What is the Yellow Summit? A new event coming to Fort Wayne that combines tech and creativity

There’s a stereotype that creative individuals tend to be more focused on the “art” aspects of life, as opposed to the “science.” But if you ask Jasmine Russell, co-founder of Monicat Data, the science side of things is where creatives have the greatest opportunity to advance their craft—and be more creative in the long run.

A former Fort Wayne resident and graduate of Northrop High School, Russell earned her BA at Purdue University and MBA at Indiana University before moving to Minneapolis in 2014 to pursue opportunities in the evolving field of digital analytics.

It was there that she met fellow creatives, Kurt Blomberg and Cassie Utt, who combined their collective interests in the arts and technology to launch a venture called Monicat Data, “The Business Behind Creativity.”

By paying attention to ways that data and technology can advance creative work, Monicat helps creative individuals and organizations maximize the results of their projects and take their skills to the next level.

Last year, they held their first annual summit, known as the Yellow Summit in the Greater Minneapolis/St.Paul area to bring together people with diverse interests, backgrounds, and skills around the common threads of data and technology.

Now, the Yellow Summit 2019 is coming to Fort Wayne on October 18th as part of Startup Week to engage data- and technology-minded creators here.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Russell to learn more about Fort Wayne’s first Yellow Summit, and what the local creative community can expect.

Christina Fortier speaks at the first Yellow Summit in 2018.

IFW: When and how did the Yellow Summit get started with Monicat Data?

JR: Yellow originally started in 2017 as a bi-annual series we called the Data for Art Workshops. We wanted to connect with strategists and creators of the creative field—people making things and leading creative organizations with smarts behind their actions.

We wanted to cultivate a format for creatively-minded leaders to come together and have strategic conversations. On top of that, we wanted to create an event for creatives of all types—from directors to artists, to public artists, and performers.

So for our first two events in 2017, we chose to host art workshops in two art-filled spaces. The first space was a photo studio. We had six speakers, and about 40 people came out.

Our second event was at the Public Functionary, which is similar to Artlink’s 212 program. They not only curate art, but also host parties and events. We changed the format there to have three speakers, and we drew a similar crowd.

Yellow Summit's first event last year drew about 100 people in Minneapolis.

After moving through a year of dual event planning, along with growing client work, we decided we really wanted the event to be a summit rather than an arts workshop. In Minneapolis, there are so many arts workshops, so the idea was to do something different, and bring together people on more intentional, larger-scale once a year.

That’s where the idea for the Yellow Summit came into play last year. At our first summit, we had breakout sessions with six speakers, as well as more intentional partnerships, and we had a little over 100 people come out for it.

IFW: That’s great! How and why did the Yellow Summit come to Fort Wayne this year?

JR: This year, Matt McClure at Artlink convinced us to bring the event to Fort Wayne, and we’re really excited to see what Yellow can look like here. It’s an opportunity to highlight a different side of the creative market.

In thinking through opportunities with Artlink, it sounds like talent retention—keeping creative talent in Midwest—and elevating creative talent here are key goals. Fort Wayne is an incredible place to have discussions about that.

I grew up in Fort Wayne, and I ended up moving away to pursue creative opportunities. There are so many creatives in that position, but there’s also a huge benefit in keeping these types of creative people in Fort Wayne and having their creativity impact the city.

The Yellow Summit brings creatives from different fields together to learn from one another.

IFW: Who are the 2019 Yellow Summit speakers going to be?

JR: We have a good mix of local people in Fort Wayne and people from surrounding Indiana and Midwestern cities, as well as national speakers. That way, you’ll not only get that local, Indiana perspective, but also hear from people outside of the state as well.

This year we have a wide range of creative acumen from our speakers, 15 in total, ranging from large-scale animation to Indiana State Arts Commission expertise. A few notable speakers include: Mike Hollingsworth, Supervising Director of BoJack Horseman, and Taylor Shaw, CEO of Black Women Animate, to Fort Wayne locals leading creative charges, such as Stephanie Gottesman, creator of the “Women Are: Fort Wayne” Podcast and Rena Bradley, AIA, LEED AP of Bridge of Grace.

You can find the full list of speakers on our website.

The Yellow Summit brings creativity and tech together.

IFW: As someone who has lived and worked outside of the state, what are some key things you think Fort Wayne and Indiana can learn from what’s happening in the national creative community?

JR: I think it’s important to highlight the power of the creative eye. We live in a nation and world of high access—whether it be social media or Google blogs. It can be easy to fall into the creative trap of feeling like creative influence isn’t happening where you are.

As a region, Fort Wayne and Indiana creatives don’t have to look far to push the creative envelope. I think creative power often starts with owning the view and vision in front of you and evolving its purpose to represent your unique, independent creative perspective. 

The first Yellow Summit was held in Minneapolis.

IFW: Since Monicat Data has a large focus on using data and technology to guide creative processes, how much of the Yellow Summit will focus on data and technology?

JR: We always try to keep data and technology as a theme throughout the entire conference. For instance, our 2018 keynote speaker Chef Jenny Dorsey talked about how she uses AR and VR to transform her creative culinary experiences and also as a way of storytelling from her perspective as an Asian woman. She spoke about how she performs, makes videos, and all of the components and technologies that are used for that.

Other speakers, like communicator Nichelle Brunner, whose creative work is focused on body image and body positivity, related their work to the digital field and social media.

Nichelle Brunner was a 2018 Yellow Summit speaker.

So, yes, for us, it’s really important to be able to highlight data and technology. A lot of creatives might talk about data and technology as a second thought, but we want it to be the first thought.

At Monicat, we always say we want creatives to spend less time planning and more time creating. That’s why it’s awesome for us to have partners like Artlink because they’re really having those conversations about data and technology in the creative field, too.

Technology is so pervasive anymore, it just needs to be part of the conversation for creatives.

Attend the 2019 Yellow Summit

The Yellow Summit is a one-day creative technology summit designed to connect strategic dialogue to the needs of creative communities. In 2019, it will be hosted by Monicat Data in partnership with Artlink in downtown Fort Wayne at the Cinema Center and Dance Collective.

Tickets are $60. $20 for students. A bundle of three is $150.

For a full list of speakers, tickets, and more information, visit the Yellow Summit’s website.

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native, passionate about the future of her hometown and other up-and-coming places across the country. As Managing Editor of Input Fort Wayne, she enjoys writing about interesting people and ideas in northeast Indiana. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.
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