Why You Need to Be in Washington, D.C. this June!

Posted by Mr. Clayton W. Lord, Ms. Patricia Walsh, Mar 02, 2020 0 comments

Hello there! We are Clay Lord and Patricia Walsh, and together we oversee Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention and Public Art & Civic Design Conference. These two annual events—happening this year June 26-28 in Washington, D.C.—are the best place each year to come together with the full spectrum of people who are working to center the arts in equitable community development and creative placemaking. In 2020, the convergence of the Annual Convention with the refreshed and expanded Public Art & Civic Design Conference will spark a new level of conversation and thinking. The new shifts in format and structure that we’re setting up this year will make for an even more interactive and energizing conference, with over 50 sessions, more than 1,000 professionals from across a variety of sectors, and more opportunities to learn and network with colleagues from all 50 states and around the world.

There is So Much Content to Be Excited About!

With 52 breakout sessions culled from over 400 session proposals, there is so much to learn this year across the two conferences. We’ve got great sessions on arts and diplomacy (from local politics to the world stage); collaborating with indigenous partners; talking racial equity with boards, commissions, and granting panels; looking at climate change and the role of public art; understanding collection management of public art collections; and mapping the creative economy. Plus, as you might have heard, it’s an election year—so we’ve packed the conference with conversations about voter engagement, how to be an arts advocate, creating an escalator pitch for the value of the arts, and more! And if you just can’t decide which conference to attend, we’ve made it possible for you to get an All-Session pass to attend the breakout sessions of both events—which is a great way to get exactly what you want out of all that content (and take it back home!).


“AFTACON is how I keep up with and connect to the work happening in the field around the country. It’s the best way to get a big picture view of the field and where it is headed. The networking and relationships build are invaluable too. Totally worth it, inspiring and motivating!” — testimonials from the 2019 Annual Convention


New this year, attendees at either conference can take advantage of two half-day Pre-Event Workshops. Come to town a day early and join one or both workshops: The morning workshop is a deep dive learning on how to become an arts advocate; the afternoon workshop is a partnership with Monument Lab to explore process, participation, and power in public art.

Batala Washington at 11th Street Bridge Park's Taste of the Harvest. Photo by Ayanah George.

Why Washington, D.C.?

We are excited about holding these meetings in Washington, D.C. because the city and surrounding communities are about much more than national politics. The area is home to one of the largest and most storied African-American populations in the country, not to mention people of all backgrounds and histories. More than 160 languages are spoken in the District (the cool local name for Washington, D.C.) and it’s a place that converges national and international issues with hyperlocal conversations, celebrations, and challenges. It is a great place to engage in really deep and meaningful conversations about how we all work to make our communities the best they can be, how we can celebrate and engage with complex histories and competing narratives, and how we can welcome the world and stay true to ourselves.


“This network of support will keep me motivated for the rest of the year. I took away a greater sense of our own interconnectedness in this work, no matter the discipline or job position within the arts. It provided me with great food for thought as our organization begins out strategic planning process.” —testimonials from the 2019 Public Art Preconference


With an area this vibrant, we want to be sure you get to see more of it while you are in town. Whichever conference you choose, there are tour options to travel out into local communities in Maryland, Virginia, and the District to see what the arts and culture ecosystem of the D.C. area is all about. Make sure to sign up for a tour when you register—they’re included with your registration fee!

JD Deardourff mural for Art Tank 2, with permission from CulturalDC.

It’s New, You Need Be Here – And Bring a Friend!

We’re really excited about this year’s expanded and refreshed conferences. We’ve listened to what our attendees have asked for, and attempted to make it so—that means we’ve made ARTventure tours free to Convention attendees; we’ve shortened and streamlined the keynote sessions to get to the great speakers faster; we’ve created more networking opportunities in different formats to accommodate all the ways people like to connect; and we’ve worked hard to create quality, impactful breakout sessions representing great work from all over. At the same time, we’ve maintained the parts of our conferences that you love—panels you can observe and discussions you can jump right into the middle of, art and artists integrated into our keynotes and events, and an opening reception and off-site excursions that will take you deep into the complex, humming city that is Washington, D.C.

Register today and we look forward to seeing you here in June!

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