2017 Conference Reflections: Lee B. Todd

Last year's Conference for Community Arts Education in the Bay Area brought together staff, students, administrators, funders, policymakers, and stakeholders representing over 400 organizations from 40 states, Canada, and South Korea. Each year, the Guild is humbled by the amount of expertise, inspiration, enthusiasm, and joy that our delegates bring to the Conference experience. As a way to highlight those delegate voices, we are sharing a series of 2017 Conference Reflections.

Below, Lee B. Todd, senior director of creative youth development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, shares her thoughts on the inspiration, camradery, and community that was generated in the Bay. 

As I arrived in San Francisco, I was prepared for three exciting and full days of listening, learning, and laughter. This was my second year attending the National Guild’s Conference for Community Arts Education, so I knew what to expect: I would be surrounded by others with a love and enthusiasm for the arts, and I would learn new and innovative approaches that could inform the arts programs in Boys & Girls Clubs. I arrived with high expectations and did not leave disappointed. Rather, I left San Francisco with a revitalized energy and passion that I could bring back to my organization and colleagues.

The greatest takeaways from the 2017 conference were:

  • Inspiration – the keynote speakers that started each day were set a motivating tone that carried throughout the day. To hear Hasan Davis’s personal story was incredibly moving and reminds us all of why we do what we do. Bill Burnett was able to take art and design and break it down into tangible practices that we can all infuse into our daily lives and our work. