Second Year for a Successful Statewide Arts Conference
from the California Arts Council
The floor of the expansive Memorial Auditorium in downtown Sacramento was almost completely full with over 350 arts administrators, artists, educators and others at the California Arts Council's statewide conference. The Tuesday, March 4, 2008 conference, titled "The Future, What's Next," included words from a futurist, a policy analyst, an arts education expert, table discussions and plans of action ... and a visit from Governor Schwarzenegger. (Interested parties may view photos of the conference online.)
California's Future, California Arts' Future
All speakers tied their areas of expertise to the future. Derek Woodgate, President of The Futures Lab, opened the conference with an analysis of how technology and other factors will influence people's perception and interaction with both the arts and each other. Woodgate's presentation pointed out how technology has altered how people interact, and pointed out how individual interactions with the arts may grow versus group or community activities. He also theorized that it will be the creative and artistic population who will drive change in future communities.
Jonathan Katz, Executive Director of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), showed a video interview of Dana Gioia, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) with Katz where Gioia discussed the value of public investment in the arts and the impact of community involvement in the arts. Katz then lead the audience in morning roundtable discussions (see white-background document for printing purposes) focused on two questions: "What do you see as a major challenge to a rich cultural life in California?" and "What are the implications for your agencies or organizations and the California Arts Council?" A representative from the tables then spoke to the participants' discussions, which was instantaneously recorded for all to see.
The importance of Culture, California's Changing Demographics, and the "Imagine Nation"
The three speakers for the afternoon were Dr. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto (former Associate Director for Creativity & Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation) who spoke to the importance of culture to the arts and to the nation as a whole; Joseph Hayes, Research Associate, Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC); and Richard J. Deasy, Director of the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). Of keen interest were the graphs, statistics and numbers in the presentation by the PPIC's Hayes that showed the significant changing demographics in California, especially its growing diversity and income differences in different regions and among different age groups.
But the presentation that gave attendees a new catch-phrase was the one from AEP's Deasy titled "The Imagine Nation." The Arts Education Partnership teamed up with a number of other organizations to conduct a national survey on the values and concerns of the American public. The four main topics were economic competitiveness, civic engagement, quality of life and educational advancement--all topics that directly relate to innovation and imagination. With almost 90 percent of voters believing that imagination is key to innovation and student success, said Deasy, it makes sense to use the word "imagination" when proactively discussing the importance of the arts and arts education.
Presentations weren't the only part of the day. Conference participants were treated to a dance performance by Sacramento High School's "34th Street Dance Company" as well as words from Sac High student Bianca Vidales about her experience with developing an oversized mural that is now installed permanently at the school. The students in the dance group learned from a professional dance instructor, as did the students in the visual arts program at Sac High--all as part of an Artists in Schools residency, a program from the California Arts Council.
Schwarzenegger's Surprise Visit
"Governor Artfully Surprises Audience," read Wednesday's Sacramento Bee of Schwarzenegger's surprise afternoon visit to Memorial Auditorium. Bee arts writer Bruce Dancis noted that, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told about 350 representatives of state arts groups Tuesday that there will be 'more money for the arts in the future,'"once the state's budget woes are solved. Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice Chair of the California Arts Council, introduced the Governor as a series of his paintings--of flowers, dolphins, cows and the American flag--were shown on a movie screen above the auditorium's stage.
As the day was winding down, California Arts Council director Muriel Johnson led a final roundtable speak-out (see white-background document for printing purposes) like the one from the morning, with participants examining the question: "Having heard all that we've heard today about our changing world, how should California's Arts (organizations, artists, constituencies, and audiences) respond to remain viable and vital?" The participants were able to have their thoughts recorded for later examination and action, putting ideas and words into motion for the future of the arts in California.