I’ve just spent a few minutes recalling the NALAA/Americans for the Arts conferences I have attended, and I think the grand total is—good heavens—15! I’m having a bit of trouble with putting together the correct places and dates, though—I’ll have to check around the website and see if there’s a list so I can refresh my memory.
You’d think that after all these conferences, I might be less than enthusiastic about attending yet another one, but that’s not at all true. The convention is one of the highlights of my professional year. I reconnect with the friends I have made over my 20+ year career in community arts, I absorb great information and ideas from other places, and I get to be right in the thick of the national “conversation” about the essential importance of the arts in our society. Those contacts, that information, and that participation are invaluable tools for me to use every day in my work. I look forward to the annual convention with great anticipation and gusto, and always want to stay just a little longer so I can soak it all in.
I recently talked with a colleague here in Madison who is new to the community arts world and about to attend her first convention. She wanted to get some idea about how to get the most out of the convention—who the leaders were, what aspects of the conference were most important, what kinds of sessions to attend. Talking with her, I remembered my excitement and nervousness when I arrived at my first NALAA conference (Washington, 1986), and the thrill I felt as I began to realize that here were people I could talk to and learn from.
I still feel that thrill, and it’s why I’m so looking forward to Philadelphia. See you there!