Miami brain drain? It's a problem, but CreativeMornings is looking for solutions. The monthly gathering of creatives with chapters all over the world offers an opportunity for creative minds across Miami to learn, talk, and meet new people. But don't get it twisted -- it's not a networking event. "The best part of CreativeMornings is that it is a steward of creativity in Miami; no one institution gets to own it," says Malik Benjamin, Miami's chapter host. "It's a true silo breaker."
The group got its start in Brooklyn in September 2008 with Tina Roth Eisenberg of the design blog Swissmiss. It began as a simple concept that continues today: a free breakfast and a short talk one Friday morning a month. Local hosts work on a volunteer basis to showcase the very best of the creative world. Most important, anyone can attend as long as you remember to set your alarm clock.
What can you expect at a CreativeMornings event?
8:30 to 9 a.m.: Coffee and breakfast. In Miami's case, we have seen everything from the traditional to the outrageous -- think coffee nitrogen ice cream.
9 to 9:20: Presentation. It's quick and to the point and useful for those who have to get to work. Of course, this is a rough timeline, and speakers sometimes go over the limit. We're not angry.
9:20 to 9:40: Q&A with the speaker.
9:40 till whenever: Connect, talk, whatever!
We met with Benjamin, who's also FIU's director of program innovation at the College of Architecture & the Arts. He's a mover and shaker, and he'd been seeking something like CreativeMornings for years. He didn't know what it would be called, however, until early 2013.
In Miami time, the birth of the city's CreativeMornings chapter didn't take too long. When Brooklyn HQ began reaching out to people locally, Amy Rosenberg, a local lawyer turned arts advocate, nominated Benjamin. The application process spanned a total of three months -- March to June 2013.
He wove together a group with Bruce Pinchbeck, cofounder of the New Tropic, and Wifredo Fernandez, founding director of Create Miami at Miami Dade College and cofounder of the LAB Miami. "Ours was the only video submission that wasn't all about the Wynwood Walls," Benjamin says. "We wanted to show people the other side of Miami, and our diverse backgrounds helped aid this."
The first CreativeMornings happened November 15, 2013, at the LAB Miami -- Mike Tomás, CEO of BioHeart, was the speaker. "If you're going to launch, you may as well go big or go home," Benjamin jokes. "This certainly set the tone for what was to come."
Ever since then, it has been a fun jaunt through Miami's world of STEAM-E (acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Entrepreneurship), with speakers like P. Scott Cunningham, Denise Jacobs, Nick Gelpi, Vanessa Garcia, Avra Jain, and Howard Herring in venues such as the Bakehouse Art Complex, Primary Projects, and the Idea Center.
"I think it's interesting that we haven't yet touched everyone and new people are showing up to the event every month. We try to break the boundaries and think outside the box when it comes to the themes," Benjamin says. "This helps the audience to grow, and it prevents it from being another boring meeting. For example, March's theme is 'ink.' We could have gotten any tattoo artist to speak. Instead, Andreas Schreiner of Pubbelly will talk about the success of his company and the many deals he has inked."
But, of course, the meetings haven't come without pushback or negative feedback. Some people just don't get it. "Certain folks come and think, well, this is going to be a networking event and are disappointed when it doesn't meet their expectations of that. Those with business-only tunnel vision see 1,000 people on the profiles section of the website (a local Facebook of sorts for creatives) and then see an event attendance of only 100 people. It doesn't equate for them," Benjamin explains. "I always tell these people that if you want to know what someone does, just ask them." And there is no shortage of business card swaps throughout the morning.
On his favorite speaker: "Scott Cunningham just killed it! I personally believe he is comparable to the founders of Squarespace and Twitter, who are also on the roster of former CreativeMornings speakers. Most of all, I love the Morning Rituals, two- to five-minute videos where viewers get a sneak peek at the speaker's life and the daily rituals that make them successful."
On a favorite venue: "The LAB and Bakehouse Art Complex are at the top, along with the New World Symphony. We did something breathtaking there; it was a true VIP experience. We essentially had a private viewing of a practice."
What does the future hold? "I have three very specific dreams.
1. I want Dwyane Wade as a speaker, during the off-season, of course.
2. We want to be an incubator for public releases of demo prototypes. We are currently working with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science toward a critical point in the future to make this a possibility.
3. I want more kids to be involved.
"I've never seen a dead bird after a hurricane. They are in tune to nature, and this is how I'm running CreativeMornings. It's funny -- people have taken to calling me the pied piper," Benjamin says. "You have to believe in Miami, and I believe."
CreativeMornings Miami is free and open to the public. The next event, INK, scheduled for March 27 at 8:30 a.m., will feature speaker Andreas Schreiner of Pubbelly. You can RSVP for this event at creativemornings.com/cities/mia. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.
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