Now What, Lexington (after) Creative Cities Summit

Now What, Lexington (after) Creative Cities Summit

Last week, Lexington hosted the Creative Cities Summit (500+ people attended).

The next step is applying the Summit’s conversation to concrete action in Lexington.

On April 17th, ProgressLex and the Carnegie Center will host “Now What, Lexington?” at the Carnegie Center at 251 W. Second Street.

The event is FREE and open to everyone, and is an “unconference.”

Un c o n – ferences have no set agenda. The encourage all attendees to participate, not just observe.

Participants will create the agenda the morning of the conference. It will begin with a blank a wall with a blank schedule. There will be 6-10 rooms and six, 45-minute sessions. Add your presentation to the wall to be included in the agenda. If you see a similar presentation, offer to collaborate.

Attendees signed up as of press included In- 2Lex’s Ben Askren; the Herald-Leader’s Tom Eblen; LFUCG’s information officer Rama Dhuwaraha; Vice Mayor and mayoral candidate Jim Gray; mayoral candidate and former mayor Teresa Isaac; Ben and Becca Self; multiple architects and engineers; artists; students; representatives from area nonprofits; and local business owners. Ace writers, editors, and production crew will attend and participate in New Media discussions.

Sessions added to the Event’s wiki-page so far include:

“A new model for city services, where do we start?” Ben Self: “I hope to use this session to kickoff a way for Lexington Citizens to take up some of the slack created by current (and future) budget cuts by the city. What have they stopped doing that we can self-organize to do ourselves?”

“Beyond Florida’s Creative Cities Model” Rocky Mountain Institute, Emerald Cities, and Sustainable Cities” Professor Ernie Yannarella, “In this session, I plan to offer a critique of Florida’s model and open up discussion about other more promising strategies of urban change and economic development offered by Amory Lovins, Joan Fitzgerald, and Dick Levine and myself.”

“The role of New Media in Lexington’s Transformation” Scott Clark. “We will discuss ways that new media (Social Media (facebook, twitter, foursquare, linkedin), Search Engines, Websites, Podcasts, Video, Blogs and Mobile devices) can be used to empower citizens to make a difference in Lexington’s

Sessions on prospective attendees’ “wish lists” include: venture capital and entrepreneurship in Lexington; social innovation; what about an ethnic market styled similarly to Lexington’s farmers market?; greening Lexington; Design Integrity; government accountability; historic preservation; branding; and many more.

Registration for the unconference begins at 8:30 am, Saturday, April 17 at the Carnegie Center at 251 W. Second Street. To sign up in advance, go to the wiki page at Admission is Free.

A Student’s Response to the Creative Cities Lexington Debate

By Natasha Collier

Many people are passing judgment on Creative Cities Summit Lexington. Those in attendance are comparing it to the next best thing since sliced bread (and rightly so) but some are calling it a waste of time, energy and money. Some people are criticizing the conference for more talk than action, which is something that we have seen a lot of in Lexington anyway. From what I have seen, there has been a great deal of discussion about harnessing a city’s creative energies, making the most of the people who live in it. If you’ve lived in Lexington for awhile, or even if you’re new to the city, you already know that there is large amount of creative energy here. With University of Kentucky and Transylvania University among institutions of hiring learning in the heart of the city, it is hard to ignore the amount of creativity that is coming from the college-age citizens. However, I haven’t seen any students talk about attending the summit. This is strictly an outsider’s perspective, but for an organization whose aim is to showcase the talent and creativity of a city, Creative Cities Summit Lexington did a poor job in tapping into that which college students held.

“But you didn’t even go? How can you say anything about CCSLex?” Well, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t afford the $199+ in registration fees. I understand that CCSLex depended on sponsorships to make the conference happen. Having immense non-profit experience, I understand the importance of sponsorships. Conferences are expensive. I get it. However, I did not know that there was a reduced rate for students. Why was that not publicized?

I was told via twitter that a resolution would have taken simply a telephone call, that someone should not have waited for the conference organizers to “reach out” to those less fortunate. When you go to the registration page, there is no mention of a student rate on the selection screen.

On the “Why Attend?” page of the CCSLex website, there are lists with reasons why certain groups of people should have attended the conference. Among them, young professionals, members of the not for profit community, and entrepreneurs are listed. The reasons for college students to attend (all seven of them) were all about getting out of the classroom, learning from an experience other than college classes, thinking about how you can handle yourself in the community in the future. That’s all well and good, but I know a lot of college students who are working to make Lexington (and the world) a better place right now. These students are incredibly creative and would have been perfect candidates to attend this conference. However, in reviewing the #ccslex tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook, college student feedback seemed minimal. Two types of people were neglected in the planning for this event: creative people
who have less money than others and college students. If you’re a broke college student, like me, then forget it!

The Summit

By Lori Houlihan

On Wednesday, April 7 at approximately 5:45 p.m., I led my March Madness Marching Bandmates into a preconference cocktail party at the Creative Cities Summit. The attendees seemed stunned, but that’s the effect the organizers wanted. They wanted everyone to know from the get-go that this wasn’t going to be your average uptight conference, that creativity should be welcomed, and surprises expected. In fact, the next two days were a whirlwind of creativity and delightful moments.

