Merrick Porcheddu always knew she belonged in the arts. She just didn't know what her place was, exactly. But when the native Dallasite was studying at Belmont University in Nashville, where she graduated in 2006, she figured it out: Her passion was facilitating collaborations among artists working in different disciplines.
“I started to see that my love for it was more than working with musicians," she says. "It was pulling in the videographers to help shoot something, or pulling in makeup artists and dancers.” She decided then that someday she would develop a way for creatives to link up for projects and utilize each other's creative skills, and today that ambition has become the app CreateGate.
After college Porcheddu traveled the world, visiting Australia, China, Monoglia and also spending time on the U.S.'s West Coast. Throughout her travels she paid attention to creative communities and how they functioned.
When she moved back to Dallas in 2010, she quickly became acquainted with two young, up-and-coming illustrators: Joonbug, who has since relocated to Los Angeles, and New York Times best-selling author Arturo Torres.
“In 2012 I sat down with them at Buzzbrews and was like, ‘You guys are phenomenal, how can I help you?’ The main conversation we had that day was about charging people for their work. The two of them kept up and have a lot of followers and a lot of eyes on their work. Now they are making a living off of it. Sometimes it takes someone coming around you and asking, ‘How can I help you and what are your needs?'
“Over time I became a point of contact for a lot of people to call and say, ‘Hey I need to find a videographer for this shoot, or I need a model for this.’ I wasn’t running an agency; it just kind of came to me. But I realized I didn’t know all the talent in town and there needed to be a way for even me to get good advice, especially about up-and-comers.”
Meeting creatives around Dallas got Porcheddu thinking about a way to connect people with different talents through one centralized online presence that would showcase their abilities.
“There were a lot of problems I came across myself, like, 'How do I get a website when I have no money?' Or, 'How does one get press when you don’t know the writers?' 'How do I make money to support myself on top of my 9-5 job?' There are a lot of real issues that artists deal with. My mission in life is to find a way help artists make that jump. How do you get them from starting something that might be a hobby, into something they can say is a calling?”
After Porcheddu first got the idea for the app, she waited for someone else to make it first, thinking the need in Dallas was so great that someone would beat her to it. No one did. “I thought, ‘Might as well just go for it.'”
CreateGate, which launched in May, is a mobile directory app that helps generate a following for DIY artists working on shoestring budgets. It started as a website six years ago. At that time, apps were just beginning to pick up steam in creative fields.
Porcheddu consulted with her team, looking to Hipstamatic and Instagram for inspiration, and has tailored CreateGate’s accessibility and interface to fit the needs of the artists using it. She wants the platform to be simple so artists can easily upload content and market their skills.
“I’m seeing new content come in every day. This tool is only as powerful as you want to make it be. It’s like a LinkedIn for the art scene, where they can upload their CV or resume and not be charged for it.”
While it's free to upload portfolios for others to see, artists who want to sell their work have to pay a fee. The model is based on Etsy. For a $12.99 monthly fee, plus 8 percent of work sold, artists can set up a one-stop shop on the app.
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CreateGate also serves as an interactive calendar, alerting users to events that have been submitted by artists, with activities broken down by neighborhood.
“I considered L.A. or Denver for the app, and was in Idaho booking bands when I had the idea for it. I made the decision to come back to Dallas because it’s where I’m from and Dallas has the right soil for the arts and technology, and the app wouldn’t be over-saturated for me to move here. I’d rather be on the cutting edge of a city than to go into a city and have no idea what’s going on.”
Porcheddu is also releasing a hard-bound CreateGate book, highlighting the top 25 Dallas creatives, to be released in the fall. It will feature work across photography, illustration and writing, with contributions from JoonBug, writer and poet Edyka Chilome and DJ Sober, and will be released at a launch party at Common Desk on August 26.
To download the app and find more information about the launch party, visit creategate.com.