Gathering Vancouver’s Creative Professionals

Local speaker series are bringing Vancouver’s creative industries together.

Vikram Vij, CreativeMornings Vancouver | BCBusiness
Vikram Vij draws a a crowd at CreativeMornings.

Local speaker series are bringing Vancouver’s creative industries together.

At 8:45 a.m. on a crisp Friday morning in the basement of the Woodwards building in the Downtown Eastside, about 200 professionals from various industries settle into their seats, chatting among themselves while juggling coffees and breakfast plates. At the entrance, renowned restaurateur Vikram Vij greets every person who crosses the threshold. Vij, the day’s highly anticipated speaker, has yet to take the stage but the event has undoubtedly already begun. At CreativeMornings, a free monthly speaker series that attracts Vancouver’s ambitious creative types, the crowd is as integral to the experience as the speaker himself.

The monthly get-together originated in New York City in September 2009, and has spread to 35 global chapters. Since the Vancouver chapter’s September 2011 inauguration, it has brought to the stage speakers like Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, singer-songwriter Bif Naked and 2010 Winter Olympic medal designer Omer Arbel. The series is helping to reinforce Vancouver as a creative centre, and it’s giving the city’s designers, writers and other industrious creative minds a chance to meet and collaborate.

Mark Busse, who organizes CreativeMornings Vancouver, says he started the chapter to create connections in a community that lacked engagement. Part of CreativeMornings’ mandate is to celebrate creativity, but it’s also to fight what Busse refers to as “that lonely silo thing” – industries that don’t cross over and a creative class that hasn’t banded together. “The only thing we do in this city is make condos and grow weed,” says Busse, jokingly. “There’s got to be something else. So let’s find that together.”

Other local speaker series are working toward a similar goal, most notably TEDxVancouver, which recently put on its fourth event under the theme “confluence.” It’s also focused on facilitating partnerships and perpetuating the ideas discussed at the event out into the working world. According to TEDxVancouver president Derek Sawkins, the speakers provide a great backdrop with their engaging and thought-provoking presentations, but it’s the audience that makes the event what it is. “A big part of TED is getting the right people in the room to be able to follow through on some of those ideas,” says Sawkins. “It’s not just the ideas that you’re talking about, but the ideas that you’re doing.”

Some event goers have taken a more proactive approach than simply showing up. Joseph Homsy had only recently graduated from Langara College’s Electronic Media Design program when he attended a CreativeMornings event wearing an “Intern for Hire” sign and left with about 40 business cards, which resulted in four interviews and a full-time job with Station X, a Vancouver marketing agency. “CreativeMornings was one place where all of these different industries that had something to do with creative were meeting,” says Homsy. “If I were to go and put myself out there, that was the place to do it.”

After Vij’s 20-minute presentation at Woodwards, the audience forms small groups to confer on what they’ve heard and brainstorm questions for the event’s final portion, a 20-minute Q & A. The hope is that from these discussions, collaborations will emerge and connections will form between attendees, helping build up the foundation of a healthy and supportive creative community.

People like Busse and Sawkins envision Vancouver’s industries overlapping like a well-designed Venn diagram. With the continuing growth and support for events like these, that ideal vision doesn’t seem far off.