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A Creative Community at Work

Slowly but surely, Savannah is rediscovering her roots as the first designed city in the United States.

When we first started our company Savannah was a town that seemed to lack a young creative business community.

Nine and a half years later this city truly has a growing community of designers, geeks and entrepreneurs. Slowly but surely, Savannah is rediscovering her roots as the first designed city in the United States. And while it’s encouraging to see the effect this new energy is having on the built environment and activity in the city, I am more excited about the community of inspiring, brilliant people who have made this place their home.

And I credit The Creative Coast (TCC) for playing a significant role in making this happen. Founded about 7 years ago this organization has been the connector between previously isolated entrepreneurs and talent, and a bridge to valuable resources for many. It too has evolved over the years, but what has never changed is the unwavering focus on the growing community of world-class creatives in Savannah.

As a part of its own evolution TCC has spent the last year doing the hard work of transitioning into a organization that better reflects the needs and requests of the creative community. One of the most requested changes was that the organization move its headquarters into the heart of downtown, and in September this is exactly what TCC did. It was a relatively quiet move and the first few months were spent establishing some important basics.

Then last week TCC threw open the doors and asked the creative community to come to the new digs to help design it…charette style. The plan was to invite everyone to an evening of brainstorming followed by a full day of curating/designing, and finally culminating in the presentation of one concept made up of the strongest ideas from the brainstorming session.

You can read more about it on TCC’s blog but suffice it to say the event was a great success. Over 50 people showed up for the first night (all 3 hours of it!). After splitting up into 5 teams everyone rolled up their sleeves and got to work, debating the virtues of various potential uses of the space, how the organization would best serve the community and a whole host of creative ways to engage and communicate with the wider community. What impressed me the most was the fact that everyone cared enough to come, stay and contribute. Some remarkable ideas came out of the brainstorming session. And a lot of common themes appeared as well. When the final boards were installed in the brightly light storefront for the night, it was obvious that there was a lot of great raw material to work with.

The following day was as much of a welcome surprise as the previous evening. The expectation was that there would probably be just a few folks who would come back to work on the designs all day. Instead, there were about a dozen people who showed up to do the heavy lifting (there may have been more…I forgot to take a proper head count).

I myself intended to stop by for around 2 hours, but when I got there I knew I needed to stay — there was A LOT that needed to be done and not enough hands to do it all. (Thanks to the team at work for covering for me during that unplanned absence!)

I had a really great time working the brainstorm ideas into a city scale communications plan, and more than that got an opportunity to bond with fellow creatives I’d only known in passing to that point. It was like one of those movies where people bond during war or some other crisis. The intensity of trying to pull together a concept in such a small space of time created a great collaborative atmosphere. It reminded me of design studio in architecture school…I guess I’d forgotten how much fun that was.

Nostalgia aside, it was a day of hard teamwork that culminated in a presentation that evening at 6pm.

The presentation covered a few areas (I’ll only briefly review since TCC will be sharing the concept sometime soon):

City Scale – ways to take advantage of existing gathering points around the city as opportunities to share the brand, mission and location.
Creative Threshold / Creative Corner – ways to engage people in the square, on the street and on the sidewalk.
Facade – ways to make vertical face of the building interactive.
Handshake Lounge – the best use of that first space when coming through the door.
Flexible Workspace and Resource Center – ways to make the middle zone the place where a start-up might access resource information or work for a short period of time.
Office / Meeting / Conference Area – creating a highly functional working space of TCC staff and board.

The ideas were certainly well beyond what TCC would have come up with on its own. But was the point of the exercise. For an organization that serves as the hub and voice of the creatives, there could be no better strategy to design a space for this community.

I was really proud to say that this is MY community.

What’s next:
Jake will be working with the Board to further refine the concept into something that can be implemented in the coming year. One thing’s for sure, he has a lot of great material to work with and he got to hear what the community wanted.

Note: In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that I serve on the Board of Directors of TCC however I am first and foremost a creative and enthusiastic member of the Savannah community.

Susan Isaacs

Susan’s a multitask-er who prides herself on the vast number of things (read: loose papers and coffee cups) on her desk at any one time, and yet she still manages to keep an eye on all the moving parts at Paragon.