In 2021 and 2023, we were hired to organize the Creative Communities Convening. This 2-day gathering brought together more than 200 creative placemakers, community organizers, arts center leaders, and innovation ecosystem builders from across the mid-atlantic region.

“Spud makes an impossible feat feel possible by walking alongside and giving you the tools you need.”

Erica Quinn
Executive Director for 3 Dots, organizer of the gathering

By tapping into the collective wisdom of the crowd, this “unconference” allowed attendees to shape the agenda, ensuring discussions were relevant and engaging to the work they were leading in their own communities.

The goal was to connect key leaders, inspire a cross-polinating of ideas, and explore the intersection of arts, technology, and equity.

Participants left with a deeper appreciation of what it takes to build vibrant communities and a renewed sense of purpose to implement these ideas in their hometowns. The event featured a wide variety of brainstorming sessions, workshops, site visits, performances, and visual art displays, providing a rich and diverse experience for attendees. Some of the different sessions that we led during the convening included:

Open Space and World Cafe Sessions

The World Cafe discussions allowed participants to explore how our region might look differently if we had truly engaged and connected creative communities. During these sessions, participants bounced between small groups and discussed three key questions:

  • What’s important to you about designing creative communities and why do you care?
  • What are you missing, or in need of more, to build your ideal creative community?
  • What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out in a way that created new possibilities for the future of our region?

We also hosted Open Space sessions which allow for participants to lead sessions on topics they were most passionate about. These sessions allowed folks to map out the specific action steps of collaborations they wanted to explore together.

Field Trips & Deep Listening Sessions:

One of the primary benefits of the convening was a chance for participants to visit over 20 local creative spaces. We organized trips around various themes, including:

  • Arts in the Outdoors
  • Downtown Innovation and Placemaking
  • Linking Towns through Arts and Food
  • Arts and Education
  • Small Town Revitalization
  • Museums Galore

These visits provided inspiration and practical insights for participants to bring back to their communities. In addition, we guided outdoor Deep Listening sessions where participants had a chance to strengthen their relationships and build a community of practice they could lean on after the convening ended. During this time, we trained folks on how to leverage our community building framework to their own efforts.

WikiBlock Placemaking Workshop & Generative AI Art Demonstrations:

We hosted portions of our event at a local makerspace. During this time, participants were introduced to WikiBlock, which is an open source database of designs for placemakers to use in enhancing the vibrancy of their towns. Participants enjoyed building their own furniture out of nothing more than sheets of plywood. During this time, we also hosted interactive demonstrations on generative AI technology and the role that it could play in highlighting new forms of creative expression.

Immersive + Interactive Puppet Performance & After Hours Dance Parties:

In the evening, we hosted various interactive art installations to celebrate the event. One of the primary exhibits was an interactive puppet performance called the Molok. The Molok is a new fairytale about memory and the importance of community. It features a 16-foot tall, live action puppet that was built entirely by donations from the surrounding community.

These experiences helped illustrate what is possible with arts centers and created a concrete example of something that participants could collaborate on. After the event, multiple groups that attended the convening decided to host the Molok in their own communities and design their own interactive exhibits.

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