I have been attending the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference this past weekend. I am sure I will have more to say on the subject in future entries, but I wanted to post a few reflections and impressions while they were fresh.
First, I wanted to give some congratulations and props to Mario Garcia Durham, the new President and CEO of APAP on this, his first conference with the organization. I had met Mario a handful of times before in his capacity as the Director of Artistic Communities and Presenting at the National Endowment for the Arts. I was always set at ease by his open and welcoming manner when I had consultation sessions with him.
I took it as a good sign that he invited the Emerging Leadership Institute participants and alumni (of which I am one) up to his suite to discuss what we felt was the future for the field. We didn’t have a lot of time with him, but it was a promising sign. I also thought it was a promising sign that he got a standing ovation at the start of the conference from the membership. (And even more promising that he decides to discard a long speech he had prepared at another gathering!)
For this conference, I decided to break out my laptop and do a little live tweeting from different sessions. I had a great time doing it and could really see the utility of the activity for the conference, and somewhat by extension, for Tweet Seat programs that have been emerging at various arts events. I will say though that I really felt that I ended up missing many aspects of the sessions I was attending. Not only in terms of not entirely absorbing points people were making, but also some of the nuances of what they were saying. Even though my brain and multi-tasking abilities may not be on par with those of the younger generation, I can’t help but think they would indeed suffer from the same situation.
I was also surprised given the size of the attendance that more people weren’t tweeting from the various discussions going on, at least not on the official hashtag, #APAPNYC. Didnt see much on the counter-conference hashtag #APAPSMEAR, either. Many people used the hashtags to promote their showcases, but didn’t really seem to overdo it.
I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more people tweeting from the sessions because there were often a number I wanted to attend running concurrently and with a few exceptions, no one was reporting what was transpiring in those rooms.
On the other hand, there were a fair number of people following along. I appreciate all those who signed up to follow my twitter feed. Between those who started following me and those who were tweeting themselves, I found a number of new interesting people to follow in turn.
One interesting thing I noticed was a change in the underlying theme of the discussions at the conference. In the past it has often been about declining attendance and funding. This year it seems to be more focused on social and cultural trends, perhaps thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movements. People were talking about loss of identity, disenfranchisement, fragmentation and polarization of society.
Questions were raised about what role arts organizations would have in addressing this and place in the community rather than how to get more people through the doors. One of the major speakers at a few of the sessions was John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, PA who has attracted a lot of national attention for his efforts to revitalize his town and reverse the decline by the use of art and community efforts. As part of one effort, they took the bricks from a demolished garage to make a communal bread oven.
I will try to post more on the conference in the weeks ahead as I am able to digest the experience.