Tuesday, June 8 | Wednesday, June 9 | Thursday, June 10 | Friday, June 11

All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Tuesday, June 8, 2021


The Durability and Resiliency of Culture with Alice Waters and Ron Finley

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
(60 min)

We’ll kick off the Annual Convention with a welcome and State of the Arts report from Interim President and CEO Nolen Bivens and welcome remarks from National Endowment for the Arts Chief of Staff Ra Joy. Then, it's time to welcome our opening keynote! Following the incredible devastation of COVID-19, both socially and economically, our cultural expressions—from artmaking to performance to fashion to food—can cultivate our resiliency, spark plans for the future, and remind our community about the enduring importance of the creative life, as well as the essential nature of culture to our country’s recovery. Culture is our throughline. It endures—even struggles like what our communities have experienced this past year. In this inspiring keynote, celebrated chef Alice Waters and Gangster Gardener, artist, and designer Ron Finley—activists and advocates of food equity—discuss how our cultural traditions are tied into what we make, what we eat, and how we engage with each other, and offer thoughts on how we can heal strained social fabric through the shared practice of creating and consuming culture, whether through food, visual art, performance, storytelling, or otherwise.

Nolen Bivens, Interim President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
Ra Joy, Chief of Staff, National Endowment for the Arts
Alice Waters, chef, author, and activist
Ron Finley, designer, activist, and urban gardener
Facilitator: Christina Ritchie, Director of Individual Giving, Americans for the Arts

Creating a Better Future for Independent Arts Workers

12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
(45 min)

The entire creative economy runs on the backs of 5.2 million creative workers, almost half of whom are independent or gig workers. These workers, in various ways, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic—but that impact has occurred in part because of systemic issues within the creative field and the country that have made it harder for them to access insurance, save money, become eligible for unemployment, and overall make a financially viable creative life. In this session, explore with four leaders how to create a new vision for the treatment of independent arts workers in the United States.

Rafael Espinal, Executive Director, Freelancers Union
Caroline Vincent, Executive Director, Nashville Office of Arts + Culture
Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
Deadria Harrington, Producing Artistic Leader, The Movement Theatre Company

Centering Community Voices in Recovery 

12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
(45 min)

The people most affected by the pandemic and economic downturn need to be centered in conversations about recovery—but how? In this session, learn from two case studies that present practical approaches to relationship building between cultural institutions and community-centered organizations. Presenters will share how to develop the strong partnerships necessary to equitably distribute cultural resources designated for recovery and community revitalization efforts.

Jainelle Robinson, Community Engagement Officer, ArtOps
Demar Walker, Artistic Director, Ko-Thi Dance Company

Up-to-the-Minute Federal Policy and Advocacy Update 

1:45 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(45 min)

Things are moving fast in the federal arts advocacy and policy space, and it's crucial that we all keep up and stay ready to activate. In this session, Americans for the Arts’ federal advocacy and policy leads Narric Rome and Nina Ozlu Tunceli will bring you the absolute latest news, initiatives, and next steps for federal advocacy and policy related to the post-COVID-19 recovery, the budget cycle, and other top priorities for 2021 and beyond.

Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Chief Counsel of Government and Public Affairs, Americans for the Arts, and Executive Director, Arts Action Fund
Narric Rome, Vice President of Government Affairs and Arts Education, Americans for the Arts

The Future of COVID-19-Inspired Creative Coalitions 

2:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
(45 min)

The past year has generated some of the strongest and most effective coalitions within the arts and culture community ever—collectives of small businesses, individual creative workers, cultural organizations, and all of the above—united in an effort to articulate and sell a vision for relief and recovery for the sector. As the country slowly rolls into "post-recovery," how can these coalitions pivot to drive towards longer-term advocacy, policy, and field and systemic change? Join representatives from five such coalitions to explore just that.

Matthew-Lee Erlbach, Co-Founder, Be An #ArtsHero
Lucy Sexton, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Culture & Arts
Erik Takeshita, Co-Lead, Get Creative Workers Working Coalition
Chris Zacher, Executive Director, Levitt Pavilion Denver, Co-Captain, National Independent Venues Association

The Latest News and Opportunities from the NEA 

3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
(45 min)

As our community adjusts to the promise and challenges of post-pandemic life, the National Endowment for the Arts has a lot of news to share. Relief and recovery funds, shifts in granting programs and priorities, new agency initiatives and research findings, and more will be on the table in this information session with NEA staff. Don’t miss it!

