Common Creatives Market & Showcase Pop Up, and the enthusiastic people behind it, have confirmed for me the sensation I’ve had for the last couple of years: an exciting broadening of culture has been gaining momentum here in Hampton Roads.
It’s been slow but steady, with artists, designers, makers, musicians, and theatrical types gradually becoming more numerous and more visible. The materialization of NFK’s NEON district in recent years was a quantum leap. AltDaily’s own ed-in-chief Jesse Scaccia commented “This is the creative community coalescing.” Jesse may have been more right than he knew.
Or maybe, things like the Common Creatives Market & Showcase Pop Up are exactly the sort of thing he wished to encourage.
The innovation of couture designer and founder of ADHDDriven, Melissa Gumley, creative director/producer Dan Porter, and Hatch communications director Paul Rice, the Common Creatives Collective is an affiliation of creative types of all stripes to get acquainted and share ideas, projects, and resources. There’s a Facebook group, and a monthly NFK Creatives Meetup launched this month as well. It’s superlatively exciting to realize that Hampton Road’s artistic scene is truly beginning to come into its own with creative people self-producing events like this one.
We need this, because although the NEON district is undeniably an invaluable asset to culture in Norfolk and serves as an exemplar to the rest of the area, it is nonetheless on the commercial side. NEON is a great and necessary first step toward the vital artistic community we wish to see develop here, but let’s be frank – unless you’ve got money, or you’ve got connections (with money), yo ass ain’t making anything happen on Granby Street. A truly healthy and productive creative community needs a bottom as well as a top, pavement level as well as penthouse, grass roots and well as high-falutin’ municipally-funded projects. It is only through a conversation between these two social and economic strata of creative people that a city achieves a viable degree of cultural fertility.
And Gumley, Porter, and Rice’s Common Creatives Collective seems positioned to help fill that void.
Although “void” is perhaps the wrong word. I, like many in the local creative community, received Norfolk’s recent demonstration of support for the arts with both joy and skepticism. Sure, it’s great that there’s a more robust creative spirit sweeping into our area, but how does one jump in if one can’t muster the collateral to take out a lease on a studio space downtown? Maybe the answer is as simple as JFDI – Just F**king Do It. With help from whatever like-minded people you can find, in whatever neighborhood you happen to be. So I guess I shouldn’t have said that the Common Creatives Collective is filling a void, so much as it is quite possibly Phase Two: a signifier that the zeitgeist the city of Norfolk has put so much money and effort toward establishing is truly beginning to take hold.
This confederacy of imagination is having a coming out party of sorts this weekend, in the form of a bazaar on 24th Street at Colonial Ave in NFK (next to Thank You Gallery). There’ll be makers and artists showing off their wares, music, food, live art, and – perhaps most importantly – opportunities to connect, get involved with a project, or find some folks who can help you with a project of your own.
Gumley, Porter, and Rice hope that this will be the first of many such happenings under the auspices of the Common Creatives Collective, and that the connections, recognition, and revenue (although that’s not their major concern) made by those who participate and those who attend will create a snowball effect that leads to an even more vibrant creative community. I hope that too.
The place where we live, embracing the confluence of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay, is something of an enigma. Hampton Roads is one of the country’s oldest and most well-established regions, has grown into a metro area of over a million, and yet a creative class has never really emerged here in such a way as has happened in most other large population centers. We can theorize as to the reasons for this… the transient nature of our bedrock industries (military and shipping), the disjointed commuter-centric layout of our seven cities, a deep-seated survivalist colonial mentality… or anything else. It really doesn’t matter WHY we’re so late to the party developing a creative class, the real point is IT’S HAPPENING.
“Our mission is simple: We’re giving a canvass – in the form of an event – to the local creative community. We hope you’ll be a part of this experience. If this works we’ll do this on a regular basis. Before we get into logistics, understand our values: sharing culture – don’t be afraid to give to the community without expectation of return, spread art, strength in numbers- more of us = more collaborative & melting pot vibes. You can sell, but this is more than a market. We’re creating a unique experience, a canvass for creatives, a space for talent to blossom.”
I find this inspiring. If you do too, maybe you’ll find your way to the Park Place neighborhood in Norfolk this weekend. Maybe together we’ll witness the beginning of the next.
Common Creatives Collective Market & Showcase Pop Up will be going on from 11:00am Saturday Dec. 17 til 5:00pm Sunday Dec 18 @ 430 W 24th St. in NFK. Get yourself out there and make some friends, makes some memories, make some community!