St. Petersburg’s technology, innovation and business sectors are well-represented with scheduled mixers, meetings and get-togethers. If you want to get something done, or find out how others did it, an informal talk or presentation over coffee and bagels is just a few mouse clicks away.
CreativeMornings is something else altogether. It’s a monthly event – at the Station House, where so many business arrangements are conceptualized and cinched – with no relationship to business whatsoever.
CreativeMornings is simply an inspirational hang.
It’s a global organization, with 180 chapters, and CreativeMornings St. Pete, as the local chapter is known, has been in existence for less than two years.
Yet 200 people – none of whom pay dues, sign an oath or feel pressured to drop a dollar into a tip jar – attend every month. The breakfast is free, the coffee is free, the camaraderie is free.
What’s the catch? According to Tara Segall, who kick-started the St. Pete chapter and heads a group of 20 volunteers, there isn’t one. “It’s a gift – for the community, by the community,” she says.
Segall, who’s a freelance designer and copywriter, stresses that CreativeMornings is open to people of any age, race, sex, persuasion … or profession. “We just bring people together, give them free breakfast and a little inspiration, and hope whatever they get from the event, they take it out with them into their life,” she explains. “And influence the people in their circle. Hopefully, it has a rippling effect.”
It’s non-political and non-partisan, and even though some people find the warm and welcoming nature church-like, it has absolutely no religious connection.
The centerpiece each month is a brief talk from a speaker chosen from the community. In the past, TheStudio@620 co-founder Bob Devin Jones has spoken (on the subject of “Community”), as have artist Bekky Beukes (“Chaos”), athlete Megan Absten (“Intention”) and others.
“There’s a global theme for each month – our job is to find a speaker in our city that aligns with the theme, and our interpretation of it locally,” Segall says. “And the theme here is going to look very different from how it does in Gothenburg, from what it does in New York.”
The next event, on Friday, Oct. 26, will feature mental health professional Kathleen Taylor, who has worked in hospice for many years. The theme is “Honesty.”
Segall believes Taylor’s work in the field of grief counseling makes her the ideal candidate for the October theme. “She’s a good example of somebody who will tell a story I think will resonate with all people, but who isn’t really considered a creative.”
Doors open at 8 a.m., Segall chats a bit around 8:30, and then “typewriter poet” Giovanni Cerro will address the theme with street verse. Taylor will talk at 9, followed by a Q&A session … everything’s done, everybody’s out, by 10.
Roundhouse Creative provides A/V services, Made Coffee brings the caffeine, the tea is donated by TeBella, and the organization’s cool and chic design is by Wax & Hive. The breakfast partners – always local – change every month.
“Other chapters do it differently,” says Segall. “Some people have financial sponsors, but for us it just feels more natural to have in-kind sponsors. And we found really, really solid partners in the community that believe in what we’re doing.”
Thanks to a partnership with Suncoast Composting, St. Pete is the very first CreativeMornings chapter in the world to be zero-waste. Segall was recently invited to the organization’s global summit to advise others on sustainability.
If she runs into any brick walls, she can always call CreativeMornings headquarters. “There’s a big international community of people who support each other,” she says. “And that’s huge. If I want to do something, chances are somebody has done it before, or at least dipped their toe.”
A native of Sarasota, Segall began attending CreativeMornings events at Atlanta’s Portfolio Center. “And when I came back to St. Pete three years ago I was like, ‘Oh my. Things have exploded.’
“From the typography downtown I could see there was an active design scene here. I fully expected for there to be an active AIGA – the professional design organization – and an active CreativeMornings chapter. Stuff that I could plug into as a freelancer. And I found that at that time, there wasn’t.”
After waiting for a year for somebody else to do it, she made the calls, sent the emails and found out how to start a chapter herself.
Not everyone, Segall understands, thinks of themselves as “creative.” Never fear. “The mission, vision, mantra for CreativeMornings globally is ‘Everyone is creative. Everyone is welcome.’ And everybody is creative, in their own way. What you do in your own life is unique to you.
“I think what makes it work is that it’s pretty pure. So everywhere, people are there because they want to be.
“And that’s what I get out of it – I get to go to it.”