A Report on the Artists’ Summit

June 10, 2009, Arlington Center for the Arts
Hosted by the Arlington Cultural Council

GOALS:

The goals of the evening were to have artists meet each other, spark collaborations, and to brainstorm about ways to build an artists community and support system in Arlington.

ATTENDANCE:

The sign-in list reflected 48 in attendance not including Arlington Cultural Council members.

ACTIVITIES:

1) Icebreaker Activity
Everyone received the name of a famous artist written on a label and posted onto their backs as they walked into the room. Participants needed to ask each other questions and try to find out “who they were, since that is something we are always trying to do anyway.”  Following this were a few words of introduction during which participants were asked to indicate their medium by show of hands; i.e. visuals artists, musicans, etc.

2) Spectogram Exercise
Participants were asked to position themselves along a spectrum spanning the room according to how they felt about their relationship to their art, from “troubled” to “thriving”.  This is where we began to hear some of the obstacles artists faced that put them on the “troubled” end of the spectrum, such as having to schedule their artwork around other obligations, financial concerns, and kids.  Participants then began posing their own follow-up questions to the group, such as whether or not they are able to make a living from their art. Participants repositioned themselves along the spectrum accordingly and were able to talk with people who shared their position.

3) Writing on the Wall
Poster size sheets of paper were posted on the wall. Participants were asked to pick up a marker and write their answers to three questions on the sheets
What resources (people, places and things) have helped your work as an artist?
What obstacles (people, places, and things) have hindered your work as an artist?
What would make Arlington a more artist-friendly town?

4) Dot to Dot Voting
Everyone was then given three stickers to place beside their favorite answers to each question.

5) Dream Collaboration
While the votes were tallied, participants were asked to close their eyes and imagine a dream collaboration that they would like to be a part of.  They were then asked to gather in groups of three to share their ideas and to possibly even find collaborators.  Participants then shuffled groups in order to cast a broader net.  Some potential collaborations included a dancer and costume designer getting together to do work in schools. Another was a blogger who wanted to blog on local artists’ news, artworks and performances.

CONCLUSIONS:

We concluded the meeting in a large group and reflected on some of the answers given to the questions on the wall.

The top three answers for each question were as follows:

What Resources (People, Places and Things) Help Your Creative Work Grow?
1)     Creative Friends to Check in With – 7 votes
2)     Exhibition Opportunities – 6 votes
3)     Want to form a portrait figure/drawing group, Jennifer Ingram – 5 votes

What Resources (People Places and Things) Make it Hard to Do Your Creative Work?
Having a long enough block of uninterrupted time – 5 votes
Shyness – 5 votes
Good at creating – BAD at marketing I get discouraged easily – 4 votes

What would make Arlington a more-artist-friendly town?
Cooperative Gallery (with occasional wine, music and kids events)  – 15 votes
Exhibition space (‘Starbucks in the Heights is small but good”) – 6 votes
How about an amazing arts festival, maybe an arts lane at Town Day? – 5 votes

–     Arlington Cultural Council Co-Chair, Suzanne McLeod, reminded the group of the upcoming Arlington Cultural Council grant application deadline October 15, and hoped that the Summit had helped to spark some ideas. Brochures were distributed along with evaluation forms and “I Went to the Summit” buttons with our website address on them.

NEXT STEPS:

Paul Giguere of the Arlington Center for the Arts membership committee, made an announcement about new initiatives for artist members of the ACA, one of which would include regular “Show and Tell” evenings for artists. This idea was met with great enthusiasm since it would meet many of the needs expressed in the answers provided to the three questions.

The idea of setting up a Yahoo listserve for Arlington artists was also mentioned.

The group expressed the desire for a cultural calendar, a central place where people could enter their events and find each other’s shows.  Famboogle.com, an Arlington-based community website was mentioned as a possible vehicle for this.

EVALUATION FORMS SUMMARY:

The evaluations reflected a 90% rating of Above Average for the evening. 98% of people said their expectations were met or exceeded and indicated that they would attend a future meeting. People loved the icebreaker activity.

Notes for future events:

–  Some expressed a desire for more structure around getting to meet other people both from their own discipline and from other disciplines.  Next time we can think about an activity where people are shuffled and regrouped more often than occurred at this meeting. We might also have people list their discipline on their nametags to make it easier for people of a certain discipline to find each other.

– Some people also suggested kicking off a future event with a performance or a workshop.  Maybe next year we should do this as a day-time event – a Saturday – with a longer format and a break with lunch – so we can go a bit deeper.

– People also wanted to find collaborators, so maybe we should have ideas with signups on the walls next time where people could post their collaborations and others go around and sign up for projects they are interested in working on.

The following link is to the Businesses and Organizations Summit:

Business_org Summit report 2009

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