Tulsa Creative Engine is a local nonprofit that supports and amplifies Tulsa's creative talent. From September 16th - 18th, TCE is hosting its second Spark Summit at this year's Dreamland Music Festival. As a sponsor of Spark Summit 2022, we are sharing a two part interview series of the founders of TCE and Dreamland.
We sat with TCE Co-Founder and Executive Director Chris Davis to hear the story of how Spark Summit, through Tulsa Creative Engine and Dreamland, came to be.
ABeginning: Building the Creative Ecosystem
"At Tulsa Creative Engine, we intend to make Tulsa a global hub for culture by investing in artists and developing assets to support the creative community. My involvement and the idea of TCE began when I moved back to Tulsa in 2016. I have always been passionate about music and arts, and culture. My background is in public relations, marketing, and communications, and I have worked with Coca-Cola and pro-athletes, among other things, in my career. Over the years, I would come back to Tulsa for Christmas and go to local venues and was always blown away by the level of talent that exists in our city.
"I learned about all the local artists and their vision for the kind of city they wanted to create with their music, and I was inspired. I was also shocked to learn that in our music scene, there were only artists. In an ecosystem that fosters creativity, business people, marketing people, managers, publicists, and stylists must be involved. So, I saw an opportunity to invest in the infrastructure around the artists. If we want Tulsa to be known as a global cultural hub, we need more than just talented people. You need the rest of that supporting cast surrounding the talent."
A Culmination of Minds: Working with Steph Simon
"In my spare time, I began working with artists writing their bios, helping them draft emails to journalists, and doing anything I could to use my skill set in that community. I also started learning about some of the philanthropy going on in the Tulsa area. Our city leaders want Tulsa to be a vibrant cultural hub. They want people to move to Tulsa and creative people from here to stay here. I started developing relationships in the business, philanthropic, and artist communities. Then I began to understand that I could be that bridge between those two worlds because, on one side, you have talented artists (there is nothing more potent in American culture than Hip Hop music). On the other side, you have city leaders asking the questions, "How do we get people to move here?" and "How do we make Tulsa cool?" I felt that everything Tulsa needed to grow was already here in our Hip Hop culture. If the Hip Hop scene and the broader music scene are invested in it, our city will have many good outcomes.
"Steph Simon and I have known each other for about six years. At the time, Steph had developed the World Culture Music Festival. It was a very DIY celebration of music and culture that he put together with no budget, just him and his friends putting together a performance at the Sound Pony and the Yeti. I started helping him build the business infrastructure, get sponsorship, and raise funds to build the festival for a few years. We had the 'Fire in Little Africa' project that we did together."
A Spark: Connecting the Summit and Dreamland
"For me, Tulsa Creative Engine was always in the back of my mind because I felt that our local artists needed management and teams. We needed to build the infrastructure for our artists so that they have the ability to be competitive in the music industry. That's when I met Tyrance Billingsley II and Bianca Caampued, the other two founders, and really just started talking about the need I was seeing in the music scene. We put our heads together around ways that we could create resources to develop the creative ecosystem and directly support Tulsa artists. That was how TCE was born. We have launched a variety of programs in 2022, like an Artist Accelerator Program, Spark Studios, Frequency, Select Showcase, and Groundwaves, but the Spark Summit was the first program that we launched in October 2021.
"We saw the need for a conference to bring creative leaders together, breaking down the silos between technology, business, and art. We wanted to bring leaders in Tulsa to a single space to have conversations about the city we are all building together.So we launched a super pilot version of Spark Summit, but we still had over 200 people show up. It was a two-day event that primarily took place at Holberton Tulsa. We all left that weekend feeling really inspired. We always had the vision for Spark Summit to grow, especially with my work with Steph and his work to rebrand World Culture Music Festival to Dreamland Festival. I always felt that there was a lot of alignment between having a music festival and a conference happening at the same time.
"So, Steph and I decided to join these two things as one event. Dreamland is three days of music and art and celebrating culture, primarily highlighting Tulsa-based artists but also bringing in headliners from across the country."
A Big Weekend
"It'll be a block party. Everything at Spark Summit is free to attend; you just need to RSVP. We recommend that patrons arrive early to guarantee admission because space is limited.
Friday, 9/16: Spark Summit will be held at the main stage in front of Holberton, and Dreamland Music Festival will be taking place within The Vanguard, The Hunt Club, and Soundpony.
Saturday, 9/17: Spark Summit has panels in the morning, and Dreamland will have its local and headlining performances throughout the day.
"If you aren't a creative, it's still 918 Day weekend, and we believe in celebrating our Tulsa community on that special weekend. There is something for everyone at Dreamland and Spark Summit. There will be musical performances all weekend long, interesting panel conversations, and speakers. We are creating a special environment with art and lights on the street. We think people are going to want to check Dreamland and Spark Summit out and experience it."