Meeting of the minds

HV: Create “instigator” Jeffrey Davis (photo by Dion Ogust)

Question: How many creative people does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Possible answer: one to conceive the idea and manage the installation; one to paint the ceiling; one to decorate the walls; one to photograph the room; one to write about the event; one to design the book and market the concept; one to blog; one to play guitar in the background; one to film the documentary; one to direct the screenplay; one to recite a poem; one to serve tea and critique the effort…and that doesn’t even include the one who invented the lightbulb in the first place.

Oftentimes, all the creative people involved in a project find themselves working alone, operating in their own specialized worlds, separated from even their associates. Or their own projects keep them isolated for hours and days at a time. To alleviate this predicament, Jeffrey Davis has put out the call for the emergence of community. “I’ve had this itch to instigate something like this: a coffeeshop where we can go and know that other creatives might be there, just to hang out and talk and compare notes,” he says. Thus, HV: Create was conceived.

As an author, yoga instructor, workshop leader and all-around Renaissance man himself, Davis sees the value in actual face-to-face networking. “It’s from that spontaneous connection and conversation that so many great projects arise. Here in the Hudson Valley, we are densely populated with highly creative people: the traditional artists, writers, musicians – but I also mean creative professionals like designers and people in business who are involved in creative pursuits. Geographically, we’re dispersed. There’s not a place you can go to find others with similar interests and issues and problems.”

As an emerging community, the group is not precisely defined the way other associations might be, such as poetry groups, drama groups or any one related to a specific genre. Davis invites people from all these different spheres to come together and set off some sparks. He calls himself the “instigator” of HV: Create, aiming for a monthly gathering of people engaged in living and working by their creative wits. He advertises the meet-up as a place for designers, writers, scholars, scientists, artists, coaches, media specialists, filmmakers, cartoonists, musicians, dancers, publishers, teachers et cetera to connect.

Indeed, the first meet-up in December included a medley of about 25 professional and amateur creatives from all over the region, including a sculptor/artist involved with the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a world-renowned musician, multiple photographers, a corporate copywriter working on Young Adult dystopian novel, other published and unpublished authors of fiction and non-fiction, a Huffington Post columnist, cooks and gardeners, administrators of organizations and life transition and creativity coaches.

The event was purposely kept loose and casual. Davis does not want to overorganize. “It’s about having an enjoyable environment to mingle, and share information and ideas. This is not about me. I wanted to set this up with just enough structure for me to get out of the way as soon as possible. It’s not about developing a formal organization. What could come out of this are partnerships and smaller groups; and maybe we’ll have a talk series, or 140-second share sessions for people to say, ‘This is what I’m up to.’ But I will guard against too much organization.”

Creativity is a basic human impulse. Traditionally thought to be the strict domain of artistic types, creativity is now recognized as a primal force in any number of fields: medicine (think of the highly technical innovations or naturopathic healing arts, for example); science and computer development (think: the two Steves, Wozniak and Jobs, inventing Apple in their garage); the culinary arts (yes, even the ones practiced at home) – you name it.

Elsebeth Thomsen attended the first meet-up out of curiosity. An art director and graphic designer at Branding Etc., she has lived in the area full-time for three years and has basically severed ties with the creative support system that the City offered her. “I was extremely impressed with what I saw and heard,” she says. “The idea of creatives supporting creatives is an intriguing one; the additional idea of being community-based is a true bonus. There are so many of ‘us,’ but we are spread out, and many work from home. It’s easy to feel like you are working in a vacuum.”

Thomsen lists the potential benefits of networking and sharing contacts and advice. “In addition, the nature of most creative people is to be inspired, even if inadvertently, by most everything – so I could see this as a great benefit of these meet-ups, as well.”

Another transplant from Manhattan (no pun intended), Wendy Hollender is a botanical illustrator, author and instructor of Botanical Art and Illustration at the New York Botanical Garden and at SUNY-Ulster. With two books to her credit (Botanical Drawing in Color: A Basic Guide to Mastering Realistic Form and Naturalistic Color and Botanical Drawing: A Beginner’s Guide) as well as numerous magazine features and exhibitions, she talks about the cross-pollination of ideas between genres of artistic endeavor. “I’m an artist getting more involved in publishing books. I’m expanding what I do – writing, editing, graphic design, promotion – so I thought this would be a good group to meet. My new book is a wild edible cookbook with Dina Falconi, a local herbalist.” Hollender explains how the project is bringing in other disciplines, as she and Falconi test and compile recipes, make detailed drawings of the plants that readers can find and forage in this region and figure out how to market this book.

At the meet-up, time was set aside for people to chat informally with other attendees. “When we broke into groups, I had a half-hour discussion with a man who is writing a second novel, just talking about his process, what he’s doing. It was great to discuss it with somebody in a different discipline. I could see so many crossovers or similarities to what I do.” When asked what she feels she has to offer others, Hollender says, “I have been an artist, author and instructor, and I’ve put together these different components of my creative side, because frankly, it’s pretty hard to make a living if you don’t.”

Davis says, “I think the whole phenomenon of ‘meet-ups’ is taking off again. I think there’s a reason for that, in part because face-to-face beats Facebook. I’m seeing there’s a sense that if somebody wants to start something, they can do it, even in these topsy-turvy economic times.”

Getting yourself away from your private workspace and out amongst others is the key purpose of HV: Create. Meeting casually, with no other agenda than to encounter others of kindred spirit and expand your roster of acquaintanceship, is a good thing. It can bolster your energy and get the creative juices flowing. To tap that metaphor, as creativity diva Julia Cameron suggests, it “fills the well.”

So, even if you’re not fascinated by screwing in lightbulbs, you might link up with someone who knows how light flows through an aperture, or what light might sound like in a symphony, or which direction provides the best natural light in a studio. Or the light of inspiration might shine on a way for you finally to finish and promote your work. Come check it out. HV: Create congregates for an hour-and-a-half on the first Friday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at MaMA’s Café in Stone Ridge. Contact Jeffrey Davis at (845) 679-9441 or [email protected].



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