York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Creativity Unleashed at 5: Growing arts/design community is helping define York, Pa, but is the brand driving that?

designThe Creativity Unleashed logo is atop its Facebook page devoted to this idea: ‘We are America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital.’ It was introduced to York in December 2014. It caught the eye of Chris Hertig, a York County resident, and that kicked off an engaging and important discussion about Creativity Unleashed on the  ‘Fixing York’ Facebook page. Also of interest: Tin man ponders York County’s past, present and future.

Chris Hertig has a lot of good ideas about community and history and life in York County.

So I always check out his guest columns in the York Sunday News and his posts on social media.

Here was one recent Hertig post on Fixing York, a York Daily Record-moderated Facebook group devoted to improving the quality of life in the city:

“Check this out!

“I never heard of this until recently.”

He pointed to this Facebook page – York County: Creativity Unleashed  – and the logo atop this page.

I waited a few days to see what type of engagement or response his post received from the page’s 1,500 fans.

The arts community is flourishing in York, but one rarely hears a reference to the themes of ‘Creativity Unleashed’ or ‘America’s Industrial Art & Design Capital.’

So I underscored some of the Creativity Unleashed ideas,  spawned by consultant Roger Brooks just over five years ago, before the Fixing York audience.

Here’s that dialogue, edited and excerpted:


LOCAL. Melanie Gaskins works off of her ipad as she paints a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, Jan. 19. 2013. Artists helped complete a mural project for the national day of service associated with MLK day that reflect King's message. YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--JASON PLOTKIN
Another concrete illustration of Creativity Unleashed: Melanie Gaskins brings new technology, her iPad, to old-fashioned free hand art in painting a portrait of Martin Luther King. York has been good at bringing technology (often big machines) to bear on problems to create solutions.

Jim McClure: “That this post didn’t gain much ‘like,’ ‘sharing’ or ‘commenting’ love might be another indication that the Creativity Unleashed idea put up by consultant Roger Brooks didn’t formally catch on. The idea is illustrated by the image below: You have a mural pointing to York’s industrial past in which craftsmen worked with their heads/hearts/hands on the east side of a growing Marketview Arts venue for contemporary artists/designers, who work in the same way as their forebears. The creativity of the past and present shake hands. Yet even without the stickiness of the formal Creativity Unleashed brand, the growing arts community is helping define the city. Still, it seems the city – and the county for that matter – is in search of identity. Hershey has chocolate. Gettysburg, an epic battle for freedom. Lancaster, Amish and tourism. What is our brand? What do we stand for? What personality do we present? How do our residents – and visitors – interact with us?”

  • Jim McClure's photo.Marketview Arts with the York Barbell mural of its side.
    Chris Hertig:  “York, Pennsylvania: Where It All Began” keeps ringing in my head. There are so many early initiatives/firsts here. The problem seems to be that they are 2nd tier events rather than 1st tier. Perhaps that concept of firsts/early innovations can be molded into a brand with the Creativity Unleashed.
    Jane E. Heller: What personality? How about “conservatism”? That ‘s the “German” background for many of the county residents, and it effects large parts of decision making here. Lancaster had the advantage of influence from the Phila. area plus 2 well known, 4 year colleges bringing in newcomers. This city and county, to survive must focus on bringing good, new jobs in while also extolling the architectural heritage.
    Greg Halpin: In my mind “Creativity Unleashed” in and of itself doesn’t say anything. When you have to explain the catchphrase for folks to know what it means, it’s probably not a good catchphrase.

    I put it up there with the banners for the “Market District” showing an image of the gears sculpture. Although a nice piece of art, it doesn’t say “Market” to me in any way.
    Blanda Nace: The brand is strong, we have been using it with HR professionals who needed something to tell prospects about York. York makes things.
    We always have. Part of the reason why is because we designed things. Industrial Art is not about canvas and acrylics, but about the art of design.
    Chris Hertig: Maybe “Creativity Unleashed” is good as a second brand – something that needs some explanation; the 3-second perusal of a brochure cover after the 3-second decision to pick it up.
    We need an initial brand that is distinctive and instantly understood.
    – Matthew Fhwdgad Davis –  I like being the Devil’s Advocate on this. I like the brand and look and all that jazz. I don’t think it can be a draw though. More importantly, industrial art is expensive, and there’s only so many people who can do that before it’s saturated.
    On the point of “we make things.” That has always felt to me as an echo of the death cries of American production as a whole. We sit here and claim we make things while some of the largest manufacturers leave. Each of those things you say identify those other areas – Amish and tourism in Lancaster, for example, aren’t things that can easily leave.

    I don’t know what identity is useful. Like I said, I like industrial design, but how much real traffic is that going to bring in? How many truly “creative” things are happening and being exported for the world to see and bring them to York?

