Chris Cloud, a Culture Maker

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What is the connection between pizza, camping, dance parties and online video networks? There is none, unless you’re peering into the mind of Chris Cloud, who is an irrepressible cultural instigator. Chris will be a keynote speaker at Camp COCO, Oct. 9-11, 2015.

We asked Chris to tell us about his own creative journey and what he’s discovered along the way…

How do you describe your work and what kinds of things you do?
I’m a Culture Maker that connect people and ideas. Sometimes the ides are my own and sometimes they are the ideas of others. I love collaboration and think the Do-It-Together way leads to more fruitful results for everyone involved. I create art. I recently had a solo exhibition at the Rochester Art Center and attended an art residency at Elsewhere, a museum set in a former thrift shop where nothing is for sale. I organize events like 90s/00s dance parties and Pizza Camps. I was the co-founder of collaborative projects like MPLS.TV, a video-centric network and MPLSzine, a digital publication. I have also given talks at TEDxUMN and CreativeMornings Minneapolis.

What is your origin story? How did you become a Culture Maker?
I felt an awakening in Spring of 2010. I had just launched MPLS.TV with a team of collaborators and we were producing episodes at that point. I went to a Conversations About The Future Of Advertising with Faris Yakob at the Fine Line Music Cafe and was totally inspired to learn more about the rapidly changing digital world. A week after that talk, I won an award for creativity and immediately started to call myself a Thinkdoer, one of who as an idea and then actively executes it. I was reading as much forward-thinking books and presentations as I possibly could. I started to curate this content and share with the world as well as apply it to MPLS.TV. That’s when that project really opened up, when we started to collaborate with the Minneapolis community and allowed people all over the city to pitch ideas. Since then it’s been one project after another.

What was the trial-and-error process by which you arrived at your first measure of success? (however you choose do define the word)
One of the early successes of MPlS.TV, was a live music video series called City of Music. It was a part of our regular episodic programming and continued on to be picked up by Pitchfork. This wouldn’t have been possible without just trying ideas out. It was so amazing to see something that started out in Isles Bun & Coffee blossom into a thriving video series on an international music platform.

What was the moment where you figured out who you are and what your superpower is?
Winning that award for creativity really opened the door in my head for validating my view of myself as a ‘creative’ – I had been working in Information Technology and it was nice to see others see me as creative too. That really propelled me to learn and discover myself more and find that connecting people and ideas is my superpower.

What was your darkest moment along the way?
One of the darkest moments along the way was about 6 years ago. It was the first MPLS.TV public viewing ever. We had no clue what we were doing. We had rented the space above Nomad World Pub, which used to be called the West Bank Social Center. There was about 80 eager viewers and tastemakers packed into the tiny space to see the work we had been creating. We queued up the 25GB video file and tried to get it to play. No luck. After 45 minutes of trying to get the file to play, we had to send everyone home.

How did you develop the resilience and perseverance to get through that moment? (and all the other moments of doubt, frustration, etc.)
Sending everyone home only motivated us to push harder and refine the product. It was definteily a learning experience. We failed twice again at events in the months following that one but finally seem to get it right as the organization grew older. We never gave up. We learned from our mistakes. We believed in ourselves. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

What do you say to people who hear your story and think to themselves: “I want to be like him.” “I want to have an impact.” “I want to make my mark.”
I want to encourage them! There’s nothing stopping you. Sometimes you have the quiet the resistance, both internal and extenral, and be like Nike and JUST DO IT!

What purpose has driven you until now?
At the end of the day, I am just trying to continue to make my mother proud. It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. That is what really drives me.