Written by Amy Whipple
Nina Marie Barbuto stands in front of a sold-out crowd at the Andy Warhol Museum. It is early for an artsy-crowd. Heck, early for anyone. Not much happens voluntarily at 8:30 on a chilly Friday morning.
As she does with children at Assemble (an interdisciplinary arts and creativity space where she is executive director), Barbuto wants to start this group with some creative exercises. Unlike with children, she first encourages her audience to put down cell phones and coffee cups before they stand up. Everyone groggily rises.
“When you’re making things, you use your fingers, so wiggle your fingers.” Barbuto and the crowd all wiggle their fingers high up in the air. Barbuto adds a warning: “There’s going to be a lot of wiggling.”
They work their way up their arms—fingers for drawing, wrists for painting, elbows for sculpture or “shoving away your computer.” And, for the finale, a jump.
“I didn’t say stop the wiggling!” When Barbuto jumps, she lets out a Woo! Her audience follows suit. “Is everybody awake now?” she asks. Indeed, it looks like they are.
And so begins the very first meeting of the Pittsburgh chapter of CreativeMornings.
CreativeMornings was founded in New York City in September 2009 by Tina Roth Eisenberg and has been called a kind of “Ted for the rest of us.” The idea is that, once a month, creative types, entrepreneurs, and the like would gather for a free breakfast and a twenty-minute talk by a local peer. A year later, Daniel Frei decided to branch out and started a Zurich chapter. Now, there are almost fifty cities participating, in areas as Budapest and Boston, São Paulo and Seattle, Prague and, as of December 2012, Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s chapter is headed by Kate Stoltzfus, founder of Yinzpiration.com (where she has set out to interview one hundred awesome twenty- and thirty-something Pittsburghers), Plumb Media (where she builds websites with her husband, Nik), and Propelle (which encourages and supports female entrepreneurs). Stoltzfus moved to Pittsburgh in 2005 and has been taken by the city ever since.
The Sprout Fund approached Kate about bringing CreativeMornings to Pittsburgh. “It really aligned with things I was doing in Pittsburgh already,” she says. “I wanted to help make it happen.”
“CreativeMornings helps shine a light on creative Pittsburghers and their remarkable projects,” says Dustin Stiver, Program Officer at The Sprout Fund and creative strategist for CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh. “Kate and the rest of the CreativeMornings team are terrific ambassadors for this city and its growing creative core.”
For the chapter application, Stoltzfus and crew created a video of sunlit yellow bridges, sparkling trees, and busy downtown streets. Local artists speak about accessibility, community, and the freedom to create. Even in the midst of being the kind of Pittsburgher who already knows these things about the city, it can be surprising and breathtaking to see that energy packaged so succinctly. The closing baseball-game fireworks serve as a reminder that the city can be literally exploding with awesome, so it wasn’t that hard of a sell to CreativeMornings. Stoltzfus says, “I can’t think of a better city for it.”
January 2013 saw the first month of global themes for talks. The year started with happiness, and, for Pittsburgh, that meant a visit from David “Mr. McFeely” Newell and a journey through his forty-five year history with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
By February, the event reached its maximum occupancy in three hours for a chat on money with Mike Capsambelis, founder of Awesome Pittsburgh. For reuse in March, a sold-out session happened with Ian Rosenberger of Thread and Team Tassy. Each talk is filmed and made available for viewing anytime in the CreativeMornings online archive.
Though the cap is currently around one hundred participants per event, Stoltzfus is working toward finding the sponsorship and venue support to double or triple that amount. The main goal is to just keep things going, though there doesn’t seem to be much hardship in that so far.
“I’ve just been so overwhelmed at the way Pittsburghers have welcomed CreativeMornings and been enthusiastic to take part,” says Soltzfus. “People are just looking for opportunities to connect—a little boost. I think CreativeMornings is the perfect opportunity for that.”
April is all about the future, and, for Pittsburgh, that means “Death to Bullsh*t” with Brad Frost at the Thrill Mill on Friday, April 5. Act quick and register to attend the next CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh event.