Monday, May 20, 2013

Announcing the Dinner-vention Party Guest List

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on............"

The Dinner-vention Party - Jammin' at Djerassi

Last fall I announced the Dinner-vention project - a fantasy made reality Dinner party to gather a dozen of the best and brightest of the up and coming thinkers and leaders in our field to discuss, in depth, a topic of critical importance to our field, and share this group's thinking and (most importantly) specific, new ideas on how to address the challenge embedded in that topic. We invited you to submit the names of possible guests. Click here for that original blog post.

The response was huge.  We got over 350 suggested names from across a wide sector of our field - enough really for twenty dinner parties.  Our advisory committee culled the list down, and we made the final selection of the twelve guests.  Our number one criteria in the selection was people who have gained a reputation for new, innovative and creative thinking in dealing with all the challenges we face, but who haven't yet fully gotten recognition for being the rising stars they are.  We also wanted to make sure we had a fair representation of the diversity in our field - including discipline or interest area, geography, gender and ethnicity.  We believe we have a great table.  The decisions were not easy as we had so many great names from which to pick.

Margot Knight the Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program - a world class artist resident facility in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean south of San Francisco graciously offered to host the event.  Djerassi is an extraordinary facility, in a stunningly beautiful setting, and we thought it made perfect sense to hold the dinner party at an arts venue rather than a hotel, so we accepted Margot's generous offer.

I am very excited about the group of people that will be at this dinner.   They all have exemplary bona fides, significant accomplishments in their work, meaningful platforms from which they have already garnered substantial influence and recognized critical thinking capacity.

The dinner guests themselves are in the process of determining what one or two topics on which they will focus at the dinner event.  Once that determination has been made, I will share it with you all. Each dinner guest will be drafting a brief outline of some of their preliminary thinking on whatever topic is finally selected, and I will be posting those briefing papers on my blog over the course of the summer.  We intend to have in-depth conversations with, and among, all of the dinner guests so that we productively use the limited discussion time to cogently present new thinking.  As stated in the original blog post, we don't want another rehashing of the points with which everyone is already familiar.  And we don't want another opened ended discussion that fails to suggest solutions or answers to the challenges on our plates.

The Dinner-vention party will be held at Djerassi on Friday, September 6th.  We will video tape the dinner conversation and, after the event, put the video on my blog (probably broken into segments to be posted on my blog over a week or more so as to make it easier to watch) to share with everyone the ideas and thinking of the dinner guests.  My hope is that the guests can put forth some compelling thoughts on the topic and that their thinking will stimulate further discussion and dialogue across the sector.  I hope this inaugural dinner might be the first of many to come over the years.

I want to thank all of those who suggested names.  Part of the original blog post promised that we would hold a random drawing of all those who suggested names for the dinner guests and the winner of that drawing would be invited, as our guest, to attend the dinner and observe the proceedings.  WESTAF has conducted that random drawing, and we will be extending the invitation to that person this week.  I will announce that name as soon as I have their acceptance.

I want to thank Shannon Daut for all of her help in the launch of this project, the members of our advisory group (Ian David Moss, Mitch Menchaca, Richard Evans, Nina Simon, Ron Ragin and Gary Steuer) and Laurel Sherman at WESTAF for her help with all the logistics to date.  And I want to especially thank Anthony Radich at WESTAF for his tireless help and his support for the project, without which it simply would not have been possible.

Here then are the names and thumb-nail bios of the the invited (and confirmed) dinner guests (in alphabetical order):

The Dinner Guest List:

Salvador Acevedo
Salvador Acevedo is an executive, consultant, and researcher who helps link the social capital of organizations with business opportunities for growth. Acevedo is interested in the commonalities that connect people and communities—whether collective experiences, shared perspectives, or points of arrival—and he applies these commonalities to develop strategies that are beyond multicultural and are, instead, truly intercultural. He has worked with numerous educational institutions, corporations, and foundations on projects ranging from consumer intelligence to organizational transformation. Acevedo is a regular speaker at conferences around the country on topics of cultural participation, cultural competence, and demographic and technology trends. He is a recipient of the 2008 Latino Business Leadership Award, presented by the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Business Times, and Wells Fargo. Acevedo earned a master’s degree in communications from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and a diploma in marketing from the University of California, Berkeley and is certified by Research in Values and Attitudes, Inc. (RIVA, Inc.) as a qualitative market researcher.

