CatalystCreativ Week: Downtown Vegas 

In the intersection between self-love and conscious community, exists a fully-formed wave of social reverberation known as Catalyst Week. Over the course of four days, a room full of men and women go from strangers to sharing tears, offering words of wisdom and translating how they’ve transformed tragedy into tidal waves of hope. All the while experiencing the impact of the Zappos resurgence in conjunction with the Las Vegas Downtown Project.

CatalystCreativ, founded by Amanda Slavin, functions as an incubator in the deconstruction of superfluous social barriers that inhibit our personal and collective goals of revolution.  With a mission to break free from a desensitized, impartial society, Amanda gave up her fast lane existence in New York City to make a difference that would set off a Ripple of Impact (ROI) beyond the limitations of cubicle and computer screen. In Downtown Las Vegas, where cultural renaissance is in full throttle, CatalystCreativ offers a space for humani-ties to grow stronger than isolated islands of individualism.

WildSpice had the opportunity to attend the first Catalyst Week of 2014, focused specifically upon Health and Wellness. With the purpose of illuminating the mind, body and spirit, Rochelle Schieck, Founder of Qoya, organized and led Catalyzers (i.e. entrepreneurs and artists who share a mission of positive change) through an emotionally immersive journey of physical awareness. With this, a mission to infuse community with succulent optimism for a future flushed with greater potential than preoccupation.

Utilizing dance as a direct channel to revelation, Rochelle held daily Qoya classes that urged us to “determine the physical sensation of truth in the body.” She explains that Qoya illuminates the principle that, “Through movement we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild & free.” Thus, through physically uninhibited freedom, aka dance, we allow our bodies to become portals to access the divine spark within us. Qoya’s partnership with The Carnavalesque to create workshops and retreats, known as Sensual Sundays, invite women to unleash their inhibitions via the dance abandon of Qoya alongside samba and Carnaval Queen initiation led by Devla Imperatrix Amaia. As Founder of The Carnavalesque and 2012 Rio de Janeiro Carnaval Queen, Amaia attended to support the freeing of hips and the divine feminine spirit, a keystone in her Awakening Movement, which unites the world’s most provocative and talented female performers upon one intoxicating platform.

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The speaker seres continued to gift us gems of motivational wisdom. Robin Arzon, Founder of SHUTUPANDRUN encouraged us to DO EPIC SHIT, while Rich Roll, Plantpower Advocate, told the story of his journey from couch potato to leading US UltraMan competitor all on a plant-based diet. Maja Kermouth told us of her tale in rebranding physical fitness with her brand of pilates, Kor180. And Timothy Brown, CEO of Jamie Oliver at Home encouraged us to join the food revolution and fight to “be well” for the love of our own bodies, our relationships, and for future generations.  

Embracing our unique story was a key part of the week’s discourse. Dennis Rebelo led us on a storytelling workshop, speaking as an advocate for alternative learning and education that cultivates the talents of the individual. He instills this approach as President of Alex & Ani University and urges us to consider the importance of revamping education as a pillar in the building of a better tomorrow. 

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Stories of motherhood were also a prominent part of the week’s dialogue. Arlene Samen shared the personal call to action she received from the Dalai Lama to develop a movement of easing childbirth worldwide. She went on to develop the “Network of Safety” model, saving countless lives of mothers and children worldwide. As CNN Hero and Founder of One Heart World Wide, her humble compassion continues to reach the masses and shines through her soulful eyes at every given moment. Next Denise Taylor shared her initiative, We GET To, indulging us in the story of her courageous daughter who fought leukemia and the trials of chemotherapy with positivity and the advent of Wacky Wednesdays. Taylor challenged us to change our framework of thought and remind ourselves of the blessings that “We GET To” experience each day. Betsy Blankenbaker also shared her story of heartbreak that led her to found the House of Loveness, in honor of the child she traveled to Zimbabwe to adopt, only to find had passed away shortly before her arrival. Today her organization cares for and educates children in the hometown of Loveness, allowing her legacy to live on.

Mental health was another important element of the week's storytelling. Janine Francolini, advocate for mental health, explained her motivation for creating the Flawless Foundation, encouraging us to see "the perfection in every child”. And more than one tear was shed at the screening of The Crash Reel, a stirring documentary describing the devastating snowboarding accident that nearly took Kevin Pearce’s life in the mere weeks preceding the 2010 Olympic Games he was to compete in. It was an emotional window into the overwhelming support of his family that captured our hearts as we witnessed his road to a miraculous recovery. This journey inspired Kevin and his brother, Adam Pearce, to create Love Your Brain an outreach program teaching the importance of caring for and protecting this vital organ.

Since its inception in 2012, the Catalyst speaker series has become a crucial complement to the Downtown Project. This cultural resurgence taking place mere miles from the Las Vegas strip has a unique agenda. Founder Tony Hsieh, Founder of Zappos, has embraced his corporate move to Vegas as an opportunity to invite startups, entrepreneurs and artists to grasp a moment of pure potential and impact forward motion within this startup-fueled city. A playful interaction between innovation and community is evident throughout. Container Park is created entirely of recycled containers and features a Burning Man born Praying Mantis sculpture. This unique centerpiece is awoken by an interactive drum circle at dusk daily  and erupts flames throughout the night. The corporate offices of Zappos foster an interactive mosaic UFO that allows for intimate retreat in the midst of the work day. An electric car membership program is in the works and the first school of downtown Vegas is continuing constructed-- expanding one grade per year in the grand plan of a K-12 learning establishment.

What resulted in our specific gathering was blown minds, exploded hearts, and ignited passion. Unite a group of motivated, earth shatteringly honest movers and shakers in one space in time and watch forcefields unfold. “Sometimes the mind and heart must expand to accept synchronicity,” Rochelle explained in her speech. As a reflection of the downtown project itself, Catalyst Week functions to ignite this synchronicity, putting the proper potential in place to allow for sparks to fly and thus creating a fearless community from the ground up as a foundation for change.


About The Author 

Alyssa Aparicio is Creative Director of WildSpice. She graduated from Vassar College in 2011 with a BA in Anthropology and Hispanic Studies. Alyssa is a New York native currently based in Los Angeles. COO of The Carnavalesque Awakening & Beauty Movement. As dancer she is a performs samba, belly dance, burlesque, and hip hop. She dedicates her movement to empowering the pussy, and all those who have one between their legs. @starspicy

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