The Coda Summit “Art- Technology + Innovation” conference in Scottsdale November 10-12th, was a feast of surprises, delights to the imagination, inspiration galore, and even delicious vegan lunches. I was famished for this gang of creative, passionate, and engaged change makers. At this banquet, I drank till I was so drunk with inspiration and insights I was still tipsy days after the conference.
I was enchanted and spell bound to hear these creative folks, city agencies, and the Codaworx gang and how they approached their creative process, put a team together, and made the complex process of public art a reality. I appreciated people’s humane, thoughtful conversations and their keen passion for excellence in their craft. There were so many smart and talented folks, I was getting so dazzled and I almost had to wear sunglasses indoors!
I loved seeing all these creative people with such a diversity of talents, education and experiences: poets, economists, a physicist, an MD, an FNP/ Homeopath, lots of engineers, teachers/ professors galore, a sociologist, opera singer, thespians, sculptors, social change activists, light designers and more. A plethora of talent! People had attended technical schools and universities like Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech, McGill, French technical schools, lots of MFAs, one Master’s in International Development, and the unifying theme was peoples’ passion for learning. Everyone I spoke to love the challenge of thinking and designing. Though money and financing is vital to public art, the conversations formally and off the record were largely about their passion for design and creativity. People thought holistically about design, deeply listened to communities, and then translated into public art. The artists/ designers created a compelling story with a sensitivity to the broader public. I also valued how people took their personal stories, and created their art such Wendy Maruyama’s art and her family’s story of their displacement from their homes during WWII.
As an internationalist, I valued the UN diversity — Canadians, French, Belgian, Arabs, Portuguese, Asians, Latinos, Israeli, African Americans, Irish, etc. In professional conferences like Coda it is difficult to get diversity, this was a zesty jambalaya stew of cultures drawn from around the globe.
I also liked that there were so many people in their twenties to their forties, the leaders and emerging talent of their generation, and yet there was plenty of room for us mature artists. Though I wish there was some way we could have brought in younger aspiring artists and teens. Perhaps, in the future, we can make a commitment to more youth.
To the person, no matter how accomplished they were in their profession, people were willing to talk and share ideas. I walked away from the conference more confident in my vision and ability to create public art.
I valued how all these very smart talented people figured out how to effectively integrate their left and right brains, and connected with others from different backgrounds. Historically, design and creative folks, community leaders and engineers do not always effectively talk to each other. Nevertheless, there is a true alchemy when the poet, designer, engineer, accountant, community, and government art representatives genuinely speak with each other. If the stars line up, we not only get exceptional art, but art that embraces our deeper humanity and builds community through our endeavors. Art and design are not simply grand ideas, but promote community engagement at a more profound level of our being. There were so many fine examples of this; from the — I was here, the Tulsa mural, the Cuomo project in Texas, the big lighting designers, the Agent Orange project and Dr. Rivera’s Stop Hate Campaign and Arnauts. The list of inspirational projects was delightfully overwhelming.
One designer spoke about the necessity of critique. He is right, it is not enough to simply fall in love with all this brilliance, good cheer, and innovation; it requires considering how the conference could be more effective? What would make this homeopathic drop of brilliance, passion, and commitment shine even more brightly?
It is serendipitous, the Glasgow Climate Summit was also happening, and a host of disasters were occurring around the globe: forest fires in Indonesia, the Amazon, the global refugee crisis, and hundreds of natural disasters because of climate change. However, amid all these disasters, I felt a spark of hope as I spoke with and heard all these folks who were profoundly engaged in art to promote social change, community dialogue, and figuring out through the blend of art and technology how to create a sustainable and beautiful future.
Yes, from the crucible of our dreams, skills, and passion, we create the alchemy of Codaworx.