Lara Holman Garritano, Grant Management Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts
Michael Orlove, Director of State, Regional & Local Partnerships, National Endowment for the Arts
Lakita Edwards, Arts Education Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts
Katherine Bray-Simons, Our Town Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts



Putting Artists to Work in Partnership with Private Philanthropy 

3:45 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(45 min)

One of the opportunities inside the significant crisis of COVID-19 has been the revival of creative workforce programs and pilots. Many of these have centered on government support, but what does it look like when such a program is developed predominantly with local or regional private philanthropic partners? In this session, learn about one such initiative, Artists at Work, from the points of view of the program's producer, one of the artists involved, and a key funder.

Rachel Chanoff, Director, The OFFICE Performing Arts + Film
Naia Kete, artist, Artists at Work
Chris Wadsworth, Co-Founder, Fresh Grass

How Arts Agencies Are Grappling with a Legacy of Inequity 

4:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(45 min)

As local and state arts agencies continue to examine their role in their community, they must also examine their current relationship with and participation in racial and cultural inequity. In this session, hear from three agency leaders about how they conducted research and analyzed historical work, shared their findings and engaged with their community in reporting out, and now, are grappling with the next steps towards racial and cultural equity and justice.

Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts & Culture, City of Boston
Ruby Lopez Harper, Vice President of Equity and Local Arts Engagement, Americans for the Arts
Tariana Navas-Nieves, Director, Cultural Affairs and Equity Leadership Team, Denver Arts & Venues
Krista Terrell, President, Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenberg

End-of-Day Networking for Introverts and Extroverts

5:00pm – 5:45pm
(45 minutes)

Close out your first Annual Convention day with a 45-minute networking session, in which we’ve crafted experiences for people who are more into general group conversation and for people searching for that one-on-one experience. Participants will have the option to jump over to the Glimpse platform for a series of one-on-one connections or to stay with Americans for the Arts’ Ruby Lopez Harper for 45 minutes of facilitated fun and group conversation.

Session curator/facilitator: Ruby Lopez Harper, Americans for the Arts

Wednesday, June 9, 2021


Expanding What Art Is and Who Makes It with Larissa FastHorse 

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
(60 min)

MacArthur Fellow and award-winning playwright Larissa FastHorse says that she’s about expanding what art is and who makes it. In this mainstage session, FastHorse will discuss reversing the current dynamic in which community is often used as a commodity or resource for art, and instead creating art that is in service to the community. Attendees will explore what it means when you embrace a human-centered process and expand your definition as an artist, arts consumer, administrator, or advocate beyond the “end product” that people see on stage or on a wall, and embrace that the art is in the process itself.

Larissa FastHorse, Playwright and Co-Founder, Indigenous Direction
Facilitator: Ruby Lopez Harper, Vice President of Equity and Local Arts Engagement, Americans for the Arts

Dialogue with Larissa FastHorse 

12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
(45 min)

Following her mainstage presentation, playwright and MacArthur Fellow Larissa FastHorse will participate in a facilitated Q&A and dialogue with attendees.

Larissa FastHorse, Playwright and Co-Founder, Indigenous Direction

What You Need to Know about Local and State Arts Recovery Advocacy 

12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
(45 min)

This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity—what some are calling a once-in-a-lifetime moment—as billions of dollars in recovery funding flow into states and localities with a broad mandate to remedy the damage of COVID-19. In this crucial session, hear solid tips, tricks, and examples about how advocates are attempting to direct funds for creative economic recovery in cities and states for both immediate and long-term revitalization.

