The annual Artivate Summit — launched in 2019 — is a vital element of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts' Creative Catalyst Initiative. While the first summit drew more than 150 creatives to Winston-Salem to celebrate the work of artists in their communities and fostered a sense of community among those artists themselves, the COVID-19 global pandemic disrupted plans to reconvene in person in 2020.
With the need for safety and accessibility greater than ever, the decision was made in the spring to host Artivate Summit 2020 online. There was one primary focus: to carry through that sense of community into this year's summit.
Artivate 2020, hosted live online September 15 and 16 via a combination of virtual platforms, drew more than 770 registrants. There were 45 speakers, who presented 36 presentations focused on the theme of Art + Healing, with keynote addresses from renowned American poet Nikki Giovanni, founding artistic director of The Secret City Chris Wells and Vedic meditation teacher Jamey Hood.
"The engagement and participation at Artivate 2020 exceeded our expectations," says Lynda Summerlin Lotich, Interim Executive Director of the Kenan Institute. "The Artivate team worked diligently to translate the spirit of last year's event into an online experience, and attendees met that with enthusiasm and inspiration. We learned so much from this experience about the multitude of ways in which Artivate can serve our artistic community."
Participants attended live sessions over the two-day Summit via Zoom, where they were able to chat and interact with presenters and fellow attendees. The Summit closed with a virtual dance and cocktail party, hosted by DJ duo The Illustrious Blacks.
Both attendees and presenters were moved by the breakout sessions, recorded Pecha Kucha presentations and keynote speakers. Below are a few highlights from the Summit that inspired thought, connection and hope.
Speaker Darius Daughtry led a breakout session entitled "Write It Out." In the session, Daughtry guided participants through poetry-writing exercises designed to "break through some possible emotional barriers and help articulate feelings and experiences in beneficial ways."
Daughtry is a Florida-based poet, playwright, director, educator and Founder/Artistic Director of Art Prevails Project, a performing arts organization dedicated to expanding cultural conversation through theatrical performance, arts education and community engagement.
"Darius Daughtry's session was like a candy store for the brain," says attendee Lynn Felder. "He gave provocative prompts that drew wonderful poems out of us. Very stimulating and exciting all around."
As an artist and founder of an arts organization, I am guided by the prospect of healing this world through the arts ... I was excited to present but was blown away by the connectivity that permeated the experience.Darius Daughtry, Artivate 2020 presenter
As a presenter, Daughtry was likewise engaged with his session's participants and the summit as a whole. "I was drawn to the Artivate purpose of convening a diverse group of practitioners together around the purpose of individual and collective healing," Daughtry says. "As an artist and founder of an arts organization, I am guided by the prospect of healing this world through the arts, and the Artivate Summit seemed in alignment with that. And it was. There was such a beautiful energy amongst presenters, organizers and participants. I was excited to present but was blown away by the connectivity that permeated the experience."
Giovanni's message of creating for oneself resonated. "Most inspirational message I have heard in a long time. We need to design, create, perform for ourselves and others can join in if they want to," says Mona King, who attended Artivate in both 2019 and 2020 as a presenter and attendee, and is a former Creative Catalyst Fellow.
Attendee Cara Steinbuchel experienced deep emotions in sessions throughout the Summit. "I experienced this conference as an artistic recovery/self care/renewal retreat," Steinbuchel said. "I felt my artist self awaking and healing and then recovering, starting with Nikki Giovanni's call that 'the first person to heal is yourself,' Krystal Hart's creative prompts like 'identify what sparks your creativity,' Krisha Marcano's ideas for creative renewal and sustenance … and the soothing advice from Masi Asare to 'keep the flow running even if it's only in small drops' by finding small pockets of time to create."
Hart led a session titled "The Present Art Practice," Marcano led "Life Practices for Creative Longevity," and Asare led "Sustaining Your Artist Spirit." All three, a visual artist, theatre artist and musician, respectively, focused in their own ways on practices to develop resilience and maintain creativity in times of adversity and through the routine ups and downs of life — a fitting thread for 2020.
Like Daughtry, speaker Regyna Curtis was also drawn to the theme and focus of bringing together artists and healers. Curtis, who lives in Chicago, is the creator of Atmaitri, a soul-centered business with the goal of supporting individuals on their spiritual journey. Her breakout session was titled "Weaving the Arts into Your Spiritual Practice," a workshop intended to guide participants on how to integrate their current creative and spiritual practices.
As we move forward into this new way of being, events like Artivate are key in bringing together the thought leaders who are paving the way, and creating communities where exploration and growth are valued and encouraged within a nourishing and compassionate container.Regyna Curtis, Artivate 2020 presenter
"This moment on our timeline, individually and collectively, is a time of great importance as we navigate a paradigm shift into a new way of life and engagement with each other and our planet," Curtis says. "As we move forward into this new way of being, events like Artivate are key in bringing together the thought leaders who are paving the way, and creating communities where exploration and growth are valued and encouraged within a nourishing and compassionate container.
"My biggest takeaway from the summit was an expanding sense of hope and confirmation that we are building something really beautiful together."
November 18, 2020