Photo by David Warfield

Story by Daniel Stuelpnagel

Some artists don’t like technology, but I’m not one of them.

All the more reason to show up at Create Baltimore 2 for an ‘un-conference’ involving art and technology that lead to many far-reaching topics.

Mid-morning, after a late start due to a layer of snow and ice splashing a cold dose of reality on an otherwise languid mid-January morning, the agenda for Create Baltimore developed into a tremendous raft of creative, social, and technology-based curiosity. It embodied an eager and ambitious urge to move forward and figure out what we can do with almost two hundred artists, entrepreneurs, social innovators and an otherwise diverse array of participants. They showed up with a sense of humor, a sense of purpose, and willingness to speak their mind.

The organizers didn’t bring us there for a top-down experience, quite the contrary. The participants were in charge of making the agenda which resulted in break-out sessions where participants could gather, converse and share ideas over a variety of crowd sourced topics. If none of those topics were of interest, one could always find good conversation in the anarchy room where the only rules where those that dictate polite society. You would think it would have been disorganized, but we submitted ideas in a quick brainstorming session with almost no coffee, shockingly enough.Thankfully, Zeke’s arrived just in time to push us through lunch and into the afternoon.

There were a wide variety of topics and discussions to explore. Here are the highlights from my personal experience.

Photo by David Warfield

Going Green

During the first breakout session I sat in with a group devoted to all things green. We tried to discern what that means and identify a few projects happening in town. Bob Roswell, a systems developer and architect of solar energy installations, showed us a fascinating website with real-time data demonstrating his latest project, a building which is putting excess solar-generated power back onto the grid.

Ryan Dunn, a recent MICA graduate who, has launched several mentoring projects around his recent work at Cylburn Arboretum, is also in the early stages of developing an opera that will be influenced by his experience. Ryan still finds time to continue his teaching, based on a model that includes mentoring as a tool for inspiring others to teach.

As artist Laure Drogoul put it, the focus on going “green” involves “advocating and developing a living design that addresses the issue of limited resources”.

We mingled over a quick lunch from Baltimore Burger Bar, a joint I would highly recommend for anyone seeking out health conscious brain food.

Photo by David Warfield

Women & Technology 

I had intended to jump into some sessions concerned with journalism but was fortunate to find space in a room with thirty women and five guys. The topic of the session was Women and Technology. It was enlightening to say the least. Who knew that the hierarchical 20th-century paradigms are still ruling in the I.T. arena as far as women are concerned? Pretty much everybody.

A very daunting and complex set of challenges face this group of women who are still working twice as hard to break through the barriers in various technology sectors. Ongoing advocacy work is a central job requirement for these women seeking success in a male-dominated industry.

Goals include collaborative strategies, specialization as well as activism working towards unity and integration, and the perseverance that is the common thread among all of the successful people in this field.

A unique opportunity is still rising to the forefront, as social media becomes a focal point for every business.  Participants talked about early entry into the field via education, barriers to entry in the existing paradigms, and points of entry such as social media and tech companies run by women that will directly seek female employees, contractors and consultants as part of their strategic mandate.

This is a complex set of challenges being evaluated and conquered by a skilled and determined work force who will continue to find ways to make their presence known, despite still being a minority in the field. There is a sense of optimism that collaboration will facilitate more success in the long run.

Photo by Brooke Hall

The Arts In Baltimore

My third breakout session was the one concerned with the future of the arts in Baltimore, attended by an enthusiastic group of artists, technologists and entrepreneurs representing theater, dance, music, performance, installation, curatorial, visual 2D and 3D and many other forms.

Baltimore artists are determined to reach out and be as well-recognized and appreciated as our counterparts in DC, New York, Miami and all points of the compass. The group in attendance was an even mix of Baltimore natives and transplants, so there seems to be a sense of identity that has a broad reach but also centers around Baltimore as a place with historical and cultural significance.

People expressed an appreciation for what we have and also the desire to provide and participate in more culturally subversive and curated multi-disciplinary activities that would bring more new visitors to arts venues in the city.

A persistent desire for more media coverage and high-level arts critique and reviews was repeatedly expressed. The conclusion was that everyone in the room needed to get out and write some reviews of art events, within their reach, and post this content to sites of mutual interest, blogs and other channels.

Overall, there was a sense that with continuing persistence and determination, artists in Baltimore can continue to apply equal force to the inward focus that enables us to create and thrive and to the outreach that connects with broader communities and patrons who can provide greater financial support for the arts in all these forms.

Look for the open group Baltimore Arts on Facebook for more outcomes on this topic.

Technology can help.  Many connections were made, and future Create Baltimore events will certainly include an even broader array of disciplines, participants and agenda items.

No one ever said it was going to be easy.

But it’s gonna be a load of fun.