Julie Baker, Executive Director, Californians for the Arts
Margy Waller, Senior Fellow, Topos Partnership


Jorge and Darlene Pérez Prize for Public Art & Civic Design Recipients in Dialogue  

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(60 min)

Each year, the Jorge and Darlene Pérez Prize for Public Art & Civic Design is given to a visionary in the public art and civic design fields. In this very special session, the 2021 prize recipient will be announced and will kick off their year of engagement by participating in a dynamic, facilitated dialogue focused on exploring the future role of public art in civic life and the impacts of the pandemic and racial justice/injustices on art in public spaces. The 2020 Pérez Prize recipient, artist Vinnie Bagwell, will join the discussion with the 2021 awardee. The Pérez Prize in Public Art & Civic Design honors the philanthropic commitment of Jorge M. Pérez, chairman and CEO of The Related Group, his family, and their collective vision and belief in the power of art to transform the design of places and spaces across the United States in ways that add deep and meaningful dimension to our human experience of the built environment.

About The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation
The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation at The Miami Foundation fulfills the philanthropic vision of Jorge M. Pérez, chairman and CEO of The Related Group, and his family to develop South Florida as an exemplary world-class urban center. The family foundation promotes sustainable, inclusive, and just communities by supporting programs and organizations focused on arts and culture, health and well-being, education, environment, and economic development—with a particular preference for programs and organizations that could serve as models for other urban centers.

Vinnie Bagwell, artist and recipient of the 2020 Peréz Prize in Public Art & Civic Design
2021 Recipient, TBD
Lisa Yun Lee, Executive Director, National Public Housing Museum
Patricia Walsh, Public Art and Civic Design Senior Program Manager, Americans for the Arts

COVID-19 Research Round-Up 

2:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
(45 min)

In the past year, several qualitative and quantitative research projects have been taken up to document, understand, and measure the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector, and how communities have grappled with COVID-19. In this session, hear top-line findings from some of those research projects, as well as how the information gathered can inform the sector going forward.

Arthur Cohen, CEO, LaPlaca Cohen
Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research, Americans for the Arts
Sunil Iyengar, Director of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts
Jill Sonke, Director, Center for the Arts in Medicine, University of Florida College of the Arts
Steven A. Wolff, Principal, AMS Planning and Research Corp.

Next Generation Social Media to Advocate for and Energize the Arts

3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m.
(45 min)

What happens when the whole world has to shut themselves away for a year—at a moment of extreme need for advocacy and person-to-person communication? Some of the strongest and most innovative work in social media, that's what. In this session, learn from the social media manager for the national advocacy group Be An #ArtsHero (who also happens to have run the social media for the cultural phenomenon that was “Ratatouille the TikTok Musical”) about how to take the lessons of the pandemic forward and use next generation social media to advocate for arts, culture, and the creative economy.

Ava Coploff, Account Manager, Marathon Digital, and Media Manager, Be An #ArtsHero


Exploring the Possibilities of an Inclusive Creative Economy 

3:45 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
(45 min)

As local arts leaders endeavor to make the case for their full and inclusive creative economy, often times the very notion of creating a community-specific definition in order to make that case can present a challenge. How can this process be inclusive rather than exclusive? In this session, explore with creative economy leaders Cezanne Charles and Dee Schneidman the contrasting strategies of defining the creative economy through economic jobs data versus through identifying unique community cultural assets and hear how the presenters are working to develop useful and inclusive definitions.

Cezanne Charles, Partner, rootoftwo
Dee Schneidman, Senior Program Director, Research & Creative Economy, New England Foundation for the Arts

Sustainably and Equitably Supporting Digital Capacity for Cultural Organizations 

4:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(45 min)

As with most seismic shifts, the pandemic has forced almost everyone to recalibrate the fundamentals—including how to share physical or place-based artwork digitally. This shift has significant equity and access implications and opens up big questions about competency, quality, compensation, and capacity. It raises the important question: how can/should public and private philanthropic partners support building digital capacity for cultural organizations that delivers sustainably- and equitably-produced content—stepping into the future without diminishing the value of the work or reinforcing barriers?

Koven Smith, Senior Director, Arts, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
James McKissic, Executive Director, ArtsBuild
Ravi Rajan, President, CalArts
Jax Deluca, Media Arts Director, National Endowment for the Arts

End-of-Day Digital Roundtables –Creative Economy and Beyond

5:00pm – 5:45pm

Are you looking for connection opportunities around a topic you’re interested in and with a smaller group of people? Then join this end-of-day networking session, in which you’ll be able to join a no-host digital roundtable session built around a topic related to the creative economy—or join one that is related to nothing professional at all, if that’s more your thing! Grab a drink and get to know some of your fellow Convention attendees in this no-pressure session.

