Creative Roundtable Solves Problems, Brings Innovators Together

Guest blog by Marty Swant: Brooke Fleming and James Kling bring a community of artists and entrepreneurs together each month at Birmingham Creative Roundtable.

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Photo: Creative Roundtable & The Nest

This week we welcome guest blogger Marty Swant who’ll be joining us for a series on creative collaborations in Birmingham. Marty is a writer, musician, and the very definition of a “Man about Town” — he’s so likely to be spotted at the best shows and new events in Birmingham that there’s even a hashtag, #wheresmartyswant, dedicated to spotting him. Today Marty writes about Birmingham Creative Roundtable.


When Brooke Fleming started a small art studio and store in Birmingham’s up-and-coming Woodlawn neighborhood, she quickly began seeing the importance of having a community of artists and entrepreneurs around her. Brooke, who worked in marketing before turning her focus to handmade sewn arts, wanted a venue to discuss her new venture.

“It was a struggle to sustain, so I wanted to meet other people who were in the same boat I was in,” she said.

So in February 2013, Brooke and her friend James Kling, a business development and contract manager at a local environmental firm, started a group called Birmingham Creative Roundtable. The group has developed a community among the city’s artists and entrepreneurs to foster creative collaboration.

Each monthly meeting features a speaker from around Birmingham, many of whom are respected members in their field of advertising, music, or food. Others are first-time business owners who talk about the highs and lows of taking risks to make their dreams come true. They’ve had Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s director talk about innovative fundraising for nonprofits, advertising agency executives give advice on branding, and the brains behind efforts to renovate The Lyric Theatre talk about the plan that made it happen.

The group that began as a few friends getting together for coffee and scones has now grown to dozens meeting monthly in a number of the new cool spaces across the city. Last year, they partnered with the first annual Design Week Birmingham for a talk at Hot & Hot Fish Club. The event, which drew more than 100 creatives, had a special breakfast talk with Chris Hastings. Creative Roundtable is partnering with DWB again this year to bring Atlanta-based designer Henry Owings to the second annual Birmingham Design Week this month at Sound & Page.

Brooke and James hope to grow the group even more, while also looking at ways to partner with businesses and other organizations across the city. He said the city’s creative community is a force that drives the city forward through finding and solving problems in innovative new ways.

“A very wise man once said to me, ‘A problem without a solution is a fact.’ So if we’re not working to solve problems, why are we here?”

Marty’s profile picture by Stephen Devries