-palooza to appreciate the ideas, or at least a new perspective.
“If you think there’s nothing going on in this city, just look at your calendar. If you’re planning an event, it’s hard to find the one where there’s nothing going on. You’re always up against something,” Lela Meadow-Connor, the Assistant Director of Tallgrass Film Festival, told the audience.
(Sharing the mic as panelists were James Woods, who has raised more than $1 million at fundraisers for the Wichita HIV-AIDS community by planning events like ArtAID, Art 4 Life, and the AIDS Walk, and Dulcie Guinty, organizer of the Kansas Acoustic Arts Association and event-planner of festivals and concerts.)
Meadow-Connor’s statement could trigger a variety of disjointed considerations. Hmmmm. . . . events I’ve been missing in Wichita? Who is going to all of them? Or perhaps someone wondered, What about that one fundraising/memorializing/concert I’d been toying with launching? (Personally speaking, when someone mentioned “putting out fires,” I was reminded of a visit to an Elvis convention in Philadelphia years ago, and checking in with the happily overscheduled organizer throughout the day.)
The three offered value information for anyone thinking about planning an event, be it Elvis convention or fundraiser. Expert advice, ideas such conversations can trigger, the community a group could provide—are all the sorts of things that CreativeRush founder Kylie Brown appreciates.
Several years ago, Kylie decided what Wichita artists needed was a regular place and a time to meet, where anyone who creates could meet and share information. It would “help connect creatives with other creatives – to learn, build relationships, challenge each other, inspire and influence change, network and find opportunities,” she says.
If it sounds like a good idea but oh, maybe too ambitious or difficult or time-consuming to try to get off the ground, it’s probably a good thing Kylie Brown conceived the idea and has since led the way.
Kylie’s idea has gone from early brainstorming sessions to monthly (catered) meetings with three panelists discussing a particular topic that relates to the arts—maybe a challenge creative people face, or business advice for an artist. The group recently marked their one-year anniversary with an outdoor meeting in Old Town Square.
“I honestly thought that it might last for just a few,” Kylie explained by email. “I thought, ‘Well. . . if it doesn’t work out, I at least learned something about the process. . . .’ After I finally realized I had support from the community, I decided to trial it for three months and see how it goes. The first planning meeting had fifteen people of various creative fields show up. One, I was surprised so many people came, and two, if this is just the planning stages I’ve got to try or die on this and see what we come up with.”
Kylie puts together the panels for the meetings. “I’ve toyed with the setup of various panelists. Sometimes it is three people who may not know each other at all, and sometimes it is two friends or a team of four or an art collective. I like the idea of random panelists like a chef, a musician, and a filmmaker all on the same couch, so that it broadens the audience and that way they can cross-learn on different mediums.”
But presenting experienced artists was not the sole goal from the start. Her hopes of artists connecting regularly have materialized.
“We often have to kick people out at the end of the night as we don’t really have an end time. Sometimes we have cleaned everything up and locked the venue, and we find people are still talking in the parking lot. I like this. This means community is happening.”
“I do wish we could have more high-school—aged students there. I think having them meet and greet and hear from people in the industry is vital. If they want it, it can be a casual opportunity for them for internships or just getting your foot in the door.”
(Kylie had responded to questions before the Down To The Wire contest. During the contest, a Robinson Middle School team took honors in the competition—and by all reports not because of their ages, but for their entry. At the September CreativeRush meeting, the three also took a turn as panelists, telling about their experiences at the contest.)
The meetings are free, and anyone who considers himself or herself a creative is welcome. Kylie is brainstorming possibilities for panelists and topics that will maintain the variety of arts-related concerns and those who can offer words of wisdom. “I think lawyers and scientists can be creative people too. I personally believe that everyone is inherently creative. Our brains, the way our bodies are designed to function, our imaginations . . . how can we say he or she isn’t creative? I think it just takes a different kind of connection or way to tap into it.”
“It’s a bit of a love/hate relationship,” Kylie says of the audience numbers. The group attracts a steady, but varying crowd. “One month, I thought for sure we’d have over a hundred people and ended up planning for that. Instead, we had about forty people, and honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I came to grips with this—I have to stop worrying about shoveling people in the door and counting heads because that isn’t what CreativeRush is about! “
The title of October’s CreativeRush talk promises another thought-provoking panel: “Beauty in the Decay: Exploring the Layers of Fears, Obstacles, and Leaving a Footprint in the Creative World.”
“CreativeRush isn’t meant to change the arts!” she says, responding to the suggestion that she might be hoping CreativeRush alters the arts culture in Wichita. “It is built to empower the creative individual.”