Session topics and links:

  • Topic 1: Post Pandemic Travel: Where are you going? What’s on the List of Adventures?
  • Topic 2: Houseplants and Pets: Pandemic Stories
  • Topic 3: Ideas for Partnerships with Chambers of Commerce
  • Topic 4: Programming/Partnership/Policy Ideas You Never Would Have Tried Pre-Pandemic
  • Topic 5: Book Club! What are We Reading?
  • Topic 6: Shifting Power & Decision-Making: Discussing the Solidarity Economy and the Arts

Session curator/facilitator: Jessica Stern, Americans for the Arts

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Restorative Economics and Rethinking Cultural Resource Distribution with Edgar Villanueva and Nwamaka Agbo 

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
(60 min)

For those most affected and those who have been paying attention, the inequities in resource distribution and funding for arts, culture, and creativity have been evident for a long time. COVID-19, however, has made it clear that a different relationship to resources that centers equity and humanity is necessary in the creative sector. In this mainstage dialogue, funder, activist, and author Edgar Villanueva and restorative economist Nwamaka Agbo will lay out a vision for a new approach to creative work and resource distribution that centers equity and restorative justice.

Nwamaka Agbo, CEO, Kataly Foundation
Edgar Villanueva, author, Decolonizing Wealth and Senior Vice President of Programs and Advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education
Facilitator: Jessica Stern, Senior Manager, Local Arts and Business Partnerships,  Americans for the Arts

Arts Incubators as Engines to Drive Equity 

12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
(45 min)

Arts and culture incubators are programs that nurture emerging artists and arts organizations and businesses by offering low-cost or subsidized leadership, entrepreneurial, and business training as well as mentorship and networking opportunities. They may also provide facilities, funding, and fiscal sponsorship. Arts incubators are gaining notice thanks to new research, as well as the possibility that they may provide a model for breaking down historically inequitable resource distribution practices and supporting a broader spectrum of emerging workers, organizations, and art forms. In this session, hear about recent research, including how two incubators are working to drive racial and cultural equity in local arts ecosystems.

Stan Renard, College of Liberal and Fine Arts, University of Texas at San Antonio
Jon Hinojosa, Artistic and Executive Director, Say SI
Georja Skinner, Founder, Creative Lab Hawaii

How To Use Data When Reopening 

12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
(45 min)

COVID-19 case rates continue to fall and the arts and culture field is beginning to reopen. To do it right, you need to reflect on public health orders and protocols, balance in your mission and budget needs, think about how much you’ll continue to do online with new live and in person events and activities, and layer on top of all that what audiences and visitors want and what are they worried about. In this session, learn how artists, arts organizations, and arts funders can use the data at hand as they plan for reopening.

Bronwyn Mauldin, Director of Research and Evaluation, LA County Department of Arts and Culture


Culture, Storytelling, and the Creative Life with Jer Thorp and Maribel Alvarez 

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(60 min)

Our stories are what make us human, create our communities, and connect us to our social and cultural identities. Storytelling has existed as long as humans have, whether through language, visual art, performance, or data—it is the way we articulate ourselves, connect to our history, set our collective and personal priorities, and live our lives. And right now, at a moment when much of the world feels simultaneously chaotic and on the cusp of possibility, our stories can provide us order, vision, and a way of bridging between communities and sharing dreams. In this mainstage session, anthropologist and folklorist Maribel Alvarez and data artist and author Jer Thorp tackle the perpetual draw of story; the ways new technology, artforms, and methods of communications come into play; and the essential need for culturebearers, storytellers, and artists in the moment to come.

Maribel Alvarez, Folklorist and Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Arizona
Jer Thorp, Data Artist and Author, Living in Data


A Conversation About Our Current and Future Creative Economy 

3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(120 min)

Our current economic systems aren’t working for most people, and our country and economy face big structural challenges requiring major shifts to heal trauma, repair injustices, create real equity, and establish pathways for all people to secure sustainable income. The arts and culture sector isn’t immune—but to move forward we need to articulate where we are and where we want to go. Join a special two-hour interactive field dialogue to explicitly name our current economic situation and the vision and economic frame we want to see. Explore language related to naming our existing system, such as racialized capitalism and neoliberalism, and learn more about concepts like the solidarity economy, restorative economics, and Just Transition, and how these terms can come to life in arts and culture.

