Pixite: Why We Party.

Pixite_NOLA_NewOrleans_GregoryDarroll.png

Every year, Pixite team members from across the United States come together for a week to spend time with one another, vis-a-vis, at our company retreat. The experience is a chance to connect with coworkers whose disembodied voices we hear through our headsets all year long but with whom we are rarely afforded the opportunity to physically interact—something many in the workforce take for granted and something that is vital to the development and sustainability of a company. Though we may be daily painted into our digital landscapes, tangled in USB cords and hunched over laptops, we are still so very human. The simple act of sitting down to lunch with one’s team helps fill in those subtle gaps in communication, understanding, inspiration, and shared initiative that are so intricately tied to body language, facial expression, and common, real-world experiences of all stripes and scope. It is team-building at its most fun, and this year was no exception!

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Pixite touched down in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Monday and we began our adventure on the world-famous Rue Bourbon, better known as “Bourbon Street”. With the instruments of jazz punctuating our sentences, we laughed and “caught up” with one another over cocktails and beignets: ‘How are the kiddos?’, ‘How are the doggos?’, ‘powdered sugar is a good look on you!’, and ‘I don’t know what’s in this drink but I’m glad it’s in ME!’ Despite the purest of intentions, we found ourselves, like so many do, unable to resist the seductive pull of the French Quarter night. Our first evening together was spent sampling Sazeracs and boudin as we cut a path through Bourbon Street’s joyous throngs and beaded, feathered cacophony, utterly saturated with the sounds, sights, and scents native to this unique locale.

Tuesday arrived quickly and, after reinvigorating cafe au laits (or aspirin and Gatorades, but who’s keeping track,) we stepped into the sunshine and freshly washed streets of downtown, headed for Louis Armstrong Park to have our pictures taken. At the direction of our photographer, Harlin Miller, we basked in the shade of venerable oak trees and the towering New Orleans Municipal Auditorium whose majestic limestone facade still bears the indelible fingerprint of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Widely regarded as the birthplace of Jazz and other musical genres, such as Zydeco, the park was both a beautiful and stirring environment. New Orleans’ history was palpable there, soaked into the sunbaked cobblestones of Place Congo, stitched in the satin rustle of a distant bayou breeze through stately magnolias, and carried in ghostly echoes of brass band music wafting from the alleys and doorways of the Tremé. It was the perfect place for us to focus on the concept of a shared human experience and find both individual and collective creative inspiration.

Tuesday afternoon was spent hoofing the streets of the French Quarter with a colorful guide who peppered the tour with bits of New Orleans’ more macabre history, including tales of pirates, ghosts, and lovely cottages built directly on top of the original, St. Peter’s Street cemetery during the Spanish colonial rule of the city, (much to the horror of the Catholic church.) Slowly, we wound our way to the Saint Louis Cathedral, across a plaza bustling with musicians and artists, to rest awhile on the banks of the Mississippi River.

It had been a busy, entertaining, educational day and there seemed no better way to end it than to enjoy a sumptuous meal at the world-famous Commander’s Palace restaurant. Nestled in the heart of the Garden District and situated across from one of the city’s loveliest old cemeteries, the experience was a special treat for the team in every way. The most adventurous among us sampled the house specialties—turtle soup, boudin, and Creole bread pudding souffles—while others enjoyed delicious selections like strawberry shortcake, artisanal cheeses, exceptional wines, and roasted Gulf fish. With tired feet and full bellies, we retired to the hotel again.

By Wednesday, we were ready for some hands-on art—This is Pixite, after all! Together, we made our way to the New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio, an artists’ co-op space on Magazine Street specializing in glass and metal sculpture, torchwork, and a variety of printmaking techniques. After being divided into two groups, half of us began with an introduction to Suminagashi, the Japanese paper marbling process wherein vibrant inks are layered on top of a thickened liquid before being transferred to paper; the other half of the team donned sunglasses and played with fire. Okay, they were really learning the challenging art of glass beadmaking using table-mounted torches…But playing with fire while wearing sunglasses did make the experience seem relatively edgy. By the end of the session, we’d all tried our hands at both art forms. And, as we’d hoped, the experience was team-building, inspiring, and sparked several discussions around new ideas for apps and app features.

As mentioned, one of the most important aspects of the Pixite retreats is to create time and space to interact with one another and communicate in ways that aren’t always as effective when done over an internet connection. This goal was realized again via an impromptu meeting-in-the-round that Wednesday afternoon. On the pool deck, we arranged our chairs in a circle and discussed ways we could better interact with each other and foster an internal environment of support, attention, and connectivity. The way a company functions on the inside has a huge influence on the way it delivers products and services to its customers; we at Pixite recognize that and unscripted gatherings such as this are an excellent way to ensure we stay connected to one another and to our collective goals as a business. We shared ideas and thoughts in those final hours leading toward evening and another lovely dinner together wrapped up the last full day of the retreat. At GW Fins, an icon of the French Quarter restaurant scene, we indulged in fresh seafood prepared with New Orleanian flair and enjoyed each other’s company one last time.

The real reason we party.
Thursday came too soon, it seemed, and it was time to part ways again and return to our specific corners of the country. As we rolled our suitcases into the damp heat of another New Orleans spring morning and scattered to our taxis and flights, we took with us a rejuvenated creative spirit. Why do we party?—Not for the reasons most who visit Bourbon Street do. Instead, we party so that we can work harder, better, and with a stronger sense of common purpose. We party as a team of people committed to making the digital world a more beautiful and accessible place for creative individuals, everywhere.

Cover image created by Gregory Darroll for Pixite using our Assembly app. The project file is available to download (and remix) here.

Cayce Garrison