The keynote speakers that I saw were diverse, each one thought-provoking in their own way. Jeremy Gutsche, founder of, jump-started the first morning of the summit with his enthusiastic presentation on innovation, trend-spotting and business strategies. Author and urban innovator Charles Landry presented fascinating study on creativity and the culture of place and how these affect a city and its future. The final keynote was given by Bill Strickland, President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a job training center and community arts center for disadvantaged youth. His moving message of the transformation that comes from dignified inclusion for everyone was accompanied by a jazz piano soloist, and captivated everyone attending.

Some of my favorite moments were the breaks between the formal presentations when we gathered in the lobby. I had my first personal conversations with several community activists and city leaders whom I’d only admired from afar. Sometimes I joined other attendees clustered around keynote speakers, who were taking questions in the more casual seating areas the organizers provided in the lobby. I also socialized with my friends: sharing insights, observations, and ideas.

I was happy to see that the organizers had put energy into showcasing some of Lexington’s artistic talent. The kickoff by MMMB was followed by an opening poem by Bianca Spriggs, and ended with a performance in Triangle Park by Amalgamation Fire Nation. The tradition continued throughout the entire conference with performances by Tee Dee Young, Farhad Rezaei, Rakadu Gypsy Dance, and Ford Theater Reunion. The lobby featured paintings by Christine Kuhn, and a modern installation by a group of local artists. A piece of metal sculpture by Rod Lindauer graced the walk at the corner of Broadway & Vine.

The Pecha Kucha presentations organized by Kent Lewis were a highlight of the conference for me. If you aren’t familiar with Pecha Kucha, it’s a seven-minute presentation using twenty slides, with twenty seconds for each slide. The presentations showcased a wide range of local projects like the WRFL music & art festival, Boomslang, Collexion Social Club for Introverts, and Fango Software Systems, a leading provider of mobile ordering solutions. The final Pecha Kucha, “Lexington Through Poetry,” earned its presenter, Donna Ison, a standing ovation.

I was exhausted but inspired when the Summit ended, and I spent the rest of the weekend digesting it all. My biggest takeaway was pride for the people who make Lexington so special, and an increased commitment to work with them to make it even better.

Creativity in Bloom

By Pamela Perlman

The Creative Cities Summits are intended, organizers say, to bring together various aspects of a community, create a common platform for understanding and then move that community to future action. I registered for the Lexington version of the Summit with a personal goal of meeting some new people, seeing some old friends and hearing some innovative ideas.

I was particularly interested in hearing how the big name folks that had arrived in Lexington had brought about the transition from thought to action in their own homes and how Lexington could be catalyzed.

Despite my first impression that the backdrop looked like one from a mega-church, I was impressed with Lexingtonian Ben Self’s message that to drive people to action you have to create good content which he demonstrated with concrete examples. But big-name author Richard Florida, complete with blaring rock music accompanying his entrance, seemed to have no knowledge of Lexington itself and spoke in vague generalities about human development, economic development and creativity. There was no information on how to attain these. In fact, I kept envisioning a backlit Malcolm McDowell
character hovering over a giant microphone chanting “Synergy.”

The vibe of several of the “big name” speakers was similar. More like I imagine a sales convention with a call and response format – “This is cool. Can I get a power clap?” Power Clap.

Two sessions stood out to me. The first was a break out session on using art to change communities. Justin Langlois of Broken City Lab in Windsor, Ontario, spoke of “doing art without asking for permission.” He shared actual approaches to creation that can be replicated: projecting question images on abandoned walls – “This Is A _________,” and creating signs/murals with found objects.

In the same break out session, the mayor of Austin, Texas, may have offered the most pragmatic examples for Lexington. Austin has a Master Arts Plan to oversee and implement public art. Austin has a hotel tax that is devoted to purchasing art for public spaces. Austin invites local musicians to perform before each city council meeting. Austin has a booming music scene driving a booming economy.

In a moving closing session, Bill Strickland spoke of creating a cure for cancer of the soul in the middle of the poorest neighborhood in Pittsburgh with his Manchester- Bidwell School. He spoke of high ideals and huge financial commitments and programs that have developed in his city over the course of 40 years. But at the core, he reminded each of us that at the heart of a creative city, there must be creative individuals and that to be a creative individual we have to recognize the creativity in others. See each individual as a person. Treat each person with kindness. Look at each individual, no matter their circumstance, as an asset not a liability. Fresh flowers and clean water and good food are intended for every person on the planet.

The Creative Cities Summit was last week.

This week, I’ve found a receptive audience for two new ideas and one of them is germinating in a twitter-friendly dress rehearsal for UK’s Magic Flute performance on Friday night at Memorial Hall. There’s a “Now What Lexington” session this weekend at the Carnegie Center. Maybe next week will be even more creativity in bloom. And at the very least, more kindness.