Over the past twelve years, the Portland Creative Conference has become synonymous with transformation. Ask anyone who has ever attended and they'll tell you—the conference sparks the imagination, it motivates, it inspires, it transforms. It points you to the heart of your own creativity. But this year's event went beyond that. In a way, it became a reflective metaphor of itself.
The event had been scheduled for September 13, but on Tuesday the 11th it became painfully clear that this would not be the case. In a flurry of rescheduling, a determined and undaunted team of conference producers pulled together, got creative, and charged ahead. The mission was clear—if ever there was a time to get people reconnected with their creative centers, it was now!
A new date was set, October 4 - 6. Replacement speakers were called in to fill the gaps, Nike offered a new venue of their high-tech Tiger Woods Center, and in three short weeks, things were back on track and the conference was underway.
As they say, "Mission accomplished!" With grace and substance, and a good dose of much needed humor, this is how it unfolded. . .
Thursday night opened with short films by BodyVox - a Portland avante-garde dance troupe in two imaginative and quirky fantasies where dancers shared deeply moving emotions with heavy construction equipment. Sublime absurdity!
Next, Geoffrey Lewis and Celestial Navigations set the stage and the tone for the rest of the conference with his art and the power of story-telling. As one dramatic vignette followed another, Geoffrey's vivid verbal imagery transported us through space and time. We watched him move from one character to the next -- God's janitor, a forlorn loner who morphed into a beast of the jungle, the condemned shipmate whose beloved horses were betrayed at sea, and many other characters, all skillfully portrayed.
We were taken on a nostalgic journey through Frank Capra's work by son Frank Capra Jr. Using stories and a film clip montage, he marked the milestones in his father's illustrious career and explained how his successes, his failures, and the stormy relationship with Columbia Pictures' head mogul, Harry Cohn ("His Crudeness"), was a whirlwind of creativity, conflict, and cooperation.
Barry Braverman, show producer and orchestrator of creative talent at Disney, gave us a behind-the-scenes production tour of "Soaring Over California," one of the new theme rides at Disney's California Adventure." We were shown all the phases from the conceptual drawings, to the erector set model, to the life-size prototype which eventually snagged the coveted prize: Eisner's "Got it, Love it, Do it" seal of approval.
What artist Christo was with his "Running Fence" traversing the California countryside, Dale Chihuly is to exquisite studio art glass that he sends floating down the canals of Venice, or scatters on the beaches of Tokyo Bay, or pierces through the frozen tundra of Iceland. Chihuly showed breathtaking images of his acclaimed glass sculpture installations, including "La Tour de Lumi¸re" (The Tower of Light) in Monte Carlo—constructed of several hundred separately blown pieces installed in the center of a stately fountain and illuminated internally and externally by 8,800 watts of light.
Charles Swartz, technology expert, understands the future of digital filmmaking. According to Swartz, there are obvious cost-cutting advantages and special effects capabilities never possible before—like the altered antique-look in "O' Brother, Where Art Thou," dubbed in the DVD version as "Painting with Pixels," the groundbreaking digital post-production process. But film projectionists, take heart! If Swartz is correct, without some industry standards, you're not likely to be put out to pasture any time soon.
An amazing line-up of creative modules kept the high energy going as the audience waited for the next featured speaker:
James Canfield, the risk-taking rebel and artistic director of the Oregon Ballet, explained his reason for leaving New York's Jeoffrey Ballet; a passion to prove that ballet and MTV can coexist, as demonstrated by two young energetic dancers who merged classical style with Hip-Hop and Rap.
Marshall Monroe, internationally recognized creative strategist presented his animated poem, Dream Too Big?—a work whose illustrations have been chosen by NASA for use as inspirational art in a global marketing campaign for the International Space Station.
There was the usual sprinkling of brilliant video clips, a screening of Perfume—a mostly improvised parody of the fashion industry, and entertaining shorts like the Christopher Walken music video, Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice with Christopher displaying his tap dance chops in bizarre gravity defying antics.
The Portland Creative Conference succeeded this year against all odds. It was a pep rally for the spirit, a booster shot for the imagination, and a reminder that each of us has the responsibility to be open to ever-present possibilities. Maybe Marshall Monroe summed it up best with this quote from artist/storyteller, Brian Andreas: "In my dreams, the angel shrugged and said, 'If we fail this time, it will be a failure of the imagination.' . . and then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand."
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Sharon Rockey is a freelance writer and editor for print and on-line media. She writes on business, finanance, technology, lifestyle and the arts. Visit her on-line portfolio for samples of her work and see if she is right for your next project.