ArtPlace Summit Musings: Encounters of the Third (unplanned) Kind

August 4, 2015

By: Veasna Has, Communications Specialist

Exactly three months ago today, the ArtPlace team was in Philadelphia kicking off our annual Grantee Summit.  We welcomed 300 grantees and partners to take part in two-and-a-half days of sharing, learning, and what we hope was a generally good time. The annual Summit is part of our Fieldbuilding work, led by Prentice and me, which focuses on facilitating dialogue and connections among creative placemaking practitioners.

The Summit was my first opportunity to meet our grantees and observe the kind of magic that happens when you put a bunch of intelligent, creative, community-minded folks in a room together (...or when you lock them in a hotel basement) and watch the ideas flow. The geographic range of grantees and our commitment to supporting communities of all sizes means that someone from Hazard, KY will chat with someone from Detroit, MI and realize that they share similar issues in their communities despite the perceived differences. And while we might be the ones who help create the space for this interaction to happen, it really is the grantees who do all the work to connect and grow together.

I could go on about the specifics of the Summit and its programming, but you can get an idea from checking out our videos.  At the end of the Summit, our Executive Director Jamie Bennett closed by touching upon the interstitial moments during the conference—the unprogrammed encounters and occurrences—that ultimately might have been more memorable than Powerpoint slides, panels, or speeches ad nauseam.  

As we get into heavy planning mode for next year’s Summit and I sift through feedback from Philadelphia, the most resounding comment by far is that attendees want more opportunities to get to know who else is in the room. We are proud to now support 227 projects in the ArtPlace family, and what that ultimately means for the Summit is that there will be a ton of people in the same space, all with great stories to share and not enough hours in the day.

In our Fieldbuilding work, we’ve spent a lot of time developing frameworks/infrastructure and are now finally at a moment when it’s time to get to the real work of making connections. We're fortunate to have this birds-eye view of the practitioners working in creative placemaking, and we want to help make introductions when we learn that people are addressing similar challenges in their communities or could otherwise stand to learn from each other. But what should those connections look like at the Summit?

We've talked through matchmaking and speed-dating, but what does it look like to create just enough structure for happenstance meetings to flourish? And how does all of this relationship-building balance with the more formal content of best practices and salient issues?

The event planner in me wants to just hold a giant ArtPlace sleepover, throw all our folks in a room with some food, beverages, and video games and call it a day. Sound good? 

Maybe we’ll throw in some windows, too.

Save the Date! Grantees will be invited to the 2016 ArtPlace Grantee Summit this year in Phoenix, AZ from April 4-6. The event will also be livestreamed on our website.