Lance Barrera: Creative Mornings, Connected Community

Lance Barrera is the ambitious soul behind Cville’s Creative Mornings and a member of The Bridge’s programming Committee. Here are a few words from Lance as Cville gears up for our first monthly installment of Creative Mornings.
When I lived in Richmond, I fell in love with CreativeMornings: a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Admittedly, I was suspicious in the beginning. How could anything with “lecture series” in the title be fun? Educational…sure, but fun every month? I’d been to a myriad of networking events and lectures before, and they always felt a bit like work to me, but as soon as I stepped through the doors of my first ever CreativeMornings, I knew it was different.
Immediately, I was greeted with smiling faces, doughnuts and Blanchard’s coffee—my favorite roaster in Richmond. I poured myself a cup and looked for somewhere to pay. I walked back to the sign in table with a confused look on my face, and a CM volunteer told me it was free! I thought, how could Blanchard’s coffee be free, and if this is indeed true, how many refills can I guzzle down before I leave. Off to a good start already; ten points to CreativeMornings.
With a seat secure, I looked around and noticed something. The room was filled with students and professors, many of them I knew. I also saw architects, interior designers, sculptors, illustrators, and a sea of mysterious creative-looking professionals that I had yet to meet. All of these people gathered to listen to a speaker talk about “Time” the global theme for the month. One super inspiring talk later and I’m in. I’d officially fallen in love with a “lecture series.”
Fast forward to Charlottesville, a city full of creative energy, but no CreativeMornings chapter to plug into. I couldn’t help but talk about it to nearly anyone who would listen. Everyone loved the idea, but no one—that I knew of yet—was ready to make it happen. With a gentle nudge from friends, I decided I would try to start a chapter, but I’d never done anything like this before. How the hell am I going to start a chapter? I was still pretty new to town. I didn’t know anyone to go to for help, so like a true millennial, I asked Google.
With a quick search, I found Virginia Nelson, previously the Communications Manager at TomTom. I figured, she must have some tips on how to do this. I emailed her, and she met me for coffee! Proof that sometimes emailing strangers is not as weird as it feels. She introduced me to the Director of The Bridge: Alan Goffinski, and the Programs & Communication Manager for UVA Arts: Emma Terry. From there it snowballed like crazy. I plunged into the local creative community headfirst thanks to many introductions from enthusiastic artists and organizers in town. Eventually, I met Maureen Brondyke who, come to find out, was also working on getting a chapter started. Together with Emma and the help of dozens of other great people around town, we applied to start a chapter, and we were approved! Right now, we’re preparing for our very first event on March 9.
Through the entire application process, I felt fortunate to meet so many amazing people around town so quickly. The whole time I had coworkers asking for tips to meet people outside of the office. They were asking me: the new guy! One of my favorite things about CreativeMornings coming to Charlottesville is that it will afford everyone the same opportunities to meet people in the community they otherwise might not have. It also supports local nonprofits, businesses, and happenings around town. It provides a safe space for people to share ideas, be inspired, and support each other’s creative endeavors.
CreativeMornings is a not-for-profit organization, relying solely on volunteers and sponsors to make it all happen. Alan and The Bridge, our chapter’s fiscal sponsor, have been early supporters. Without them, we would still be at the start line scratching our heads. “Bridging diverse communities through the arts,” is their mission, and it couldn’t possibly align with CreativeMornings’ more.
Personally, I find The Bridge‘s creative approach to supporting the community inspiring. So much so that I have joined their programming committee where I’m excited to contribute to their mission.