“Watch Out: Morning Person”. These are the deadpan warning words emblazoned on the backs of T-shirts at CreativeMornings lectures in Vancouver. On one Friday of every month, 250-odd creative types gather together for a lecture under the CreativeMornings moniker. They’re here for a few simple reasons: a nourishing 20-minute guest talk, an equally fulfilling breakfast, and the opportunity to interact with other like-minded individuals—all wrapped by 10 in the morning, at the latest.
The CreativeMornings breakfast lecture series was born three years ago in New York; the mother of it all, Tina Roth Eisenberg. “When I first came up with the idea, friends said, ‘Tina, I love your enthusiasm, but New Yorkers don’t get up in the morning—they just don’t. This will never take off.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, it will!’ ” says the 38-year-old designer. CreativeMornings is now in 24 cities around the world and counting, with a new Canadian chapter slated to open in Ottawa soon.
Eisenberg’s concept grew from a frustration with conferences and the organizers’ tendencies to be elitist or agenda driven. What sets CreativeMornings apart is that there is no hidden agenda. Speakers talk about what they want, it is staffed by volunteers, and nobody pays to attend (there is a first-come, first-served, online sign-up for tickets). “It’s a very honest and innocent event,” says Eisenberg. That, and it lets the audience become active participants in the discussion. The crowd breaks into groups immediately following each presentation and devises questions for the speaker; a Q&A session follows.
Each CreativeMornings chapter is a reflection of the city in which it takes place, and all become globally–accessible via an online archive. With that element comes additional responsibility for each chapter organizer. Says Vancouver chapter organizer Mark Busse, “This is my city. I don’t want to be the guy who puts people onstage who won’t do a good job of representing Vancouver to the world. We’re getting thousands of views of those videos internationally, and this has become a vehicle for our city to talk to the world.” Busse, a partner and design director at Industrial Brand in Vancouver, approached Eisenberg to set up the chapter just over a year ago; it took him three months to win the host application. Since then, he has run with the torch, backed by a small but strong army of volunteers.
“Questioning what’s going on, having a critical conversation about art and creativity, being the voice of dissent, and exploring what our city could be—that’s where culture comes from,” adds Busse.
A second espresso is always tempting early in the day, and a shot of morning creativity once a month becomes just as addictive. “This is called CreativeMornings because that is the price of entrance,” adds Busse. “You have to be there at eight in the morning to have breakfast with us, be open to dialogue with us, and to not fall into the traditional networking paradigm everybody does—that’s not what this is about. This is about discourse. And goddammit, some things are worth getting out of bed for.”
Photo by Johnathon Vaughn.