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Iowa Creative Economy Unconference Trip Report

Wow! Event a Mega-Success... A Creative Good Time Had By All

Article pages:  [ Peters Says You're Only As Cool As The Company You Keep... ] [ The Unconference Was Unreal! ] [ Sohodojo Reflection: Iowa Gets It And Sets The Pace ] [ Printer-friendly version of full article ]

Related pages:  [ Creative Class In The Small Unworkshop Presentation (PDF format) ] [ Read Our Unconference Workshop Press Release ]

Peters Says You're Only As Cool As The Company You Keep...

A collage of Sohodojo at the Unconference
(Left to right, top to bottom) • Sohodojo's unworkshop sessions were packed with energetic, creative folks seeking insights into "creative class in the small," how rural and distressed urban communities can compete in a world of increasingly hot creative class hotspots. • Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim foment creative revolution with Rod Frantz, president of Catalytix, Richard Florida's consulting company. • Sohodojo Jim twiddles laptop and wonders what's on the screen behind him. • Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn 'talk soy' with Mary Whitcomb of the Iowa Soybean Association prior to our press conference. • Sohodojo Timlynn strikes a relaxed pose during unworkshop conversations. • Poised to disrupt the 3+ billion dollar candle industry, Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim lay (lei) the foundation for shaking up the market with creatively disruptive product and business model innovations.

Management guru Tom Peters, the Prince of Pith, tells us that in the world of WOW!work (tm/sm/etc.) and WOW!projects(tm/sm/etc.), you are only as cool as your coolest friends. In that case, we were WAYcool the first week of March as we joined with hundreds of our new friends at the Iowa Creative Economy Unconference.

Hosted by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and featuring Richard 'Creative Class' Florida, this two-day experience was as exciting as it gets with your clothes on! Granted, it was an unconference with no suits, no ties and plenty of Hawaiian shirts. And, yes, everybody did get laid... er, that is 'leid' as in bedecked with the colorful plastic kind placed around your neck by our event hosts.

Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and her creative and hard-working staff – especially Patricia Ohlerking, Sarah Oltrogge, Cynthia Nieb, Shaner Magalh„es and Jill Hermann – deserved and received resounding rounds of applause by attendees and presenters alike. We have rarely been to an event that was so abuzz with heartfelt accolades whenever folks got together to talk during the event. Even those who are jaded and too easily cynical about such government agency-sponsored events seemed juiced by the quality content and opportunities to network. It was two days of creative and free-flowing ideas.

And over the months and years to come, the beneficiary of all this creative juice that started flowing at the Unconference will be the state of Iowa. There was an undeniable and infectious spirit of optimism and determination that pervaded event organizers and attendees alike. The Unconference reeved up the momentum envisioned in Anita Walker's visionary challenge, "Imagine Iowa 2010: A Cultural Vision, A New Strategy for the New Ecomony".

Even A Snowstorm Couldn't Dampen Our Spirits

This was our first trip to Iowa. During our former lives as corporate, high tech Road Warriors, we had little opportunity to visit places like Des Moines. We knew from our extensive e-mail conversations with DCA folks that there were some creative and visionary folks in Iowa, but we didn't know what else to expect. What a pleasant surprise! We're going back... soon and often. Des Moines rocks. Within walking distance of our hotel were all kinds of art, music, restaurant and club scenes... all connected by a pedestrian-friendly skywalk.

Despite a somewhat debilitating snowstorm, the Unconference actually kicked off the night before the official program with a Young Iowans Cultural Council gallery and pub crawl that was both invigorating and eye-opening. We were the first in the door at the 40,000 square-foot, five-story warehouse-turned-art-studios at ArtThreeSixteen.

There we met the architect/developer Davis Sanders and were inspired by his vision for turning this flood-ravaged building into a creative class hotspot. Talking with Davis we were reminded of visionary urban planner Jane Jacob's so-true observation, "New ideas need old buildings."

Among the many ArtThreeSixteen artists hosting this Open House for Unconference attendees, we met David Dahlquist. David is a brilliant artist, educator and story teller. His Dahlquist Clayworks studio is a valuable anchor to the growing community of creative classers that call 316 SW 5th Street home in downtown Des Moines.

After soaking up as much art as we could, we next braved the snowy cold to head over to the Vaudeville Mews. This hip-happening site hosted the evening's poetry slam, disc-spinning DJs and live electronica music performances. A good time was had by all.

We had so much fun the night before the official event started, we wondered if the DCA event organizers had set themselves up for "how do you top that" challenge.

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