A Poor Man's Arts Advocacy Conference

As loyal readers know, Culture Jock is in Seattle this week, attending the Americans for the Arts conference. He's already posted a few reports. Meanwhile, I’m stuck in Portland, missing out on the inspiring keynote speeches, enlightening work sessions, and a myriad of opportunities to meet colleagues from around the country.

As an alternative, I’ve decided to create a virtual arts advocacy conference—a poor man’s convention, so to speak. Over the next few days, I’ll be live-blogging about my experience, sharing my observations and findings.

Day 1:

When I checked into my accommodations last night, I told the desk clerk, “I’ll need a wake-up call.”

She responded, “Your lifestyle choices are going to cut a decade from your life expectancy.” I’ve already found that the residents of this city are both friendly and outspoken.

After a good night’s sleep, the inn’s resident dog—advertised as one of the hotel’s “unique amenities”--woke me by placing a heavy paw next to my pillow and woofing, a signal that a walk was needed. Whenever I’m visiting another city for business or pleasure, I seek out chances to get a genuine sense of the place. Get me away from the hotel lobby, the souvenir shops, the steakhouses and the strip clubs, and let me walk the neighborhood streets where I can meet town folks. If I can tour a new city accompanied by a butt-sniffing dog, all the better.

Upon returning from the morning stroll, I opted for a room service breakfast. Knowing that my head would be filled with ideas and conversations over the next few days, I decided to skip the breakfast buffet, where I’d have to either pretend to be engrossed in a complimentary copy of USA Today, or engage in idle chitchat over scrambled eggs and mini sausages from the steam table. A simple bowl of granola and a cup of coffee while reading the Oregonian set me up for the day nicely. I was delighted to read that my host city’s arts supporters had donated over $800,000 to save its charming ballet company. Now that’s a great way to start an arts advocacy conference!

I rode the convenient hotel shuttle to the conference center across the river that bisects this city. The shuttle must have picked up conferees from other hotels because it was already full when I boarded. I perched carefully on the edge of my seat after asking a visiting tourist (I presume he was a tourist since he wasn’t wearing a name tag) if he would please move his open bag of Doritos from the empty seat. He glared at me with eyes that were, quite honestly, dancing with a little too much crazy energy. But he did afford me 8-10 inches of space. I opted not to read the guidebook I’d brought along, wanting to stay alert in case my seatmate pulled a knife.

Before stopping at the registration table to secure my conference credentials, I bought a steaming mug of coffee at a local cafĂ© called Starbucks. I’d been told that this is a literary town, but was still surprised to find a coffee outlet named after a character from Moby Dick!

Already this morning I’ve bumped into several colleagues who work in the arts field. We greet each other as if it was only yesterday afternoon that we said goodbye. Our first conference session was designed to break the ice and get us warmed up for a day of sharing and learning. Here’s a video I shot with my cell phone:

Now I'm off to a work session titled: "Arts Support: Why Can't We Be Like France?" I’ll be sure to post more as the conference progresses.


culturejock said...

Hey! Your conference sounds more fun than mine!!!

Jessica said...

Its funny how in the arts everyone does it their own way. Especially Jumping Jacks.

MightyToyCannon said...

Before the jumping jacks exercise, I did hear some grumbling along the lines of "F*ck that! I'm not gonna let somebody else define the 'rules' for jumping around. As an artist, it's my job to bust the paradigms wide open!" The arts administrators in the groups were saying things like, "Can we make it look like jumping jacks while expending fewer resources to do so?"