    As someone said, this is a second tier identity. We have to create one as opposed to those other places having that identity whether they like it or not. They just have to embrace it.

    Jim McClure: Very glad that at some level the ‘unleashed’ idea is useful and works. I do think that understanding this celebration of craftsmen and artisans across generations takes work – more work than some well-meaning and conscientious citizens will do. I’ll put up 3 photos below that have helped me understand the “unleashed” idea a bit more. Maybe it will you, too.

    Jim McClure's photo.

Colorful, metal flowers seen in the city (the new York that is welcoming to artists) are made from old industrial parts (fine craftsmanship of old red-brick factory York).



What is Creativity Unleashed?

“Home to some of the finest industrial designers and artists in the mid-Atlantic region, York is Creativity Unleashed. Our manufacturers and their skilled employees design and craft some of the finest motorcycles, violins, packaging containers and aeronautic parts in America. They design and build leading robotic systems that help companies move into tomorrow… and produce interior wall coverings that find their way all over the world.

“The same ingenuity that redesigned our country’s industrial production in the 1940s, does not end with manufacturing.  From pioneering new ways to combine applied design with industrial science to adorning our public spaces with art recycled from our past, to young professionals pooling their funds to challenge us to create game-changing ideas for the community; to sharing a dream of communal work space, resources, ideas, and passions, to build new business ventures … and then making that dream a reality. Creativity is in our businesses, our shops, our workers, our artists and our schools… it’s in our blood.  Creativity Unleashed is our heritage.

“York is a magnet and a wellspring for innovators.  This is a place where creative people in all careers will find jobs that inspire them to unleash their talents. A passion and community spirit has been ignited as an indescribable spark, delivering the benefits of an enriched quality of life. York is where you can have it all: a challenging and rewarding career, deep and engaging relationships, community impact, valuable education, and lifelong memories.”

– CreativityUnleashed.com

Here’s a visible ‘sign’ of the forging of York County’s industrial art and design heritage into the theme, ‘Creativity Unleashed.’ Making art from scrap points to efforts in York to transition its heavy-industry past into a service-0riented future. Fittingly, the Industrial Plaza, seen here, is the former York Corporation/Borg-Warner complex, maker of huge refrigeration equipment with thousands of artfully made, precision parts.


Creativity Unleashed:
The brand York County is destined to be

“A group of concerned business professionals think now is the time for change. They hired nationally acclaimed consultant Roger Brooks to study the entire York County community and identify our own unique brand. He recognized that our strength lies in our manufacturing base and the creativity of its workers. We don’t just manufacture products here, we create things here.

“We don’t make one specific product — but everything we do has a common thread of creativity: from snack foods to robotics, from the tilt-in window to ergonomic bottles, from handcrafted violins to the best motorcycles in the world, from mints to barbells.

York County has created many firsts, feats and innovations used by millions throughout the world. It’s all about ingenuity. It’s about finding new ways to combine applied design with industrial science. All of these authentic factors combine to create York
County’s brand — America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital.

“York County companies offer great jobs — creative and otherwise — but need help recruiting and competing with other communities. Workers need to have a community that serves their personal aspirations and their professional needs. Our municipalities need help drawing new businesses to the area. Our schools attract and create great students — but then they move away. To make real change happen, York County needs to embrace our true brand and be proud to tell anyone and everyone about it.

“There is an initiative underway known as Creativity Unleashed to brand York County and show our strengths as America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital. We are on the forefront of showing everyone the power of being creative. It’s the place where innovative workers gravitate to find jobs that allow them to unleash their creativity and enjoy a rich standard of living.

“We cannot wait for things to happen by themselves; we have to tell our story and create our own future. We CAN continue to build our community, restore pride and compete on a regional and national scale, IF we live, breathe and BE our brand. It’s already part of us. We just have to tell the world.

“Just like businesses have to differentiate themselves with a brand, so do communities; think of Lancaster, Hershey, Gettysburg: Amish Country, Chocolate, the Civil War. So now, what do you think of when I say York County? Think of us as America’s Industrial Art and Design Capital. Think of us as Creativity Unleashed!

– Excerpted guest column by Steve Gohn is president of CBY Systems Inc., in the York Sunday News, Jan. 13, 2013

This North George Street sculpture, a cross between the Tinman and The Thinker, aka The Tinker, pulls together many threads, or should we say, strands of wire. As I wrote in this post – Tin Man ponders – he might be pondering the past, present and particularly the future. Yes, the future. Will this type of promotion make a difference in a city dealing with financial, educational and other weighty problems? Will the service age promoted by present-day artisans sufficiently replace York City’s red-brick factory past? This is certain: The spirit behind this artwork and other efforts to revive York show that the city, unlike the Tin Man early in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ is no empty kettle and has a heart.