Francisco Perez, Executive Director, The Center for Popular Economics
Allen Kwabena Frimpong, Co-Founder and Principal Manager, ZEAL

End-of-Day Digital Roundtables (plus optional 1-on-1 speed networking!)

5:00pm – 5:45pm

In our last networking event of the conference, join us Thursday night to connect in small groups around topics related to the sessions this week – or if 1-on-1 conversation is more your interest, jump into a Glimpse session to speed network with your fellow Convention attendees. These roundtables will be no-host, no-pressure opportunities to meet and learn from each other. So come join us and enjoy some downtime with your colleagues!

Session topics and links:

  • Topic 1: Balancing Work from Home and Homelife
  • Topic 2: Supporting Each as Our Communities Wrangle with Reopening
  • Topic 3: Ideas for Addressing Systemic Inequities is Funding Distributions
  • Topic 4: Discussing Policies that Center Artists of Color
  • Topic 5: What You’re Looking Forward to As Communities Reopen
  • Topic 6: Songs and Shows You’re Loving (and/or Binging)
  • One-on-One Speed Networking Room - GLIMPSE

Session curators/facilitators: Patricia Walsh and Ruby Lopez Harper, Americans for the Arts

Friday, June 11, 2021


The Artist as Advocate with Annette Bening

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
(60 min)

Among many changes, crises, and opportunities, 2020 was a year when artists showed up and shone as advocates and activists for themselves, the sector, and their communities. In this special keynote, hear from Academy-, Tony-, and Emmy Award-nominated actress and legend Annette Bening about her year of activation, her long-term devotion to using her creative platform to make the world a better place, and what comes next for creative workers.

Annette Bening, actress
Facilitator: Heather Flanagan, Leadership Alliances Coordinator, Americans for the Arts

Resisting the Inertia of "Back to Normal" 

12:30 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
(45 min)

Since racial inequity remains the status quo, 2021 must be a time we work towards being anti-racist while fighting tendencies to “return to normal.” In this session, hear why the inertia of “normal” is so enticing, particularly for those who were the beneficiaries of the inequities that the old “normal” included, and why it must be resisted in service to a more equitable future vision, and explore how public and private sector arts leaders are working to ensure forward momentum coming out of the COVID-19 crisis.

Elizabeth McCorvey, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker
Lane Harwell, Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation
Marialaura Leslie, Deputy Director, Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs  


Creating the Resilient, Equitable Future Arts Sector We Seek with LaChanze, Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley
Plus, Presentation of the Americans for the Arts Leadership Awards

1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.
(75 min)

We’ll close out the Annual Convention by celebrating our 2021 Leadership Awardees before welcoming a powerful closing conversation to carry us through into the rest of 2021. Throughout the pandemic, composer, director, and SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, producer James Wesley, have been buoying a field in crisis with their daily live-streamed series, Stars in the House, which combines music, community, and education about the arts, artists, and the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. In this special, inspiring closing mainstage session, Rudetsky and Wesley will be joined by Tony Award-winning actress and activist LaChanze (The Color Purple) to talk through a post-recovery vision for the arts. What can we carry out of the crisis of the last year and a half to make our sector stronger, more equitable, and more resilient? How can we raise public value and public awareness so that the arts and creative sector are better positioned to receive relief and recovery support if/when something like this happens again? How do we maintain some of the bold ideas that came out of this pandemic beyond this moment? How can we permanently improve the lives of creative workers?

Seth Rudetsky, composer/director, co-host Stars in the House
James Wesley, producer, co-host Stars in the House
LaChanze, actor, writer, producer, co-founder of Black Theatre United
Facilitator: Joshua Jenkins, Director of Web and New Media Strategies, Americans for the Arts

Leadership Awards Presenters: Jerelle Jenkins, Local Arts Services Coordinator, and Ami Scherson, Equity in Arts Leadership, Program Coordinator, Americans for the Arts