BY AMANDA BATES | PHOTO BY JIM BARON
As the host for CreativeMornings CLE, he brings together professionals from Cleveland’s diverse industries once a month to cultivate fresh ideas.
The CreativeMornings series, which launched in Cleveland in January, is actually a worldwide program that got its start in New York in 2008. It’s a simple concept: breakfast and a short talk on one Friday of each month. In Cleveland, it’s the third Friday.
CreativeMornings can be found in cities around the globe – from New Zealand to Brazil to Japan. Each month’s talk has a designated global theme, which creates a connection between the conversations happening at CreativeMornings events around the world. Previous themes have included humility, education, and climate.
“The global scope is one of the biggest things for me,” Fox says. While there are plenty of cocktail-hour type networking events, he sees the early hour of CreativeMornings as having the potential to draw a different crowd, with a slightly different purpose.
One of the requirements of the brand is that talks be free and open to everyone. Coffee and breakfast are also no-charge, thanks to CreativeMornings sponsors. Registration is required, so the organizers can determine how much coffee and food to provide.
Fox met the founder, Tina Roth Eisenberg, two years ago while visiting New York. At the time, Fox was a busy man. He was heavily involved with Bad Racket Recording Studio, which he co-founded in 2010. He was also one of the driving forces behind Brite Winter Festival, an Ohio City event that brought more than 70 artists and bands from around the Midwest, and attracted upwards of 20,000 attendees.
Last year Fox found himself with some free time, and he decided to explore the idea of bringing CreativeMornings to Cleveland. In order to become an official branch, he was interviewed several times by the team at CreativeMornings headquarters. During the application process, he had to demonstrate why he would be a fitting host, as well as introduce Cleveland as a place with a thriving creative community.
“I’d just like to move to as many different places around the city as I can … and I want to meet some incredibly amazing people,” Fox says, with regards to what he told the interviewers about his personal goals. The first Cleveland talk was held in January at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and featured typography expert Nikki Villagomez. Jeremy Umansky, who is Chef Jonathan Sawyer’s Larder Master and Wild Food Forger, spoke on Cleveland’s Gastronomic climate for the second CreativeMornings CLE event.
Fox largely relies on crowd sourcing to get ideas for potential speakers. “The only thing I knew to do is to ask everyone I know – here’s the theme, who would you want to see?” he says. He is enthusiastic about working with fresh faces, such as established members of the creative community who are active and contributing original ideas, but who aren’t familiar personalities.
To facilitate the events – which have drawn up to 150 people – Fox enlists volunteers. His behind-the-scenes team is small but formidable. Lisa Sands, a public relations expert who also works with Edible Cleveland magazine, manages CreativeMornings CLE’s marketing and social media efforts. Aaron Erb, who has collaborated with Fox on previous projects, is heavily involved with booking speakers and video production.
CreativeMornings CLE already has more than 400 registered members. When joining the online community, users can create a profile that features examples of their previous work, links to their website, and a list of which CreativeMornings events they’ve attended. In a sense, it’s a space for local creative professionals to continue to build connections, outside of the group’s events.
While the commitment is relatively small, both financially and time-wise, creative professionals of any caliber stand to benefit from CreativeMornings talks. This can be art directors, photographers, web developers, start-up business owners – in Fox’s words, anyone that is “in love with making stuff.”
The overarching purpose is to connect individuals and organically build on Cleveland’s pool of creative talent and energy.
“Creative people make things, they build what makes them happy. Great things happen when you bring people like this together” Fox says. “Things that were not possible, or even thought of become reality through the sharing of skills and ideas.” Fox already has a stockpile of ideas and potential venues for future talks. At the time of publication, he had yet to decide on a speaker for May, which is being held at The City Club of Cleveland with “Robots” as the theme. He also has plans for events in the Metroparks, and at the Cleveland Institute of Art later this year.
Along with breakfast and a healthy dose of inspiration, Fox believes that the city can only profit from the sense of connection and innovation that is central to the CreativeMornings series.
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