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Reflections on the Annual Meeting in Knoxville

Posted: Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 at 11:00 am in News

Annual Meeting in Knoxville
December 10-14, 2009
by Mimi Zarsky, NPN Program Specialist for Convenings

"What a great bunch of people to be around. It was JUST AMAZING!!!"
These days, with the insane number of communication choices we have, how often do we actually connect with each other, face-to-face and in real time? The NPN Annual Meeting is one of those rare moments, and the success of the meeting in Knoxville raised the bar for future gatherings. Of special note was the buzz around NPN’s 25th Anniversary. With special events and feature articles scheduled for the coming year, NPN kicked off the celebration with a fashion statement: a rainbow set of bracelets featuring the seven disciplines supported by NPN, augmented by a special silver 25th Anniversary bracelet. (Sets of 8 are available for $5 + shipping from the NPN office.)

"I had such an amazing time and felt so totally nurtured as an artist."
The Knoxville AM played host to a total of 300 artists (visual and performing), presenters, co-commissioners, funders and and field-related friends from national, local and international arenas. Nearly 95 artists attended, a record number, in equal complement to the number of NPN and VAN Partners, encouraging deeper conversations among peers. This year’s meeting featured the Visual Artists Network’s first full integration into the content of the Meeting. To celebrate, VAN commissioned provocative hotel room installations, commandeering the hotel’s 3rd floor. The five juried artists were given (nearly) free reign in transforming the rooms, which were available for viewing throughout the weekend. <IMAGES> [The rooms were safely returned to their previous condition at the end of the Meeting.]

"The meeting has empowered me to exceed expectations at my organization."
Forums for dialogue and shared learning experiences abounded, including nine Idea Forums that addressed topics culled from NPN’s constituencies over the months prior to the Meeting:
o    Artists Pioneering Hybrid Careers
o    Giving Voice to Community: 2 NPN Community Fund Case Studies
o    Everything You Wanted to Know About International Tax
o    Women of Calypso and the New Performing Americas Program Creation Fund
o    Sharing Process with Audiences
o    Creative Ways to Commission During Tough Times
o    Measuring Transformation: Evaluating Arts and Social Impact Projects
o    The Enterprising Artist:  Rethinking Professional Arts Education for a New Global Cultural Workforce
o    Fundraising Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies During a Recession

"I loved the energy! I think the fact that we had more sessions as an overall group made the atmosphere more congenial or something."
Opportunities for sharing work (past, present and future) took place during “In the Works” sessions, the “Media Showcase,” the Visual Artists Salon, and in ArtBursts—short performances throughout the plenary sessions which kept audiences on their toes and artists’ work in the forefront. Artists were invited to a half-day professional development workshop, focusing on entering, building and exiting community, facilitated by Urban Bush Women.

"The time together away from workspace is essential whether in seminars or in bars."
"It inspires me and holds me together for the whole year."
Both scheduled and informal invitations to explore Knoxville, meet local residents and see artwork in the community kept attendees awake and alert well into the night. “Live & On Stage” showcases were presented for two nights at the historic Bijou Theatre, just around the corner from the hotel. AC Entertainment, manager of the Bijou and the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, lent a promotions team to NPN for the showcases, ensuring that Knoxville audiences came in force. The 3-1/2 day conference reached its crescendo on Sunday evening at the Knoxville Museum of Art, when Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women’s Founder and Artistic Director, presented an inspirational keynote that brought NPN and UBW full circle over the course of both organizations’ first 25 years in the field. Knoxville’s Streamliners rocked the house with their 17-piece swing band and wild dancing ensued, as colleagues bade farewell until the Annual Meeting in Dallas in early December 2010.

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