The Inaugural Art World Conference, Los Angeles was fun, positive and inspiringI It was very well organized and its theme, Business and Financial Health for Artists and Arts Professionals really spoke to me; a much needed dialogue to address opportunities and challenges facing artists in all stages of their careers. Held February 15th through 16th, the event started with a welcome party Saturday afternoon at the beautiful UTA Artist Space in Beverly Hills. Cocktails, Prosecco and Mochi ice cream were generously served. It was a great way to meet other attendees while viewing the current exhibition of paintings by Arcmanoro Niles in the central gallery space, and photographs by Kwame Brathwaite in the adjacent gallery space.

Art World Conference, Skirball Center; photo courtesy of Art World Conference

Activities began at the Skirball Center Sunday morning with a breakfast and time to mingle and get acquainted with many people who came from all over the country. I met artists, arts professionals, administrators, business owners and educators from Kansas City, Las Vegas and San Francisco just to name a few.

After breakfast, we were summoned to the auditorium where the conference was to begin. But first, a fun movement and dance exercise led by Marina Magalaes, a dancer and choreographer originally from Brazil, dedicated to building community. These made me feel relaxed and receptive to a full day of panel discussions, conversations, workshops, talks and in-depth sessions. At least two other ‘interventions’ occurred with Marina throughout the day. Next were welcoming remarks from Founder, Dexter Wimberley and Program Director, Heather Bhandari who talked about responsible and achievable career sustainability. They introduced keynote speaker, Arthur Lewis, Creative Director of UTA fine arts space who shared his passion for art and his experience as a collector of emerging artists and contemporary African-American art. He believes in the arts community and is an advocate for artists. He introduced the first workshop and speaker for the day, Edgar Arceneaux, Artist, Director and Associate Professor at USC Roski School of Art and Design whose talk entitled, “Can Artists Support Themselves While Remaining True to their Values?” was enlightening, funny and engaging. He also had us do a warm-up exercise with people seated nearby as a way to get to know each other in an intimate way. I think it helped us all to see that we are a community of individuals ready to share our knowledge and help each other. It was powerful!

Intervention, Part 2, Skirball Center; photo courtesy of Art World Conference

The day was filled with so many great moments, interesting and inspiring conversations and provocative and lively discussions. Here’s a few other highlights:

I enjoyed the conversation on Sustainability: On Currency, Value and Solidarity facilitated by Cameron Shaw, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the California African American Museum (CAAM). Panelists Kibum Kim, Lawyer, Writer and Educator, Anuradha Vikram, Writer, Curator and Educator, Allison Wyper, Artist, and Mario Ybarra Jr, Artist, shared their observations, inspirations and visions for the future. When asked what one piece of advice to give new artists, Kim said, “What can I do for my community?” Ybarra offered, “Be expressive. Be open.”

In between the first panel discussion and last one of the day, we had lunch and a chance to connect with more guests. I attended two workshops after lunch. My favorite was, The Art of Negotiation with Jessica Lee, Attorney at Loeb & Loeb, who counsels clients on intellectual property issues. She gave a thorough and impressive slide presentation and generously shared her wealth of knowledge. We divided into small groups and did some role-playing, negotiating and learned some valuable problem-solving techniques, skills and tools.

Conversation, Sustainability, Skirball Center; photo courtesy of Art World Conference

Another great panel discussion was the last conversation of the day called Audience vs. Community: What are You Building? Facilitated by Megan Steinman, Curator and Director of the Underground Museum, panelists included Daniel Desure, Creative Director and Entrepreneur, Artist Lauren Halsey and Six Sev, Artist and Entrepreneur who shared their stories, strategies and goals. They each had a different approach to making art and connecting with community. Lauren Halsey said, “Establish your boundaries early on.” Daniel DeSure responded, “Be giving more than your taking.” Added Six Sev, “Find like-minded people; find a community. Keep goin’.”

All in all, I felt Art World Conference was very worthwhile and I’m so glad I attended. I learned a lot about community and focusing on goals and needs. Sharing knowledge with attendees made me feel grateful to be part of this experience. The panelists and presenters were all very approachable, willing to share their experiences and generous with their time. Kudos to all!