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Lexington’s first installment of CreativeMornings took place at 21c in January, and featured guest speaker Drura Parrish, founder and CEO of MakeTime. Photo by Ryan Morris
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Drura Parrish, founder and CEO of MakeTime. Photo by Ryan Morris
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Photo by Ryan Morris
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An original print by local artist Jason Carne (above) was distributed to the first 100 attendees at Lexington’s first CreativeMornings meeting, in January. Registration for the monthly series is free, but often fills quickly. Photo by Ryan Morris
Lots of artists may say that art has saved their lives, but the claim bears a particularly heavy weight coming from Kentucky artist Mark Francis, who became known on a national scale as one of the country’s most prolific prison artists during his 28-year incarceration sentence. It was in prison that Francis started creating art – primarily papier-machè dioramas using the materials that were available to him, and exploring the dark emotional and psychological impacts of both incarceration and his troubled childhood.
This month, Francis – recently released after serving his sentence – will talk alongside his art dealer about the impact that art has had on his life to a room full of Lexington “creative types,” at the second local installment of CreativeMornings Lexington, an international lecture series that made its Lexington debut in January.
While Friday mornings are often a time for drinking coffee, anticipating the weekend and preparing for that routine business meeting you’d rather not attend, CreativeMornings has something new in mind for your workday: a meeting of creative minds that leaves you inspired and excited to work. The series aims to reach outside the box with a diverse and often unexpected line-up of local speakers.
Founded in 2008 by Brooklyn native Tina Roth Eisenberg, CreativeMornings describes itself as “a breakfast lecture series for the creative community.” The global series now features established chapters in more than 160 cities worldwide, each following a relatively simple concept: breakfast and a short talk one Friday a month. The parallels with the fellow well-known lecture series TED Talks are obvious, but with one important caveat: CreativeMornings emphasizes local communities, with local meetings designed to be accessible and easy to attend. All events are free and open to everyone, though online registration (which opens the Monday before the event) is required, and often fills quickly (registration for the January meeting met capacity within the first hour it opened).
On a typical CreativeMornings Friday, check-in starts at 8:30 a.m., with time for coffee, pastries and socializing. At 9 a.m., at the locally curated speaker presents on the theme of the month (which is the same for each of the global CreativeMornings cities). A brief Q&A follows, and by 10 a.m., you’re off to work.
Lewis, director of the Downtown Arts Center, Lewis decided to attend a program at the Louisville chapter to find out more. She fell in love with the concept.
“The energy of it is amazing,” Lewis said. “Everybody’s in it for the greater good and the community.”
Though the CreativeMornings brand spans continents, its model highlights local issues and talent. Each event is run almost entirely by local volunteers. Chapters rely on community sponsors to supply venue space and breakfast, but only the photographer and videographer are paid. Because there are no fees to headquarters, CreativeMornings is, in a sense, a community effort.
Rodgers and Lewis, who is now the official Lexington host, reached out to advertising agency Cornett and visual production company Kong Productions for help with applying Lexington to become a CreativeMornings city. In addition to an online application and Skype interview, organizers were required to submit a three-minute video showcasing the creative talents of the Lexington community.
According to Whit Hiler, a key organizer for Lexington’s CreativeMornings chapter who works at Cornett, the organization’s local presence will provide a global platform for Lexington’s creative community.
“It creates a larger audience for the cool things that people are doing,” Hiler said. “It’s about celebrating success stories that are happening in Lexington.”
Indeed, Lexington’s inclusion is something of an outlier among CreativeMornings chapters, which primarily include major global metropolitan cities such as New York, Mumbai and Hong Kong. CreativeMornings’ website states that applications are typically only accepted from cities with populations of at least 500,000; Lexington’s population is around 310,000. Nonetheless, Lexington’s application was impressive enough to convince headquarters.
Of course, Lexington’s thriving creative community is no surprise to those who live here. In 2015, USA Today included Lexington in its list of “15 most inspiring cities for young artists.” And according to Scott Shapiro, chief innovation officer for Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington boast more arts and cultural institutions per capita than some of the country’s largest cities.
Organizers hope that the community’s small size will be an advantage to the chapter.
“Hopefully, it’ll be more intimate and connected,” said Jason Majewski, a senior copywriter for Cornett who serves on the local organizing team.
That’s not to suggest that the Lexington chapter will exclusively target “traditional” artist types – rather, CreativeMornings espouses the idea that anyone can be creative in their work, regardless of industry.
“It’s not just art and performance. It’s cooking and technology and fashion and … everything,” said Lewis. “It’s meant to open the doors to what creativity is.”
Sculpture by artist Mark Francis, currently on display at ArtsPlace. Photo furnished
CreativeMornings February Meeting
Friday, Feb. 17 at 8:30 a.m.
ArtsPlace, 161 N. Mill St.
Online registration available at www.creativemornings.com beginning Monday, Feb. 13.
The second installment of Lexington’s CreativeMornings meeting will feature prolific prison artist Mark Francis, who works under the name Marvin Francis and was recently released from a 28-year prison sentence. An accompanying exhibit of Francis’ work is on display at ArtsPlace.