2020 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention: Session Proposals

Please read the information below carefully before taking the time to submit your proposal!

About the 2020 Annual Convention

LOCAL TO GLOBAL. In 2020, the Annual Convention will land in Washington, DC, for the first time in nearly 20 years. As one of the most historically diverse regions in the United States, the DC metro region is a place that is always local, national, and international simultaneously.

Here, culture is interwoven everywhere. Residents who have been here for generations exist alongside constant waves of political arrivals and departures and cultures and flavors from across the world. In both the public and private sectors, this region houses one of the most thriving, diverse, and creativity-driven economies in the country.



New this year, the Annual Convention will include two simultaneous, separate, 2 ½-day conferences:

  • The Art, Culture & Community Life Conference will focuses on arts, community development, civic engagement, creative economy, education, and the social impact of arts and culture. Click here to learn more.
  • The Public Art & Civic Design Conference will further dialogue and learning about art and design in the built environment. Click here to learn more.

Both conferences will run from Friday, June 26 to Sunday, June 28, 2020 in Washington, DC, and both will include excursions to adjoining areas of Maryland and Virginia.

Click on the links above to learn what to expect for each conference, who the conference is designed for and what are the themes for each.

If you have already reviewed the information below on How to Submit a Proposal, you can click here to submit your session proposal.


How to Submit a Proposal


DEADLINE. Submissions are due by October 2, 2019.

SUBMISSION DESIGN. We are seeking as fully-formed a session proposal as possible. Please review the following information, which will help you to craft as competitive a proposal as possible.

  • FIELD-WIDE LENS. When crafting your session proposal, keep in mind that this is a national conference, and so we very rarely can select sessions that focus only on 1 project. We recommend that you populate your session with 2-3 others from different organizations, cities, demographics or points of view who can speak about the general topic of the session.
  • CULTURAL EQUITY. Americans for the Arts is committed to following the tenets of its Statement on Cultural Equity in all of our programming. Your proposal should address how your session content will include cultural equity.
  • TITLE, DESCRIPTION, LEARNING OUTCOMES. When you click through to the next page, you’ll see we’re asking you to propose a Session Title, a Session Description, and 3 Learning Outcomes for the session. If accepted, we’ll work with you on refining and formatting these, but please take the time to craft them with your proposal—they help us understand in more depth what you’re proposing!
  • THEMES. To be considered, your submitted proposal should address one or more of the themes outlined for whichever conference your proposal is for.
    • Themes for the Arts, Culture & Community Life Conference can be found here.
    • Themes for the Public Art & Civic Design Conference can be found here.
  • SESSION FORMAT. We offer a variety of formats for our sessions. As part of submitting a proposal, you’ll be asked to indicate which format(s) you think would be best for your session. Please review the options below:
    • Panel. 3-4 speakers offer 12-15 minute presentations, followed by a moderated Q&A among the speakers and the attendees. These sessions have the option of PowerPoint, video, and audio integration.
    • Workshop. 1-2 speakers lead a session that is half teaching/presenting and half hands-on exercises for attendees. These sessions have the option of PowerPoint, video, and audio integration.
    • Discussion. 3-4 presenters join a circle of attendees and each briefly share for approximately 5 minutes their point of view on the session topic. After which a moderator will facilitate a dialogue between the speakers and attendees for the rest of the session. Our most popular format, these sessions do not have the option of PowerPoint, video, and audio integration.
    • Interactive. 2-3 presenters create a highly creative and interactive learning experience where attendees gain skills through practice. An example of this type of session was 2019’s “Perfecting Your Escalator Pitch,” which saw attendees briefly learning how to craft quick and pointed pitches before pairing up to practice with and critique the work of a partner while riding the escalators of the hotel. Extra points for creativity. These sessions do not have the option of PowerPoint, video, and audio integration.
    • Five in Five Presentations (available for the Public Art & Civic Design Conference only). Five slides in under five minutes – can you do it? This popular event allows for up to 11 speakers to each present on one topic or project. Submissions for this format should only include information and description of the singular topic or project the speaker will present on. This session have the option of PowerPoint, video, and audio integration.
  • SESSION PROPOSERS. If your proposal is accepted, the person proposing the session will be responsibilities will include for coordinating your speakers, ensuring the learning outcomes are addressed in the content, acting liaison between your session and Americans for the Arts conference lead, ensuring your session starts and ends on time, and support our Microphone Policy for the comfort of attendees. Please contact us if you have any questions about the obligations entailed in becoming a session proposer.
  • SESSION SPEAKERS. While you do not need to have your speakers confirmed, you will need basic information about them including their title, organization, and the demographic categories listed above.
    • Please make sure that your proposed speakers represent a variety of points of view, demographics, and geographies. You will be asked to provide very basic demographic information about proposed speakers (race/ethnicity, age category, gender identity, geographic location). If we like your topic but feel like the panelist mix isn’t quite right, Americans for the Arts reserves the right to accept some panelists and collaborate with you to fill out the remaining slots with others doing great work across the country.
    • An important note on registration rates. Americans for the Arts provides a special speaker registration rate of $400 for all confirmed speakers. We generally are not able to provide any further discount or complimentary registrations beyond that. On a case-by-case basis, we can authorize 1-day comp passes for speakers in two specific categories:
      • Presenters from other industries or sectors who are integral to the conversation but for whom the content of the conference is not critical.
      • Presenters who are individual artists, individuals unaffiliated with organizations, or individuals with other demonstrable barriers to attending.


About Our Proposal Review Process

Proposals are selected to ensure the conferences offer a comprehensive, nonpromotional, objective, and diverse programming. Attention will be given to diversity of institutions/organizations, presenters, and geographic location. Note: You may be invited to present in formats other than the one you selected or those noted in the proposal submission form.

Americans for the Arts will only review complete proposals submitted by October 2, 2019. We will make every reasonable effort to invite the speakers listed on the proposal, but will recommend alternate speakers if we deem it necessary.
Proposals will be reviewed and considered using the following criteria:

  • Completed submission form and, where possible, any proposed moderators or speakers.
  • Moderator and speaker diversity (gender, race, career level, geography, etc.).
  • Session title that accurately reflects the topic and addresses a conference theme.
  • Appropriate session format for the session proposed (occasionally Americans for the Arts may suggest an alternate session format for your topic).
  • Well-written session description and learning objectives that give a clear picture of the session and what attendees will learn through their participation.

After proposal submissions close, proposals are reviewed by combination of Americans for the Arts staff, advisory council members and other field experts. Review of proposals will take place in the fall of 2019 and the session proposers will be notified of the results of their proposals no later than December 31st. In addition to the above criteria, these experts identify topics that are urgent, emergent, important, or particularly relevant in this moment.



  • October 2: Proposal deadline
  • December 31st: Session Proposers notified
  • Late January: Registration Live
  • June 26 – 28th: Annual Convention


All speakers will directly receive an individual speaking invitation and will be required to complete a speaking agreement and submit a headshot and bio to confirm their participation.

In early 2020, the speakers for each session will be invited to a session meeting organized by the Americans for the Arts conference lead to learn about onsite logistics and session expectations and to ask questions about their role or session. Session proposers should also plan to attend this session, even if not speaking.

Speakers will be asked to upload related resources (documents or links) of their presentation. These resources provide support for the presentation and then become a part of the conference proceedings so that your valuable information is accessible beyond your session. If your proposal is selected, you will be provided with instructions on uploading your presentation materials.


Phew! Okay, now that you’ve read all that…

Click here to submit your session proposal!