Musings from the Annual Meeting in Portland 2015

April 4, 2016  •  2 minute read

by Mimi Zarsky
Senior Program Specialist, Convenings

The Portland Annual Meeting was in 2015…locations over the years have included these amazing cities: Tulsa, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Knoxville, Cedar Rapids, Dallas, Tampa, Miami, and Seattle. Trying to keep track of every city and its corresponding year is my personal anti-aging brain game—and I fail every time!

But being in a new city every year keeps the job of organizing the AM incredibly fresh (and sometimes a bit frustrating). Along with learning about a city through the eyes of our Partner Hosts, each Annual Meeting planning season brings us into contact with a new set of personalities to communicate with, unanticipated challenges, successes, creative notions and local dynamics. And it’s truly different every year. Building relationships—one of the hallmarks of the Annual Meeting—starts when the plane lands, and NPN/VAN begins to navigate all the logistical ins and outs of organizing a meeting for 350 artists, Partners and colleagues. And yes—I’m still Facebook friends with the hotel sales manager from the 2006 AM in Cedar Rapids!

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a sea change in the area of technology at the AM. In 2001, we included a “Video Den,” where folks could bring tapes to view on a VCR. The space, which was originally designed for sharing work, morphed into the “Media Lounge,” but was eliminated this year because of the access to virtual platforms that most of us carry.

As at previous AMs, the Live & On Stage performances ranked as the favorite scheduled activity, but I think this year we earned that slot. We set out to make the shows run tighter and smoother, and the quality of the work was awesome.

There were some Big Ideas that permeated this year’s AM, and they didn’t just bubble up during programmed sessions. They became natural topics for informal discussions where a group of attendees gravitated, and included: Hybridity, Curation, Equity, Access and Succession. We looked at WHERE we were through the lens of two local Native artist activists; told each other WHO we were by shouting our names from the stage; and—guided by Keynote speaker Kristy Edmunds—contemplated WHERE WE’RE HEADED.

I have one more plug to make: the Annual Meeting is designed and facilitated in large part by the people attending it, and would not be what it is without their contributions. Twelve brilliant Idea Forums over the course of 2 days represented collaborations among 60 artists, Partners and colleagues, and spoke to pressing issues that face our field. And the Peer-2-Peer Workshop for Artists brought five artists together to engage and guide 50 artists through personal and professional discussions addressing the sustainability of a career in the arts.

I gotta say: organizing this event is pretty cool.

To see program selections from Portland, including the Live & On Stage Performances, click here: