2017 National Conference

Arts in the Public Sphere: Civility, Advocacy, and Engagement

Wednesday, November 1 – Saturday, November 4, 2017

Boston, MA

Hosted by Northeastern University

Additional Events Hosted by Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts University



Mural UnveilingThe Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) is pleased to announce the 2017 a2ru National Conference, hosted by Northeastern University with additional conference events throughout hosted by Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts University, November 1-4, 2017.

This year’s theme is Arts in the Public Sphere: Civility, Advocacy, and Engagement. The conference will use the city of Boston as a starting point for discussion and engagement. As a 21st century global city, Boston embodies many of the issues that drive diverse contemporary cultural contexts. It supports a rich and continually evolving sense of civic realms, and is home to leading arts, educational, medical, industrial, and corporate entities invested in innovative modes of research, practice, and civic participation. There is also clear recognition that the ‘public sphere’ is not confined to large metropolitan regions. Creating dynamic communities that engage and extend beyond traditional boundaries – in both virtual and material ways – remains a growing challenge and the work before us.

a2ru invites proposals from researchers, field leaders, and practitioners investigating the intersections, synergies, and interfaces of arts in the public sphere and their influence on civility, advocacy, and engagement. We seek proposals from university-level faculty, administrators, and students, as well as civic leaders and representatives from industry, private enterprise, sectors outside the arts that incorporate the arts and design in their work, and public/private arts, culture, and civic organizations. We invite proposals that address any issue relevant to the mission of a2ru and are particularly interested in proposals from researchers, field leaders, and practitioners surrounding the conference theme.

Full Call for Proposal available HERE.

Review and notifications by June 1, 2017.


Conference Hotel

The conference hotel:

Hilton Back Bay Boston
40 Dalton Street
Boston, MA 02115
$259/night – conference rate available Tuesday – Saturday so consider extending your stay!

To reserve, call 617.236.1100 and reference group code A2RU


Room block space is limited, so plan to book early! The preferred conference rate is available through October 3, 2016 and is available for reservations extended 3 days before and 3 days after the conference dates.


Jamie Bennett, Executive Director, ArtPlace America

Jamie Bennett has been the Executive Director of ArtPlace America since January 2014. Previously, Jamie served as Chief of Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts and Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.  He has also provided strategic counsel at the Agnes Gund Foundation; served as chief of staff to the President of Columbia University; and worked in fundraising at The Museum of Modern Art, the New York Philharmonic, and Columbia College.  His past nonprofit affiliations have included the Board of Directors of Art21 and the HERE Arts Center; the Foot-in-the-Door Committee of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation; and Studio in a School’s Associates Committee.  Jamie received his B.A. from Columbia College in New York City.



Maria Rosario Jackson, Senior Advisor to the Arts and Culture Program, The Kresge Foundation; Institute Professor, Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson’s expertise is in comprehensive community revitalization, systems change, the dynamics of race and ethnicity and the roles of and arts and culture in communities. She is Institute Professor at Arizona State University in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. She is a Senior Advisor to the Kresge Foundation Arts and Culture Program and consults with national and regional foundations and government agencies on strategic planning and research. In 2013, with U.S. Senate confirmation, President Obama appointed Dr. Jackson to the National Council on the Arts. She is on the advisory boards of the Lambent Foundation and L.A. Commons and on the boards of directors of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and The Music Center of Los Angeles County. Previously she was on the boards of the Association for Performing Arts Presenters, the National Performance Network, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Cultural Alliance for Greater Washington, Fund for Folk Culture and the Dunbar Economic Development Corporation. She also advises a number of national and regional projects and initiatives focusing on arts leadership, arts organizations and changing demographics, arts and community development and arts and health. Dr. Jackson has been adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University and at the University of Southern California. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Dr. Jackson was also the James Irvine Foundation Fellow in Residence at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Previously, for almost 20 years, Dr. Jackson was based at the Urban Institute, a public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. There she was a senior research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and founding director of UI’s Culture, Creativity and Communities Program. At UI, she led pioneering research on arts and culture indicators, measuring cultural vitality, the role of arts and culture in community revitalization, development of art spaces, and support systems for artists. She also was a senior researcher on studies of public housing programs, use of urban parks, handgun violence prevention and teacher training initiatives for urban schools.

Dr. Jackson earned a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California.



Jason Schupbach, Director of Design Programs, National Endowment for the Arts

Jason Schupbach became director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts in May 2010.  In this position, he manages the NEA’s grantmaking for design and the NEA’s design initiatives, such as the Mayors’ Institute on City Design as well Our Town, which provides funding in recognition of the role that the arts can play in economic revitalization and in creating livable, sustainable communities.

Prior to coming to the NEA, Schupbach held the first-in-the-nation position of creative economy industry director for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development where his accomplishments included coordinating the growth of new industry cluster groups, such as the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA), and launching a Design Excellence initiative, an effort to improve procurement processes in Massachusetts in order to build more sustainable and longer-lasting buildings and communities, and increase the number of designers being offered contracts.

From 2004 to 2008, Schupbach was director of ArtistLink, where among other duties he managed a statewide artist space development technical assistance initiative that resulted in the creation of more than 60 projects in 20 communities for a total of 350 units of live/work spaces and more than 500,000 square feet of artist space. In addition, he managed the first ever artist housing predevelopment grant program, giving out $50,000 in awards.

Schupbach’s experience also includes serving as National Artist Space Initiative Consultant for Leveraging Investments in Creativity from 2003 to 2007, where he was the key editor for two reports from the Urban Institute on developing artist space. From 2003 to 2004, Schupbach worked as capital projects manager and staff urban planner/designer for New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. In this position, his accomplishments included managing more than $100 million in capital projects for cultural institutions in coordination with other New York City agencies and assisting in the development of guidelines to involve artists in streetscape design and planning processes in New York City.

Schupbach received his BS in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his master’s degree in city planning with an urban design certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Questions? Please contact a2ru Program Coordinator Amy Tackitt.