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50 Ways to Love Your Conference

Danielle Brazell & Ramona Baker

I like to think I am a better person, smarter, my head filled with new ways of thinking, and ready to rock and roll after being surrounded by people who love and respect the power of the arts to change the world.

The truth is, I am probably heavier after all of the dine-arounds and dinners out. My card case will explode with all of the business cards I collected. My eyes glaze over thinking about where to start first.

My mother, the evolved Buddhist from Bayside, did not achieve her state of grace without believing in some basic universal truths. She would say, “Get over yourself. You are just a speck in the grand scheme of things so relax. Take one step at a time.”

Thanks, Mom.

I know she meant to say something like “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” but after living in Queens you start to sound like a local.

Anyway, here are some of my impressions and images from this year’s American For the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego:

Come hungry for ideas and inspiration
Any vestiges of plane fatigue vanished the minute we stepped into the room for dinner with the oh-my-god amazing Ovation crew. I have been following their programming over the years and truly appreciate their commitment to capturing the stories of this arts landscape we are all part of. So smart to be reaching out to the field to build local viewerships that will grow, as Elizabeth Streb, my dear friend and awesome dancer likes to describe this as, “like rhizomes.” Talk about grassroots with grip!

Barbara Schaffer Bacon & Naj Wikoff

Wear comfortable shoes
This is a big hotel. To do your best in dashing from one session to another you must be able to explode from the starting gate, leap over buildings in a single bound, and look fabulous. Make sure you have the right shoes. Like my friend Naj. Now here’s a man whose shoes scream comfort.

What’s your story
Caught the NEA’s Locals/Challenge America Specialist Dinah Walls walking out of a workshop on storytelling. “Anything worth blogging about?”  I asked. She smiled and said, “Couple of things. For me as a funder hearing from groups in the field, I would suggest they pay attention to really communicating the story of what they do beyond the field so other people get it, and use normal words, no jargon.” Wise words to remember, everybody!

Ladies who laugh too much
Beware! You could be fired for laughing too much. Or much worse. Obviously that doesn’t bother either Danielle or her sidekick, Ramona, who have made laughter a prerequisite for entering their circle.  I am so thrilled to have shared a chuckle with these ladies.  Check us out on AFTA’s Facebook page.

How to say stuff in Arabic
Shannon wore a T shirt with something written in Arabic. It is part of a project her partner is involved with to make this language more visible graphically, on T shirts and cards. Shannon has kindly shared two of these notecards with me that each display a beautifully written word in Arabic. One that says, “artist” and one that says, “designer.” It makes me want to learn more. Seth too. He wants to know how to say, “Frosted Flakes” in Arabic.

Shannon Daut and Seth, my conference eye candy

As a speck in the universe, I have decided to follow up on just three things today:

1.  Write this blog post for you
2.  Get a comfortable pair of shoes
3.  Call my mother

I am so looking forward to seeing how everyone is doing at next year’s convention in San Antonio, TX!

*Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer is a surfer from Rockaway Beach who blogs at about how to live artfully. By day, she is the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts.

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