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Idea Hatching: Facilitating Interdisciplinary Teams

  • February 17, 2015
  • By Jessica Ferey     
Jessica Ferey, project manager at the Global Cultural Districts Network and VCUArts alumna, writes about her a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Summit experience.


Serendipity brought me to the a2ru 2015 Emerging Creatives Student Summit at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’m currently pursuing an M.A. in Arts Management at American University and received my B.A. in art history from VCU in 2011. Being back in my old stomping grounds at VCUArts was as invigorating as visiting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where I worked prior to starting my master’s. I assumed two roles at conference; that of student and facilitator. This provided me with a unique perspective and shaped my experience in meaningful ways.

Serendipity entered the picture when Dr. Anna Kim, a former professor of mine, contacted me about attending the conference. Some of Dr. Kim’s projects focus on creative placemaking. She knew I was working as a project manager for the Global Cultural Districts Network, an initiative established to foster collaborations among those planning and leading cultural districts around the world. When she suggested I attend the Student Summit, I thought “why not?!”

Once at the Summit, I was tasked with facilitating one of the student teams (in my case, the sustainability team) with finding a solution to a sustainability problem within cities. I was immediately impressed with the creative problem solving skills of my team. That sounds cliché, but it was fascinating to watch ideas hatch among this diverse and multidisciplinary group. Even more surprising was the fact that their solution involved the arts!

As a strong believer in the role that the arts can play in improving communities and urban spaces, I enjoyed listening to team members exploring the idea of using solar paint to make murals in schools. The team believed that the project would encourage children to become more conscious of their environment as they engaged in creating art. As a facilitator, it was my job to guide these ideas towards a realistic proposal by asking questions in a consultative capacity.

We began by exploring big ideas. I then asked the team to divide into smaller groups for the purpose of creating a specific and actionable prototype. The smaller groups came back together to discuss their ideas and were able to transform various ideas into a cohesive and actionable one that was presented to the entire summit the very next day. This was key, as ideation needs to manifest as clear, actionable, and attainable goals with which an interdisciplinary team solves a problem.

I enjoyed the a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Summit at VCU as a facilitator and a student. The panels were invigorating, inspiring, and made me think about purposeful meaning-making tied to specific outcomes. These are some of the quotes I jotted down as I listened to presenters. I plan on using them in the near future and encourage you to do the same if they resonate for you:

Advice for the next generation, from Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Richmond History Center: “Once a week, do one thing that makes you uncomfortable.”

Advice for how cultural institutions can better engage with their local communities, from Bill Martin, Director of the Valentine Richmond History Center: “Equity and access in cultural institutions means doing things outside of the building.”

Why you should make Richmond, Virginia, your home after graduation, per Joe Seipel, Dean of the VCU School of the Arts: “Richmond is the best city for post-grad hipsters.

Jessica Ferey is a passionate arts-lover and is committed to building innovative connections between people and culture, and promoting gender equality in arts leadership. She is currently Project Manager at the Global Cultural Districts Network, an initiative that fosters collaboration in planning and leading cultural districts around the world. Ms. Ferey is currently wrapping up an M.A. in Arts Management at American University. Her research focuses on the gender gap in arts leadership. Information about about her capstone project can be found at