Editor’s note: Tucked off Kennedy Street in DC is one of my favorite places in the city–Culture Coffee. It’s a tiny gem, easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. It isn’t one of those pretentious and overcrowded coffee shops. Instead it’s a space that serves as a coffee shop, art gallery and performance venue. Yes, yes and yes.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to link up with Austin Weatherington, co-founder and curator of IntellectuCOOL, at my favorite spot. Finding other people just doing dope things in DC is sometimes a difficult task. It’s not like NYC where the city is buzzing with different events that are well-known and easy to find. So, I appreciated when Austin reached out after seeing “See. Speak. Feel.” posted on Eventbrite. We had the chance to talk about all things writing, creative and even what it meant to reach (or get ready to reach) some milestone birthdays. In this Q&A, Austin discusses his own creative journey, how IntellectuCOOL got started and who his biggest influence is (among other things). Meet Austin.
Name: Austin Jamal- Depree Weatherington
Location: Washington, DC
Tell us more about your creative journey.
My creative journey, ehh? I assume what I now understand as my creative journey started sometime back in 06’. I was a hooper in college and around that time I knew that dribbling a basketball wasn’t in my post-graduate plans. It’s funny because at that time the creative landscape was much different than it is now. The word “creative” had far less cache attached to it. Back then, when I thought of art or being a “creative” I thought of neutral color mock-neck sweaters with a matching slouchy beret. I was very naive, perhaps even adversarial to creative labels. I knew I enjoyed words, and at that time I was really getting into Facebook and spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to impress my 123 friends with quasi-clever social observations and mildly humorous “notes” (remember those on Facebook?). So I coupled my love for the written word, with my lifelong addiction to talking, and majored in communications. In many ways I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that degree. I walked across the stage and into this trap we call an economy, and truthfully I’ve been journeying ever since… writing, procrastinating, writing, blogging, self-preserving, in-and-out of relationships. I think this past year more than any other time I began “creating”- and really bringing concepts to life.
How did IntellectuCOOL get started? How does the brand reflect your creative roots?
So IntellectuCOOL began under the umbrella of The Smugger, which I am still very much a part of. The Smugger is an online minority men’s lifestyle platform, and collective of people. It was 2013 and The Smugger was thinking of ways to galvanize our base and bring to life some of the topics and things that were taking place on the site. I was tired of the going out options here in DC and thought we could present a cool alternative for others who felt the same. I wanted an experience where people could get together, share good energy and good music, yet still have an intellectual appeal. I had the concept half-way down but didn’t have the name. One night while eating yogurt the name came to me, and I sent the email the same night, and the rest has been history. IntellectuCOOL no longer exists under The Smugger umbrella; it stands alone as it’s own business. Moral of the story: eat more yogurt.
In terms of the creative roots question, I believe that IntellectuCOOL is the perfect platform to serve my creativity. I’d like to think that most of my creativity has purpose attached to it, so the brand is versatile enough to engage people with meaningful topics, yet pliable enough to accommodate the spontaneity that stems from artistic expression. In many ways my mind doesn’t always associate serious topics and questions with traditional solutions. In a past life, I was that cool liberal history teacher that never used the book, yet fully engaged and educated his students, changing the way they looked at history forever. My name would be Mr. Radcliffe, don’t ask me why.
IntellectuCOOL is a platform that fosters conversation through creativity. What does that mean and how is it reflected in the work you do?
So we like to think of IntellectuCOOL as more of an experience that folks can benefit from versus a product looking for a market. Our aim is to make conversation cool. It’s a platform where creatives/artists, intellectuals and the ideas that inspire them can be better understood. We focus a lot on concepts, understanding that based off experience and perspective people are going to draw their own conclusions about many of our topics and scenarios. However, the diverse mix of people and perspectives, coupled with the overall great energy and communal vibe, serve as the perfect atmosphere to explore your experiences and views on certain topic.
IntellectuCOOL is a partnership between you and co-founder Vic. How do you all work together? What is it like to advance a vision alongside someone else?
Vic and I work really well together. We both have our strong points but have done a great job of trusting one another to this point and that’s cool. We don’t step on each others toes, yet we get things accomplished. I think a lot of that has to do with both of us having vision. We both see great things for the brand and that fuels our work. We’re at a place where our brand is only going to go as far as our vision can take us. I’m really open to exploring his ideas, as is he of mine.
So this is where it gets a little weird; Vic when you read this, please forgive me. I don’t have any children so IntellectuCOOL is the one thing at this level of maturity I can say I’ve birthed and am now watching develop. I see Vic and I as “Partents” (partners-parents). Needless to say we’re very protective, and are just now entertaining the idea of playdates. Although we understand it takes a village to raise a child, we are seeing great progress with us being the sole source of guidance. That said, our child is growing, and continues to amaze us daily. I can say that Vic has been an amazing partent who has more than carried his weight. Too much?
IntellectuCOOL recently teamed up with the Mousai House to host The Grey Area, an event exploring life’s undefined spaces through poetry, art, dance and discussion. Looking back on the event, what was your favorite part and what is one thing you would have changed?
Yes. shout out to the cool people over there at Mousai. They were great throughout the process and serve as an awesome space and resource for local artists. Looking back I think the turnout, the energy, and performances were all amazing. The one thing I would’ve changed was the way we set-up the space.
What can we expect from the next IntellectuCOOL event?
Being more interactive. We will have an atmosphere where participants can engage and interact with each other more.
What’s your artistic mantra?
See the end at the beginning. That way you’ll know what to do in the middle.
Who are some of your greatest influences?
Only one–my mother.
What are you currently reading?
A play actually, The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson.
Austin Weatherington is a writer and multi-media communications professional with a true passion for content creation and story development. He’s always, always, always looking to collaborate with people on things. Whenever, whatever, however; as long as its positive.
IntellectuCOOL on social media | IG and Twitter: @intellectuCOOL | Facebook: IntellectuCOOL
Connect with Austin on IG and Twitter: @A4aus