This post was updated after the Virtual Summit Watch Party. As soon as I learned about the National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture's "Virtual Summit", I began conspiring ways to watch the livestream with my tribe. As a bridge-builder and connector, I fundamentally believe the very best ideas and solutions spring from a collective imagination. Bringing different DC communities/ disciplines together – to learn and be inspired by stories of artists and arts organizations advancing broader civic agendas, – would no doubt spark ideas and conversations that would benefit the DC creative and social sector.
One of the Virtual Summit presenters for the “Citizenship and the Arts” panel was a cultural provocateur in DC, Howard Shalwitz, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Light bulb moment: Woolly would be the location for the gathering, now lovingly dubbed the Virtual Summit Watch party! I volunteered with Woolly’s Connectivity Department from Seasons 31-33 as a member of the Claque, a group of zealous volunteers who support audience design and community engagement. Woolly’s approach to Connectivity has influenced my work as a capacity builder and community artist. I am grateful for Connectivity Director Jocelyn Prince’s support and partnership in bringing the Virtual Summit Watch Party to the Woolly Classroom.
Keeping with the “Citizenship and the Arts” theme, I intentionally challenged Watch Party participants to think about DC as a ecosystem where arts and cultural institutions, popular education networks, schools, civic organizations and social enterprises all impact and influence each other. Throughout the party as we were inspired by the talks, we literally mapped out those groups and institutions in relation to each other.
The Watch “Party” was a bit unconventional because it happened on a Tuesday at 10:30am, but creativity and inspiration has no timetable! We had a lively group from all four quadrants of the city, including Christylez Bacon, Grammy nominated Hip-Hip performance artist (who is scoring the Woolly production, “We Are Proud”), Joy Austin, Executive Director of the DC Humanities Council, Goldie Dean (pictured right), Executive Director of FRESHH, Teshonne Powell, Atlas Theatre, Brenda Hayes, Producer, This Light: Sounds of Social Justice, Nora Rassman, Maximize Good, Woolly Staff, recent Rhode Island transplants and avid theatre goers. We even had local participants who livestreamed the Virtual Summit from their desks because they received the invitation from Art in Praxis.
The beauty of the virtual summit was its virtuality! Seeing our thoughts, affirmations and questions flash across the screen was surreal. We “met” fellow travelers from all over the planet, just as excited about Howard, Lisa Hoffman and John Davis’ presentations as we were. When we heard the shout out the DC Watch Party, we cheered because the world heard it! In many ways we were in Denver too.
After the Virtual Summit talks we shared our thoughts and turned inward, revisiting our own ecosystem. We talked about creative placemaking, cultural exchange, world cities… ultimately landing on development in DC and the potential role of artists. This was a rich, layered discussion with everyone entering at different points are perspectives. Joy, from the DC Humanities Council saw artists as preservationists. Nora was interested in artists collaborating with housing and advocacy organizations, Christylez offered Takoma Park DC as a case study of a community whose preserved its heritage despite big business cropping up around it. Our brief time together sparked ideas that are still bubbling. I look forward to seeing what materializes about of the Watch Party and I would definitely host one again.
Huge thanks to the ArtsFwd team and Kendra Danowski, ArtsFwd Editor + Engagement Coordinator for her support and encouragement!
Virtual Summit Livestream Presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Art in Praxis (that's us!)
The National Innovation Summit for Arts + Culture’s "Virtual Summit" features livestreamed 12-minute talks by three dynamic leaders in the field that explore the outputs and impacts of innovative projects across the country.
As part of the Summit, the “Citizenship and the Arts” presentation features stories of artists and arts organizations using their unique capacities as citizens to advance broader civic agendas, including social justice, civic vitality, and social innovation. (DC gets the spotlight with Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre as a featured presenter!)
RSVP and join us on Tuesday, 10.22, 10:30am - 12:30pm for the Virtual Summit Livestream followed by conversations with local DC Cultural Provocateurs!
“Citizenship and the Arts” Virtual Summit Presenters:
Small Town, Big Vision John Davis, Executive Director, Lanesboro Arts Center
Lanesboro Arts Center is reimagining the future of rural America and the role that the arts can play in its sustainability by transforming an entire small town into an arts campus. This talk will explore the political, economic, and creative problem solving strategies of this innovative vision.
Artist-led Ecosystem Interventions Lisa Hoffman, Director of Environmental Program and Community Engagement, McColl Center for Visual Art
Explore with us a community engagement model that highlights the value of artist-led ecosystem interventions that foster inter-generational relationships, create stronger communities and elevate the value of artists as catalysts for change.
Finding Your Itch and Scratching It Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Drawing on his perspective as a theatre founder, Howard Shalwitz will explore how an organization’s founding motivations and culture can play out over time to encourage innovation. More specifically, he will describe the evolution of Woolly Mammoth’s recent “Connectivity” strategy as a current example of “scratching the same itch” that the theatre began scratching 35 years ago.