Activating Community Dialogue and Connections through Creative Conversations
On October 21, the Emerging Leaders in the Arts Network (ELAN) hosted our third annual Creative Conversation. Over the past three years, this event has enabled our Emerging Leaders chapter to make connections within our local Oregon community and address topics that provoke conversation around the state of the arts in this region.
As the only current university-based chapter of the Emerging Leaders Network, the Creative Conversations program has created a vital link between university students and the community at large.
Based out of the University of Oregon in Eugene, finding ways to break down the student/community divide is a high priority for our chapter. We strive to find ways to bridge the gap between students and professionals, and to take the opportunity while we are in graduate school to connect with artists, administrators, and educators so that we can inform our role as the current generation of emerging leaders.
For this year’s event, titled "Make a Scene: Activating Local Arts & Culture Media," ELAN sought to address how our community can work together to elevate local arts and culture media coverage, providing both print- and web-based opportunities and platforms for participation, dialogue, and critical engagement.
The event started with a panel comprised of local writers, critics, and media managers, including Rebecca Black and Karen Rainsong from Eugene A Go-Go; Jonathan Boys-Hkd, founder and editor-in-chief of Emerging Artist Magazine; Suzi Steffen, independent arts critic and blogger; Dante Zuniga-West, music/visual arts editor at the Eugene Weekly; and Joshua Finch of the zine Exiled in Eugene.
For the first thirty minutes, the panelists addressed the impetus for starting their careers in media, what approaches to arts coverage and promotion they viewed as working well in Oregon, and how our local community can build a stronger platform for participation.
In our panelist selection process, we looked to cover a wide array of media choices, from the online platform to the independent DIY publisher. The diversity allowed for dialogue to cover a wide range of participant populations and to bring ideas of how even vastly different media types can work in unison to create a stronger art scene.
As the panel wrapped up, the event diverged into a breakout session where attendees had the opportunity to move throughout five tables to discuss topics surrounding the evening’s theme.
Prompts laid on each table – including Noteworthy, Newsworthy, & the Subjectivity In-Between; Personal Media Environment; DIY Media; Your Grandma and Twitter; and Making a Eugene Scene – carved a vague path to promote creative and unrestrictive dialogue as it pertained to the phrase at hand. With each rotation of participants through the tables, a question was developed for the next group to build on, enabling the dialogue to move forth with upward momentum.
From these discussions, many great questions arose, both inside and outside the topic of media.
- In what ways can publications, art organizations, and artists collaborate to support one another?
- How do we bridge connections with people outside of the art world and tap into new resources?
- How do organizations turn audiences into advocates?
- How does one decide what is culturally relevant in our town?
- How do people find a sense of belonging in the arts and culture community and create their own scene?
- And most importantly, how do we continue this dialogue once the event has come to a close?
In the end, a simple topic ignited a flow of ideas that branched out in many different, yet relevant, directions. It is evident that Creative Conversations create an ideal platform for initiating these discussions through a forum that is simple in nature, engaging, and connecting. With each year, new community members and students come out to participate, generate ideas, and aid in carrying forth the arts in Eugene. And for ELAN, the event continues to play a key role in allowing us to carry forth our mission of cultivating leadership, dialogue, and engagement within the arts and culture community.