Tamara Alvarado
Tamara Alvarado is the director of community access and engagement for the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. From 2003 to 2008, Alvarado served as executive director of MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana in San Jose, California. From 1999­ to 2003, she served as program director for Washington United Youth Center, a partnership between Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and the city of San Jose. She is a member of the board of trustees of WESTAF and is president of the board of directors for ACE Charter Schools in the Mayfair neighborhood of San Jose. Alvarado is also the co­founder of the Multicultural Arts Leadership Initiative, a leadership-development program for people of color working in arts, culture, and entertainment. A traditional Aztec dancer for the past 13 years, she is a member of Calpulli Tonalehqueh Danza Azteca of San Jose. Originally from Escondido, California, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature from Stanford University.

Kimberly Howard
Kimberly Howard was appointed to manage the Oregon Cultural Trust in 2009. Previously, she was managing director of Portland’s Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center and education/outreach director for Artists Repertory Theatre. She has served on the board of Business for Culture and the Arts and currently represents Oregon on WESTAF’s Regional Multicultural Advisory Committee. Howard is an accomplished actress with credits in New York, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and several Portland theaters. She continues to perform with Portland area theaters, most recently Artists Repertory Theatre, Profile Theatre, Base Roots Theatre, and Literary Arts. Howard holds an MFA in acting from Columbia University and has taught theater at Walla Walla College.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Marc Bamuthi Joseph serves as director of performing arts at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, where he is active in the areas of performance, arts education, and artistic curation. In the fall of 2007, Joseph appeared on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine as one of “America’s Top Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences.” He is the artistic director of the seven-­part HBO documentary Russell Simmons presents Brave New Voices and is an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship, which annually recognizes 50 of the country’s “greatest living artists.” He is the 2011 Alpert Award winner in theater, and he was one of 21 artists to be named to the inaugural class of Doris Duke Artists in 2012. Joseph has developed several poetically based works for the stage that have toured across the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa. Joseph’s current evening-­length project, red, black & GREEN: a blues, is among the anchors of the Kennedy Center’s 2013-­2014 programming season. He is the founding program director of the non­profit Youth Speaks and is a co­founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-­day festivals designed to activate under­-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life through hip hop arts and focused environmental action. After graduating from Morehouse College in 1997, Joseph earned a master's degree in education from San Francisco State University.

Lex Leifheit
Lex Leifheit is the executive director of South of Market Arts, Resources, Technology and Services (SOMArts), a hybrid of a cultural center, arts-service provider, co­working space, and contemporary gallery. Founded in 1979, SOMArts has a history of nurturing small and mid­sized culturally- specific organizations as well as counterculture arts movements, such as the first Burning Man exhibition in 1994. At SOMArts, Leifheit has established programs such as the Commons Curatorial Residency and Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck. She also has served as a member of the steering committee for the development of San Francisco Bay Area Emerging Arts Professionals and was a member of the Emerging Leaders Council of Americans for the Arts from 2007–2009. She previously held positions at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Wesleyan University's Center for the Arts, and the Green Street Arts Center. Leifheit received her master of arts degree in liberal studies from Wesleyan University and attended Drake University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in theater performance.

Clayton Lord
Clayton Lord is the vice president of local arts advancement for Americans for the Arts. In that role, he works to further the goal of making all of the arts accessible by empowering local arts agencies, service organizations, civic minded arts institutions, artists, and patrons to make the arts more relevant to their communities. Previously, Lord worked at Theatre Bay Area, where he created a robust audience-development and research program, including the Bay Area Big List, the Free Night of Theater, and the DataPoint Research program. Lord is a prolific blogger at and has edited and contributed to the work Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art for Theatre Bay Area. His essays and research papers, many of which center on issues of equity, access, and impact around art in America, have been published in Artivate, ArtsBlog, Theatre Bay Area magazine, HowlRound, In Dance, Stage Directions, and other publications. Lord holds a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology from Georgetown University.

