Hive Minds: Creative Cypher and the Collective Consciousness

COMMUNITY AREA #71: Auburn Gresham — Creative Cypher

Troy Pryor believes in the power of the collective.

Creative Cypher, the organization he founded a few years ago, is a testament to his faith in Chicago’s creative community. Finding that an uneven playing field often made it difficult for some artists to gain access to vital support and resources, Creative Cypher was his answer to the impact of these disparities. By fostering a community of inclusiveness, the organization stewards the creative endeavors of artists and entertainers in traditionally under-resourced areas of the city, elevating their endeavors to a higher level of visibility and integrating their contributions into the cultural fabric of Chicago.

We sat down with Pryor to unpack some of the effects these barriers pose to artists in the city, learn how creative ecosystems cultivate stronger social bonds, and find out how it is that this unique collective opens doors that might otherwise have stayed shut.


Chicago Ideas (CI): What was the inspiration behind Creative Cypher (and where’d that name come from)? What was it that finally brought it into the world?

Troy Pryor (TP): I grew tired of waiting for someone to provide me an opportunity as an actor so I leveraged my resources to begin building my own ecosystem of creators. I knew that building community first would open the doors to access and the ability to green-light our own ideas. The name derives from the cypher in hip-hop, as a limitless meeting of the minds. Identifying what specifically brought it to the world, is a challenge, because I believe the concept already exists. Like gold, I just dug it up. 

CI: What is the biggest challenge facing creatives in Chicago today?

TP: Lack of access to resources or the knowledge that they exist.

CI: You often speak of building or fostering “ecosystems.” What does this mean? How does Creative Cypher make this happen?

TP: I was blessed to come from a family of community leaders and I played on teams for most of my life, so it was very organic for me to view my career in entertainment as more of the same. It’s all about the human interaction. People to people. One human being to another or group. While many were worried about building a superficial brand, I focused on building authentic relationships. With that as the foundation, the business tends to operate like a magnetic and as with any healthy ecosystem, if you take care of it, it will take care of you. We have several divisions now, with multiple projects running simultaneously, even if some are unaware of our involvement. We’re there. 


CI: What are the barriers to access that creatives face? How does Creative Cypher help them to overcome these barriers?

TP: I believe it starts with the knowledge that resources do exists. Unfortunately, if you live on certain sides of the city you may never find out. We are about inclusiveness and that can only happen when we remove the barriers. We look for ways, in our event programing, workshops, and productions to include as much of the city as possible. Sometimes just being visible is enough to light a spark. You can’t be what you can’t see. 

CI: What does “community” mean to you?

TP: It means knowing that you always have what you need. 

CI: How can others get involved with Creative Cypher?

TP: You can follow us @creativecypher, stay in tuned to our live event collaborations, and go to our website for the “pitch / contact” sections. Just let us know your goals and how we can collaborate. 


The 77 Project is a storytelling and media project presented in partnership with Xfinity with additional support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help redefine the narrative of our neighborhoods from the inside out. We’ll spend the remainder of 2018 shining a light on organizations and individuals in each of the 77 community areas of Chicago who are making a positive impact. Know someone we should speak with? Recommend them here.

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