What Happened To CenPhoCamp?

Tyler HurstBlog3 Comments

I’m seldom completely satisfied with the work I do and what I ship. There’s always something that could have been done better, could have been started earlier and could have been promoted more. My life has been filled with rough drafts turned in as final copies, last-minute scrambling being good enough and a general sense of ‘I did the best with what I had–and it’s pretty good–but had I not deliberately sabotaged myself, what I shipped would have been better.’

That’s not to say I’m embarrassed of what I put out there, I just know that no matter what I accomplish, there’s always room to grow. CenPhoCamp, an event produced by Yuri Artibise and me in early 2010, was an event I’m quite proud of. In less than three months, we secured 16 speakers, nearly 200 attendees and helped Downtown Phoenix residents and interested parties meet and share ideas.

Having a conference by itself doesn’t really do anything, but like the #occupyphoenix protests, getting like-minded people together for any amount of time is a step in the right direction. It allows us to know for absolute certain that we are not alone, that we have support and that all we need to do is look for it.

CenPhoCamp was originally planned to be a twice-yearly event. I’d hoped to keep the costs down by not providing any prizes, not charging admission (Cronkite won’t allow us to use the facility at a discount if we did) and not paying for much of anything. The first time, it worked. Thanks to Yuri and the interest of many Downtown Phoenix people, along with plenty of people I’m proud to call friends, we raised enough money to cover all the bills (around $700).

The conference, while not huge, was self sustaining, fairly simple to organize and, thankfully, attracted the kind of people willing to do the work to make Downtown Phoenix and the greater metro area a little closer and a little more like a ‘real’ community. The key here, and this goes for the organizers as well as the volunteers and the speakers, is that everyone involved really cared. There were no big names to be jealous of and no hidden agenda or sponsorship pitches, just a group of concerned citizens looking to make things better.

But it was not to be. My passion and ability to sacrifice paying work for public good isn’t infinite, and the second CenPhoCamp was a failure. I thought the success of the original event would carry into the next and I’d be able to do less work but still get the same reaction. I thought that the community I hoped to help would know what they needed to do in order to make CenPhoCamp 2 even more awesome, but was misguided.

Few people showed up, fewer still knew about it and I left that day feeling like I let everyone down. In truth, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I had already made plans to move to downtown Chandler so Katie and I would be closer to Gangplank and CenPhoCamp 2 was my last-ditch effort to absolve myself both of the guilt I carried for being so brutally honest with too many people and my way of saying: “See Downtown Phoenix? You fuckers may hate me now, but you’ll miss me when I’m gone.”

This attitude killed it. I lacked the drive and excitement from the first go around, and it showed. Soon after, I transferred the ownership of the domain to Catrina Kahler and the Downtown Phoenix Journal, who seemed like an obvious choice to take what I had started and run with it. Boy, I was really wrong there, too. While I don’t have all the details, from what I gather she wanted a keynote, more sponsors and more city involvement–none of which I thought would work.

As such, the website sits frozen, still displaying the talks from October 2010. Now that it’s been a year, I’ve given up hope in reviving CenPhoCamp, but hope that the conversations it hoped to inspire are still happening elsewhere.

And I know where I failed. Simon Sinek, some famous designer dude, recently spoke at a 99% conference about the importance of trust in building culture. Seeing as how most conferences are built to be temporary experiences that foster permanent community (credit to Jose Gonzalez and Bill Binder), they are integral steps in maintaining and building communities (not conferences per se, but gatherings of like-minded people in the same time and space). All of this requires us to trust each other. It requires us to know, not hope, but know that if we try and fail, we have people who will pick us up so we can try again. It requires that we have people who are willing to work together to make things greater than ourselves.

I’ve lost that trust. Deservedly or not, I can’t shake the feeling that most of the Phoenix business community that knows who I am doesn’t like or respect me and because of that, I don’t trust them. This has more to do with me than anyone else, as I like things done a certain way and I’m not usually willing to listen to people who seemingly have only one mode: telling other people that they’re wrong without offering up solutions.

And now I’ve completely lost my point, so it’s time to sum up: CenPhoCamp died because I don’t trust anyone and that attitude has convinced me that no one trusts me, either. I’m envious of what Mark Dudlik and team (and by team I mean Dave Bjorn and everyone Dave has managed to instill a sense of self worth in, including Dudlik) have done with Phoenix Design Week. They started out with an idea that didn’t need buy in from other people and executed it the way they promised they would.

It worked because that community trusts each other. And it shows. I don’t, and I failed.

Tyler HurstWhat Happened To CenPhoCamp?

3 Comments on “What Happened To CenPhoCamp?”

  1. Amanda Blum

    you’re being too hard on yourself. these things don’t happen in a vacuum. Phoenix has long struggled w community, despite all the hoohah, and I myself could never make anything happen there conference wise. Chandler is different, and that’s a hard pill for me, personally, to swallow, because it disappoints me about Phoenix. 
    Don’t see yourself as a failure. I see you as a success, for having put the event together, once, successfully. You showed what could happen and now its really up to the community to support it and carry it forward. I actually see so little of it as being about trust, and see it all as being about want. Both on the part of the community and the organizers. Dudlik and Bjorn did create something amazing, but its also something that clearly, the community was ready for. Despite the mythological beginnings of PDW, there was a great groundswell of the design community in Phoenix over the last 10 years, there was support for such an event from the community. That it was produced really well was due to the organizers. Its two fold. 

    CenPhoCamp couldn’t fail due to just one half or the other. it requires both. So cut yourself some slack. 

  2. Deb

    Phoenix is just too geographically spread out to have much if any civic cohesiveness. The city made an attempt to rectify that with the ‘village’ concept, which has had mixed results. And now since downtown is rapidly gentrifying, it’s all a moot point anyway – the steel and glass types have totally taken over and any culture and character that downtown possessed will soon be demolished in the name of “progress.” So don’t feel bad, Tyler, you did good while you were there. Chandler is more compact and seems to be more favorable towards modernizing without losing too much of its agricultural cultural roots, you’re better off there. [of course, I’ll never leave central Phoenix, but my life is carefully crafted to a small radius so as to create my own little village, so the folks who are busily destroying what an intrepid group of artists and urban pioneers created when they rescued downtown from the old Duce days can do what they want, we’ll just stick to our own part of town].

    1. Tyler Hurst

      Yeah, I noticed that, too. Social media helped us all connect, but once it became too popular (“normal” people and endless commercialization), it became too much of a hassle to keep up.

      I’m watching Portland go through a huge growth spurt right now, too. The residents are taking it…poorly.

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