Poor Man's Conference #2

While my colleague Culture Jock is in Seattle reporting on the Americans For The Arts Conference, I’m at home live-blogging a virtual poor man’s version for those who can't afford to attend the real thing. (Which raises the question: Is there virtue in poverty?) I posted my first report on this imagined convention this morning, before things really heated up. Here's my next installment:

Day 1 (Continued):

Wow! I am stoked after an inspiring day of conference activities. I’ve filled my notebook with quotes from speakers. When I have more time, I'll expand on them, but here's a quick sampling:

“The art of living is learning to live the art that you art living.”

“Art is like a strip of bacon on a Voodoo Donut maple bar: It may not seem necessary, but it does make life richer and more interesting.”

“Then they came for the artists and I did not speak up because I wasn’t an artist. And by that time it was too late and there were no more artists. Sure, there were craftspeople and cultural creatives, but artists? I’m just saying.”

“Happiness, like culture, is a warm puppy--no disrespect to the cat people in the audience.”

“You need to ask yourself whether the art you create is good enough to do enough good.”

After our warm-up exercise, we gathered in a plenary session focused on arts education. The first speaker provided an inspiring counterpoint to the dismal news about the region’s public schools reported in this morning’s Oregonian.

You may have already seen teacher and slam poet Taylor Mali reciting his “What Teachers Make” on YouTube. Even though the poem has circulated through the internets for several years, its hard-hitting message is still powerful and moving. Imagine the delight of 3,500 imaginary arts and cultural leaders when Mr. Mali appeared to deliver his message in person this morning.

After that session, we broke into cohort cadres, convening as collaborators to co-create cultural vision statements. A brief fist fight broke out at my table as we debated whether we are “committed to the arts” or “deeply committed to the arts.” One wag suggested that we should "strive to achieve an abiding commitment to the arts” before being shouted down. I shared several cogent insights with the group. Our facilitator agreed that my ideas were “interesting” and “useful,” though I noticed he wasn't writing them down and didn’t include them when he gave a summary of our discussion to the whole group.

Several new acquaintances and I agreed that we’d get together for lunch at a local restaurant to share more thinking about the arts. I must have misunderstood where we were to meet because I missed the connection and haven’t seen them since. Perhaps we'll meet up on the “Urban Sustainability and Livability Tour” scheduled for tomorrow morning. I hear it’s just a ride on the streetcar, but it should be interesting."

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