Today I was at a conference held at the MICA Brown center called Create Baltimore. I’ve never been to one but, apparently, it was a kind of bar camp: a user generated conference. Except its goal (failed to some degree) was to connect techies with creative people as well as entrepreneurs.
“CreateBaltimore is a participant-created conference for artists, cultural workers, entrepreneurs, and technologists interested in building a creative community in Baltimore.”
I think the MICA connection attracted too many young fine artists and in a way, what they were interested in was almost a separate conference that would have been very good on its own run by MICA for fine artists, community organizers, non profit arts groups, etc.: How artists can connect to the community and do project with orgs and people there.
But the conference organizer is a tech VC in the area and I think he and the other organizers saw more of a conference for the deep technical/intellectual groups (more like what you see in the Bay Area like around Stanford/Google and in New York) to connect with designers and other entrepreneurs. This is what I was expecting too.
But this was only about 25% of those in attendance. About 50% seemed to be fine artists and art non profits. The remaining 25% or so was a mixture of local business people, a small black community magazine publisher, a Mac repair/consulting company owner (one of the sponsors too) who started the business with nothing. He should have done a short talk on his experience to the whole conference but did not. (BTW: His service is excellent - better than Apple in this region - and why he succeeded) Plus a few VC’s checking it out, etc.
We all showed up in the morning and the whole audience suggests topics for sessions. On stage they organize those suggestions, live in front of all 200+ people, into sessions. Then you go to the first one, like 11AM-Noon, of your choosing, then lunch, then 1-2, 2-3PM, then it ends. The first one I went to was on starting a business. It was the best of the three I attended. The second was about mapping. But I felt it was too complex a topic for an hour. It was also the biggest number of geeks which can be good and bad. The final one, and frankly, it was one I probably did not need but the other options did not interest me, was on creativity and how to be creative.
In all the sessions there were one or two people, remember, just like me, just attending, who said something very good or gave really great advice. In the creativity session there was one young woman who gave some great advice. I never caught her name or who she worked for but she should be a professor. Very articulate and a great mind. In the first session, a young Baltimore middle school teacher was also terrific when she commented on teaching a business plan to young students (they don’t in Baltimore but do in the suburbs). She was well spoken and passionate about education, I told her she should run for office!
At the same time, there were some older baby boomers there too. I thought some great nuggets of wisdom would emerge from them but, sadly, what mostly seemed to come from them was pretty conventional and not “creative” at all. Mind numbing marketing gibberish that, might sell some of the same old widgets but is not going to win you any awards or make Baltimore more creative. The one notable exception was a brief creativity comment by a retired business man who was now a VC. You could tell immediately this guy knew his stuff. I wish he had talked on the main stage too!
Anyhow, it was an interesting day and worth it but, I think It would have helped if the organizers themed the sessions ahead of time and had people fill in session suggestions when they registered ($10) a month ago. Also each session needed a sort of flight controller who got each session going and kept it under control. It was a bit chaotic in each session as there was no direction of the traffic, so to speak. Just the people in the room did it and, it was a bit like a big polite, sometimes not polite, and sometimes intense party or graduate seminar class. Type A personalities really stood out, including mine!
Some of the books mentioned: