The Portland Creative Conference is an exploration and celebration of the creative process across various creative industries. We feature presentations from leading creatives who take the audience inside their creative process and talk about their projects, problems, influences and inspirations. Attendees (mostly creative industries professionals) become inspired and motivated in new ways, viewing their work world with a fresh perspective and new ideas.
Steve Gehlen is the Chairman of the Conference and the curator of the program, including Speaker selection. The goal is to deliver a program that professionals from any creative industry will find valuable, inspirational, and motivational; while also giving them an opportunity to grow their professional network.
A dedicated team of volunteers who believe in the mission and cause of the event help to make it happen.
The Portland Creative Conference is a non-profit fundraiser for Keeping the Arts, a 501(c)3 public charity that provides financial support to K-12 arts education programs in Oregon, with a focus on underserved rural communities. Keeping the Arts was co-founded by Gehlen and Valerie Day of Nu Shooz fame.
The Conference was founded in 1990 by Will Vinton (founder of Will Vinton Studios, now known as LAIKA) and a core team of creative leaders in Portland at the time. The goal was to put Portland on the map as a place where uniquely creative work was happening. By the mid-90’s the event was being attended by people from up and down the West Coast (and New York) and was a key foundational component to developing the creative reputation that Portland enjoys today.
The event featured some of the top creative talents of the day from film, television, advertising and digital media. It was produced and managed by a volunteer Board of Directors, led by Vinton and Executive Director CJ Glazer.
The original Conference run ended after 9/11. The Conference was supposed to happen on 09/14 that year and as a result of the disruption the original non-profit organization went bankrupt and the Conference went dark.
In 2008 Steve Gehlen—an original Conference Board member from 1991 to 2001—brought the Conference back with Vinton’s blessing, this time as a fundraiser for Keeping the Arts, a 501(c)3 public charity Gehlen co-founded. Keeping the Arts provides financial support to K-12 arts education programs in Oregon, mostly in underserved rural communities. As of 2016 KTA has granted over $85,000 to such programs.
The new edition of the Conference is still focused exclusively on the creative process, but the number of creative industries that speakers and attendees come from has expanded greatly.
Gehlen assembled a team of key volunteers, including some original Board members, to produce and manage the event.
After taking a break from 2012 – 2014 for personal reasons, Gehlen brought the Conference back stronger than ever in 2015.