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End Notes: The a2ru 2016 National Conference

  • November 21, 2016
  • By Amy Tackitt     
a2ru 2016 National Conference convened over 275 attendees at a working conference focused on transdisciplinary practice and topics in support of Creative Venture, Wellbeing, and the New Humanities.



The fourth annual national Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) conference convened Thursday, November 3rd – Saturday, November 5th with over 275 attendees from 36 research institutions nationwide. Hosted by University of Colorado Denver, the conference focused on creative venture, wellbeing, and the new humanities with keynotes from artist and choreographer Liz Lerman and multimedia artist Todd Siler as well as over 30 breakouts, panels, workshops, performances, and discussions led and moderated by members of a2ru’s list of extensive partner institutions and industry networks.

Among the offerings were two pre-conference working sessions for a2ru members focused on the intricacies and interdisciplinarity of Arts Entrepreneurship and Arts + Health as exemplars for arts integrative practices in higher education. The sessions were facilitated by a2ru’s Research Director, Gabriel Harp, and included research compiled by Linda Essig and Joanna Guevara of Arizona State University and deliverables from Virginia Commonwealth University’s executive director of their Arts Research Institute, Sarah Cunningham, and VCU colleagues, Salem Tsegaye, and Eliza Lamb. Both sessions were designed to explore best practices for advancing the fields of Arts Entrepreneurship and Arts + Health as methods of interdisciplinary arts integration that bridge higher education and the public good. The pre-conference sessions were graphically recorded by Peter Durand, of Alphachimp, a Chicago based company specializing in translation of emerging and overarching themes through visual illustrations. Durand’s illustrations along with additional pre-conference associated materials related to the shared practice modules will be available in the coming weeks on a2ru’s website.

Dr. Laurie Baefsky, executive director of a2ru, announced multiple advances for the organization including a recently completed four-year strategic plan, overarching goals for the organization, and the beginning stages of development for a 10-year business plan conducted by Andrew Taylor of Arts Axis LLC. Baefsky also announced the broadening of a2ru’s primary portfolio areas to include Arts + Health; Arts Entrepreneurship; Science, Engineering, Arts, and Design (S.E.A.D); Creative Placemaking; Arts + Sustainability; and Arts + Ethics. Baefsky described connecting interdisciplinary arts integration in higher education to the public good as the central goal of a2ru and establishing the arts as a “way of knowing” in interdisciplinary fields of research.

a2ru also announced federal advocacy efforts in support of increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts as well as advances in curricular/co-curricular offerings and membership amplification. Expanding organizational communications is a primary focus for Maryrose Flanigan, the newly appointed associate director of a2ru, who is working to promote partner innovations and practices, and connecting members nationally. Deb Mexicotte, associate director of ArtsEngine, included updates surrounding a2ru’s Circuits Webinar Series, Summer Student Exchange program, Student Travel Grants, and Student Challenge Grants.

Over the past year, a2ru has extended its membership base to include seven new members: Princeton University, Kent State University, University of Arizona, Boston University, University of Cincinnati, Michigan State University, and The University of Georgia.

a2ru’s research director, Gabriel Harp, and Mellon postdoctoral research fellow, Edgar Cardenas, presented multiple programmatic and research deliverables at the conference including an overview of a new thirdspace platform for peer review for transdisciplinary work and research in higher education and a developing website Supporting Practice in the Arts, Research, and Curricula (SPARC) platform, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This will be a knowledge engine and repository for interdisciplinary and arts integrative practices. A thirdspace platform for transdisciplinary peer review and the SPARC platform are expected to launch in 2017.

a2ru looks forward to the 2017 Emerging Creatives Student Summit which will focus on “WATER: New Directions Through Arts and Science” hosted by the University of Florida, February 8-11, 2017. Deadline for student applications is December 9. There is no summit fee for student attendees.

Full Post-Conference Summary including Data available HERE.