Nina Simon
Nina Simon serves as the executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, where she led an institutional turnaround based on grassroots community participation. She teaches in the University of Washington Museology graduate program and is the author of The Participatory Museum (2010) and the popular Museum 2.0 blog. Previously, Simon worked as an independent consultant to over 100 museums and cultural centers around the world. She has been described by Smithsonian Magazine as a “museum visionary” for her audience-­centered approach to design. She began her museum career as an experience-development specialist at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.. Simon holds a degree in electrical engineering from Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

Devon Smith
Devon Smith is the director of social media and analytics at Threespot, a digital engagement agency in Washington, D.C. that builds online tools and interactive experiences for clients. At Threespot, Smith leads a staff of social media managers and digital analysts who help clients build long-­term, high-­value relationships with their constituents and measure the impact of those connections. Smith has recently led engagements with clients such as the Smithsonian Institution, BBC America, UNICEF, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Planned Parenthood. She has spoken at numerous conferences, covering topics from social fundraising and online personal branding to social media metrics and an industry-­wide social media survey. Smith has worked for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, World Science Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and arts organizations across the U.S. in marketing, development, and general management roles. She holds an MBA and an MFA, both from Yale University, as well as two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Washington.

Kristin Thomson
Kristin Thomson is a social researcher, musician, and organizer and a consultant for the national nonprofit Future of Music Coalition (FMC), which advocates on behalf of musicians. Thomson co-­directs FMC’s multi­method Artist Revenue Streams research project, which is examining changes in musicians’ sources of income. Thomson joined the Future of Music Coalition in 2000 and served in a number of roles ranging from project management and research to overseeing event programming, including Future of Music Policy Summits from 2002 to 2006. She was also the primary author of Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies, which was released by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project in 2013. Thomson holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Colorado College.

Margy Waller
Margy Waller is an advocate for the creation of community through the arts. She is a Senior Fellow at Topos Partnership, a national strategic communications research organization; founder and current serendipity director of Art on the Streets; and a leader in the transformation of ArtsWave, a non­profit arts-advocacy and support organization. Previously, Waller was visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution with a joint appointment in the Economic Studies and Metropolitan Policy programs. Prior to her work at Brookings, she was senior advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton/­Gore White House. She is also a non-­practicing lawyer and a photographer. Waller is a graduate of Northwestern University and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Meiyin Wang
Meiyin Wang has served as the associate artistic producer of the Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival since 2006. The Festival presents new and cutting­-edge theatrical works from the U.S. and around the world. Working alongside festival director Mark Russell, she has produced seven international symposia; overseen the presentation of over 100 productions from over 17 countries; and supported artists such as Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Reggie Watts, Elevator Repair Service, and Young Jean Lee. Wang was the lead curator of ArtsEmerson’s TNT Festival 2012 and was an associate producer of Radar LA 2011. Wang is a recipient of the Theatre Communications Group’s Nathan Cummings Foundation Young Leader of Color award and is part of the TCG network of intergenerational leaders of color. Born and raised in Singapore, Wang served as resident playwright and director with Singapore Repertory Theatre before coming to New York. She has directed at the Singapore Repertory Theater, HERE, Brava, and Joe's Pub. Wang holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and theater studies from Yale and an MFA in directing from Columbia University.

Laura Zabel
Laura Zabel is the executive director of Springboard for the Arts, an artist- ­led economic development agency based in Minnesota. Springboard provides programs that help artists make a living–and a life–and supports programs that help communities tap into the resources that artists provide. Springboard's projects include Community Supported Art, which is based on the community-supported agriculture model and connects artists directly with patrons, and the Artists Access to Healthcare program, which was awarded the 2010 Social Entrepreneur's Cup. Springboard sponsors the Irrigate Project, a national model for how cities can engage artists to help reframe and address major community challenges and that organization also provides entrepreneurship training and other resources to artists and communities. Zabel recently received the Visionary Leader award from the Harvard Club and Minneapolis Council of Nonprofits. She has been one of the Minneapolis Business Journal's “40 Under 40” and Minnesota Monthly’s “Twelve Minnesotans Who Can See the Future.” She serves on advisory boards for the Knight Foundation, Twin Cities LISC, and the University of Kansas. Zabel is a frequent speaker at conferences, including the Aspen Ideas Festival. Zabel has a bachelor’s degree in theatre from the University of Kansas.

I believe this is an absolutely extraordinary guest list.

More to follow.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.