Replica Creative and Young Involved Philadelphia Host First "Creative Café Coffee Chat"

Layla El Tannir, for GPA -- Replica Creative and Young Involved Philadelphia have partnered to present “Creative Café Coffee Chats,” a new monthly series which kicked off on June 30 at the Creative Café @ Replica.

Hosted in the heart of University City, the series is scheduled to take place on the final Monday of each month. The exclusive coffee chats will feature three to five minute flash talks from various industry innovators followed by 20 minutes of conversation with an intimate 20-person audience. The talks aim to foster new collaboration and connections amongst young Philadelphians and, according to Replica Creative’s owner Keith Leaphart, to “push Philadelphia to make it all it can be.” For a five dollar admission fee, guests will have the opportunity to connect with the city’s top creative players on a personal level, over coffee and pastries from the Creative Café @ Replica.

The theme for June’s event was “The face and future of Philadelphia’s creative economy” and it was enhanced by four key, creative speakers: Erica Hawthorne of Small but Mighty Arts and Campus Philly; Maori Holmes, founder of the BlackStar Film Festival; Tayyib Smith, publisher of Two.One.Five. Magazine and founder of Little Giant Creative and Thaddeus Squire, founder of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia. These dynamic leaders discussed the issues and advances in Philadelphia’s creative economy, as well as their own creative approach and current and upcoming projects.

A self proclaimed “artrepeneur,” Hawthorne moved to Philadelphia because it is the city where arts and culture are the highest rated amongst all social offerings. She posed an interesting question about the creative scene in the city, asking how much of our art is missing from the landscape. Individual artists rely on their own money or funding from organizations such as Small but Mighty Arts. If there was no funding, only 25 percent of artists would follow through with their dreams. Being denied that chance impacts the art community and has a domino effect on the city’s economy. Hawthorne implored the audience to think creatively in this weaker economy. An approach that she has introduced to Philadelphia is the “creative strengths swap,” which allows artists to come together to exchange their strengths and help make other artists fiercer and smarter in how they develop their careers.

CultureWorks also helps artists and journalists in the city do what they love to do. Squire’s strategy to tackle the labor problem is unique and he emphasized that it’s not a “knowing/doing problem.” The current model for fostering the production of art has shown that ideas and infrastructure are not lacking, but that the individuals or lack thereof is the issue. He argued that there needs to be a shift of focus from developing organizations to developing artists to sustain a vision. “We need to adapt a paradigm of plenty not scarcity and commit to a long term change in this industry,” he said. By 2016, Squire hopes to have a platform and tool kit for artists and journalists to plug more easily in to Philadelphia. Ideally, they will manage their path using the tools Squire provides, so that their funding is not totally allocated on seeking or purchasing these tools.

The beauty of the coffee chat series is that the audience is shown a whole new perspective to the Philadelphia scene in only 20 minutes. The speakers are creating noise on local, national and international levels, making them relevant and important individuals to network with. Each of the speakers creates opportunities for locals to benefit, but their actions have also attracted an interest from all over the world. For instance, when the BlackStar Film Festival is held from July 31 to August 3 this summer, it will feature a film that was created, developed and shot in Nigeria. It has never been screened before and was chosen to premier in Philadelphia as part of Holmes’ festival. Essentially, the artists of Philadelphia are creating and building global bonds that more of the city’s residents need to tap into.

Upcoming Creative Café Coffee Chats will explore various topics within the industries of government, education, arts and culture. In July, the series will zero in on technology and explore Philadelphia’s identity as an innovation hub.

Photo courtesy of Young Involved Philadelphia.