The sun brightened Market Square, a plaza in Downtown, Pittsburgh with a variety of eateries, like the place that sells french fries on the sandwiches, legendary Primanti Bros. Corporate skyscrapers such as PPG Place, Tower at PNC Plaza, and the Highmark building surround the square.
People ate, conversed, and enjoyed the beautiful weather at metal tables along the rim of the square. Meanwhile, Cody Baker and Chancelor Humphrey's long strides carried them up Market Street past Market Street Grocery, through the center of the square, and to a table where myself and the two Pittsburgh advocates held a conversation.
The young men wear a contemporary style easily noticeable amongst Pittsburgh's blue-collar fashion. Both dressed in T-shirt and tailored jeans with smart footwear, Baker wore pure, white adidas ultra boost, and Humphrey sported black and white Asics.
Baker and Humphrey's movement together started two years ago when they met at Social Status, a sneaker and streetwear apparel boutique with locations in Pittsburgh's Downtown and East Liberty. They bonded over a love for visual art, photography specifically. Their lenses captured cityscapes, each other, friends, and locals.
To those who support and watch the duo, their actions are a feature film on Pittsburgh's creative community.
Baker's natural ability to create content around what he eats, what he drinks, and what he wears matches Humphrey's desire to photograph attitude, fashion, and life of Pittsburgh style.
Both their brands center around the arts and communal gatherings in the city. Before they met, each had a hand in the scene.
Baker worked at Studio A.M. as star painter Baron Batch's photographer. Also, when Baker first moved to Pittsburgh from Chippewa in Beaver County, Pa., he was employed in the restaurant industry. His opportunity there allowed him to handle social media and visual content for NOLA, Perlé, Poros, Seviche, and Sonoma, all restaurants in Downtown and Market Square. Baker has had galleries around town, like photo exhibition "NINELIVES" which shows humans positioned falling in various scenes set in the city.
Humphrey, originally from Aliquippa, Pa., began with a blog called Radio Chumps to document news in the close metropolitan area. When the project did not gain traction, and he took inspiration from a trip to New York, he shifted his focus to lifestyle photography on the streets of Pittsburgh. His company and Instagram called Keep Pittsburgh Dope showcases local people's businesses, clothes, and events.
Now, as individuals and as a team Baker and Humphrey consistently bring many people of Pittsburgh together. They "hold events that inspire people to do something," Humphrey says.
At one point, it was not uncommon to hear somebody from the city say "there's never anything to do." However, young people currently take direct action to change this and give activities for people to do.
When outsiders say Pittsburgh is a town of yinzers and jersey-wearing sports fanatics that irritates Baker. While the statement is true, there is more to the city, especially creatively.
"The biggest thing is to do cool shit that will inspire other people to do their own cool shit," Baker says.
A positively overwhelming response came when Baker and Humphrey cohesively launched their Creatives Drink series, "three hours of positive people, good music, and free drinks." More literally a party that connects and features the best parts of Pittsburgh from its businesses to its creatively driven residents.
"You don't need fifteen hundred followers to get 500 people in a space. You just have to have a good idea," Baker says. Although, he and Keep Pittsburgh Dope pull from strong followings on social media platforms. Baker swears by Snapchat. He makes a lot of Geofilters and viewers regularly see what he has for lunch. "I'm always in the restaurants... Pittsburgh food is amazing," he says as he sits surrounded by three of the five restaurants he is the social media manager for. Keep Pittsburgh Dope is ranked under "Pittsburgh's Best Instagram Accounts" by Pittsburgh Magazine, and his numerous posts are appealing.
Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, Baker and Humphrey utilize online networks to draw people into a unified space. This advertising skill reaches a diverse range of people, and it reflects in the event turnouts.
Baker hosts monthly the Market Street Block Party along with Market Street Grocery in Downtown. Creatives Drink tours around town to bars, coffee shops, hotels, and more. Nicknamed CD, CD5 was at an art museum called Mattress Factory located on the North Side.
The reason community members love Creatives Drink is because it supports local business and the events have representatives from ambitious and progressive audiences. "These venues are hungry for our generation. They are willing to work with us. They see it on social media, and they need to get in that realm because they need us," Humphrey says.
CD's perspective is welcoming and has an attractive model because the events are free.
Having attended CD5, when CD6 opened at East Liberty's Ace Hotel on August 11, 2016, others and I were thrilled. Dancing to music, having a drink, linking with friends, meeting new people, and participating in local experiences are the reasons Creatives Drink is fun.
On a Thursday the event was held, room occupancy numbers became relevant. Inside the former Y.M.C.A. now known as Ace Hotel, Baker and Humphrey hosted Pittsburgh creatives in a 107-year old gymnasium with an occupancy written at 304. After the first hour of the event slated for 6-9 p.m., CD6 reached capacity. Throughout the night multiple hundreds of kids and adults filtered in and around Ace Hotel.
This event is the type where you want to check the tabloids to learn of the who's who doing the what's what that were there.
While outside taking pictures of the long line of people waiting for CD6 that extended through the gym doors, past the lobby, and onto the street, a blue and red-ish accented Porsche 996 Carrera 4S zoomed by. It was an art car painted by vaunted artist Baron Batch. Matthew DeSantis drives the car around Pittsburgh alerting people of the supercar community and his automotive event, Art and Exotics coming in late August. Rapper Mars Jackson arrived wearing a "Mars Knows" T-shirt designed by the owner of FarESH Brand, Ryan Brown, who also attended. The musician was not the only musical talent in the vicinity. Inside, DILLIS, a.k.a. Moth Boy and Cleveland import DJ Topgun were live. DJ Pete Butta played music all night setting the tone. The youthful crowd was most excited when he played "Antidote" by Travis Scott and "Beautiful morning, you're the sun in my morning babe," from Kanye West's song "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1." Radar picked up art curator Sean Beauford's presence. Advanced marketer Natalie Coccia, or "Nattles," was there to document and support her friends and beauty Athens lured eyes. Magician Lee Terbosic entertained the circle of people who watched his card tricks.
Sounds of a person flying an RC toy plane caught attention. Rather, a drone flew in the rafters of Ace Hotel's gym capturing a bird's-eye view of Creatives Drink 6. "This is a cool party," a guy named Aadam said as he gazed at the flying camera.
Both Baker and Humphrey provide settings where people can enjoy themselves. The best part though is that they bring the whole city out when they do. Baker and Humphrey plan to do more of the same on each Thursday to end August. They will host an Instagram meet-up with Verizon, Steel City Grammers, and more on Hotel Monaco's Downtown rooftop. Market Street Block Party will re-occur on August 25.
Creating their own gathering space for people is part of Baker and Humphrey's long-term vision. "We want to create a space where you can conduct an interview in, where you can have a meeting in, where you can come and work, and find inspiration in," Baker says. Plans are still coming together, but the venue will be dynamic and open a lot, so it is convenient.
"We are trying to build a new identity for Pittsburgh outside of sports. In the creative realm, we are a part of this wave, and we live in the perfect city where the market is not over saturated. 30 years from now we want our names stamped in Pittsburgh," Humphrey says.
From the pair, people learn to believe in their own ideas and have the confidence to present them to the public. The time is now.
[View ITR's photos from C.D. 6 at CreativesDrink.com.]