(A note to my fellow classmates. This is story 3. My video and images are not currently uploaded. If there are any questions please let me know.)
“Designers, artists, photographers, developers, creatives, and entrepreneurs… Anyone who has ever had an idea that makes their pants tingle. It’s time to stop f***ing around and do what you’ve always wanted to do,” the Do (Something) Facebook event described.
On March 28th at the Riverside Arts Center of Ypsilanti creatives of all walks of life gathered to do something. Something, anything at all. The goal of the event was to gather 99 people and spend the day being inspired, encouraged and supported.
For inspiration, the event invited creative leaders and doers to detail their stories of struggles as well as their stories of success. For motivation, the event encouraged attendees to take advantage of breakout conversations with all participants. Speakers, entrepreneurs, doers and creatives alike were welcome to interact and support one another.
“Bring a portfolio to be reviewed, talk about whatever is on your mind, what’s got you stumped, anything that’s holding you back and get a little closer to doing something,” the Facebook event described.
John Eslinger the Do (Something) event director and North Dakota native was able to produce this event within two months with help. Eslinger and speaker at the event, Justin, began working on creating the ambitious gathering on January 1st, 2019.
“Really it was just this idea. One of our speakers, Justin, I met him about 7 years ago at another conference in Cleveland and he happened to be a designer and a professional wrestler on the weekends, which is an interesting combination…” Eslinger said.
Eslinger described knowing people that live similar lifestyles, including a photographer who also pursued epidemiology, and those who are interested in doing random projects. He knew of six to 10 people he thought could tell great stories to the community of Ypsi and Washtenaw County as a whole.
With Washtenaw County as the main target audience, Washtenaw Community College seized the opportunity to encourage creative minds as well. The local community college, located approximately 10 minutes from Riverside Arts Center, had a booth alongside other Ypsilanti and Michigan based organizations on the main floor of the arts center. Stel Drake, student and staffer at Washtenaw Community College, worked the booth to promote the digital media arts program.
“Today we are promoting our digital media arts program which is relevant because there are a lot of designers, artists and entrepreneurs here and WCC has a lot of great class offerings in artistic endeavors,” Drake said.
The business and computer technologies department of WCC is involved with marketing. The school tries to go to events where there is a base of people that might be interested in taking classes at Washtenaw.
Downstairs, below where speakers and organizations were hosted, booths of local entrepreneurs lapped the brightly lit white room. A sculptor who made metal flowers, a designer of transgender positive clothing, a designer of Michigan themed clothing, a jeweler and more had booths displaying their hard work.
The jewelry company Tin Bell Fine Homemade Goods and Bespoke Services is owned by Lauryn Ebersole who has been making jewelry, at least part-time, for about six years. A few months ago Ebersole decided to make this business her full-time job.
“I just quit my job a few months ago and said I’m doing this,” Ebersole said. “I was honestly sick of the complacency I saw within myself and everyone else around me. I thought heck, ‘if these people can do this and they have their own skill sets then I can do this and I have my own skill sets.’”
Gina Coll, the owner of G.R Custom Art & Metalwork, has made art her full-time job at the age of 23. Coll is also a bartender on the weekends so she is able to make an income of someone that works 40 hours a week while having full time during the week to focus on her business. Similarly to Ebersole, Coll is unsatisfied with the complacency of following the norm.
“I think people our age are so pressured to get out of high school, go straight into college, get out thousands of dollars in debt and you don’t even want to do what you went to school for,” Coll said. “You can make money off of it (art) if you work hard for it. It’s hard, but life shouldn’t be easy.”
The booth operators and speakers accomplished Eslinger’s goal of uniting and inspiring other creatives. Rick Coughlin, the owner of Grove Studios, attended the event while in the midst of trying to hire help in branding and marketing work.
“Hearing other successful business owners and their personal journey stories reminds us of how human and similar we are. We tend to put successful people into some kind of superhuman category and events like this and having the opportunity to connect with them is a reminder that it was difficult for them too,” Coughlin said.
While the event was meant to help inspire and motivate people to do what they’ve always wanted to do, the event was also to unite people.
“We wanted to recreate 99 bottles of beer on the wall so we only made 99 of everything. We expected that if we could get 99 people then we’re really doing something. I was honestly happy with 10 so to sell out was pretty shocking really,” Eslinger said.
In total, including the speakers and booth operators, there were approximately 120 people in the Riverside Arts Center celebrating creating.
The beginning of the event included water, coffee and an assortment of breakfast bars. The event had a break for lunch where attendees could eat in downtown Ypsilanti while hosts were brought food. How does an event such as this end? By cracking open a cold one and relaxing with other attendees.
“It’s the biggest surprises that are connecting people,” Eslinger said. “We want to continue to grow that so people don’t feel isolated and don’t know what to do with their creativity.”