A group of creative professionals, students and young leaders gather to discuss the creative culture in Sarasota.
Image credits Eric De Barros and Van Jazmin
This Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in one of a series of events focused on sparking conversations on creativity in the community and developing young leaders put on by the Florida Imagination Conversation and Ringling College of Art and Design.
The event was one in a series of 18 conversations being held over the course of the year with the goal of engaging community leaders and driving the conversation of innovation and imagination across a number of topics from health care to the arts.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for the event but it was being hosted by The HuB and seemed interesting enough so I figured why not give up a morning of sleeping in to see what this imagination conversation was all about.
Developing innovative young leaders
I was surprised to see the diversity of participants at the event. There were creatives from all walks of life in attendance including Steve Shenbaum from Game On, Rich Swier from The HuB, a Ringling student, members of the local young professionals groups and a number of kids from the local high schools just to mention a few. The conversation started with a question directed at the younger participants asking about their thoughts on the community and whether they had plans to stay in Sarasota to pursue their goals or whether they had plans to move to another city, and if so what was the reason for not wanting to stay.
Many of the high schoolers indicated their interest in traveling and exploring other cities in order to be exposed to larger cities with presumably more diversity in arts and culture and the thought of more opportunity that comes with a larger population. Predictably, Boston, New York and Chicago were among the cities names as potential landing places and the sleepy, retirement mentality of Sarasota was listed as one of the biggest reasons for a potential exodus.
It was interesting to hear from some of the young professionals who countered the high schoolers thoughts with their own perspective on why Sarasota was a great place to be, indicating that the ability to stand out and “be a big fish in a small pond” were great reasons to consider staying and stating that they were content and actually excited about living in Sarasota right now with the explosion of arts and culture in the area and efforts from new power players in town focused on changing the culture of Sarasota from that of a “white” retirement location to a nationally recognized destination for arts and creativity in general.
The Emergence Of Creative Entreprenuers
During the conversation many of the participants indicated that they would be interested in starting their own company or non-profits. When asked what was holding them back the answers were similar but really boiled down to self doubt and inexperience. I blame the lack of entrepreneurial drive on the current culture in America to create a mindset of dependency rather than highlight the benefits of creating your own opportunities through entrepreneurial endeavors.
One of the high school students, interested in being a graphic designer, indicated that he wanted to start his own firm but that he understood that he had to go get “experience” by working for a graphic design company before venturing out on his own.
Rich Swier promptly responded “who told you that” and encouraged him to at least begin the thought process of being his own boss and removing the self imposed restrictions that our society so often encourages.
I loved the push from Rich to a number of the kids to pursue their dreams and to eliminate the thought that they had to “get a job” in order to be successful. It is exciting to see the encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit and pushing the youth to chase their dreams and not set barriers in their own paths
Any Action or Just Another Brainstorming Session
I have to admit, there is a heavy amount of skepticism about this whole thing. I have been to so many conventions and brainstorming sessions with break out groups, panels and “conversations” on any number of topics.
Usually every one gets really excited for about a week, maybe a month, and then things fade off, initiatives are forgotten and in the end nothing really comes of the meeting except maybe a new contact, lead or relationship which usually makes the events worth attending but something about this felt different.
I’m not saying that Sarasota will become a creative hub overnight, but there does seem to be a shift in culture happening in the area. There are a number of people with resources and drive and a willingness to lay it all on the line with no fear of upsetting the status quo. People who are creating and embracing the change they want to see in the community.
I don’t know what will come of this Imagination Conversation, but I do know that CR8INc will be a part of the culture shift in Sarasota and Bradenton along with companies like The HuB. Hopefully, with continued hard work and the right mix of creativity and audacity we really can spark a new culture of creativity in Sarasota!
What do you think? Can Sarasota shift their culture? Can we become a hub for creativity and a destination for creatives from all walks? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.