Kylie Brown is an unlikely person to be the face of a movement. She’s a self-described introvert who prefers to utilize her talents behind the scenes. Yet the founder of Creative Rush, an organization that brings together creative people across genres and mediums to talk about the artistic process, is at the epicenter of the city’s arts community.
It was clear that she is in command of something much larger than herself as she took the stage of the Orpheum Theatre on a recent Sunday night. A crowd of more than 700 people had turned out for the second annual “Down to the Wire 24-Hour Film Race,” an event organized by Creative Rush and the Tallgrass Film Association.
“All of you have proven that Wichita is a city full of creative people,” she told the audience. “Creativity cannot happen without connection, though. That’s what we’re doing with this film race, that’s what we’ve done with Creative Rush. I truly believe that everyone can be a creative person if they just tap into that energy and connect with each other.”
Incubating the Rush
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For Brown, 28, this rush of enthusiasm is far from where she started. Though she grew up in Wichita, she left after high school to study film. She spent several years living in Grand Rapids, Mich., where she worked producing multi-sensory, artistically crafted Sunday morning worship services for a church youth group. While she enjoyed her work, eventually she felt that there was little support to fuel future creative endeavors. She attended conferences with other videographers and techies and found that many creative types lacked proper mentoring and had few role models.
By 2010, she was burned out and returned to Wichita, where her family still lived.
“I moved back in March that year, but I had been away for so long that I really didn’t know anyone and really no one knew me. I felt secluded. I felt alone,” she said. “I reached out, but I felt like there was no place or platform for people to talk about how they restarted themselves or how they got to be who they are, or even about future endeavors.”
After haranguing friends with ideas about what she felt everyone else should do to make the city better, she eventually decided to take action herself.
“I decided to stop asking the questions about where to go or where to find certain activities,” she said. “The only logical choice was to do something about it. I wanted to create a space where people with the gaps could creatively collide.”
Her ideas began to come to fruition in the spring of 2011 when she started networking with local artists and professionals. After rounding up an e-mail list of every creative person in Wichita she could find online, she organized a planning meeting and from that conceived the idea that became Creative Rush’s signature event, the First Tuesday Talks. They debuted that August.
Connection and community are the primary components behind the talks. Held every month, excluding January, they take place at rotating venues downtown and include a panel, food, drinks and conversation. This past June, a chef, a sculptor and a gallery director turned public relations specialist explored the vexing topic of work/life balance. Other focuses have included nurturing creative talent, taking the stairs to success, ways to market one’s work, and how to get a book published. Brown said that there are always at least 50 people at the talks, and that they pull in new faces each month.
“The talks are always curated based on input from the community,” Brown said. “By design, the featured panelists are from varied backgrounds and fields in the creative industry.”
Panelists have included the Ginger Rabbits, a local art group that includes Curt Clonts, Dave Murano, Linda K. Robinson, Tanya Tandoc and Beth Golay. Other speakers have been Carol Hughes of KFDI; Rod Pocowatchit, an independent filmmaker and Wichita Eagle designer; Brad Ruder, an artist; chef Jason-Paul Febres; photographer Darrin Hackney; and Wade Hampton, an artist.
“They sit on a retro orange couch and a host guides them through questions and topics,” Brown said. “We encourage audience questions. It’s a relaxed atmosphere.”
Ann Keefer, now the vice president for program development at Wichita Festivals Inc., met Brown when she was working for the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation. She said that many of Brown’s ideas matched the momentum behind revitalizing downtown. She sees Creative Rush as a natural progression for several other endeavors that have sought to promote Wichita as being a town full of artistic ingenuity.
“It filled that void. There’s no other way to describe,” Keefer said. “It was about proving what was hip and cool and that people should start talking to each other about it. Kylie was all about not relying on a group or two or three people to make it happen. She challenged people to make it happen themselves. Anyone who didn’t think they were creative could come and be around creative people.”
The First Tuesday talks are Creative Rush’s longest running endeavor but are not the extent of the organization’s scope. A series of workshops called School of Street Smarts offers a chance for more focused learning. In May, Larry Hatteberg, who is known for his “Hatteberg’s People” series on KAKE, led a campfire discussion at Cowtown about the art of storytelling.
Indie Connect brings together producers, video makers and film enthusiasts to network and learn more about their craft. Keefer said that the partnership started between Creative Rush and the Tallgrass Film Association to produce the Down to the Wire race is just the sort of creative synergy Wichita has needed.
“Her ideas are infectious,” Keefer said. “At the end of the day, people just want to feel like they matter and want to feel a point of connection with other humans in a meaningful way. Kylie is providing that with her orange couch and the healthy discussions about our lives as workers, as artists, as people who go through life seeking more than just the routine. The routine is what we have to do to function, but it’s the rest that gives us meaning. Kylie has found a way to let us take a moment, sit on the couch and talk about it.”
Brown said that her biggest challenge now is making more people aware that there is a support system for creative talent in Wichita.
“I wanted this to be a community thing. There are so many people in the world who are struggling with loneliness and creativity,” Brown said. “If you get a rush of anything it stays with you and people will talk about it.”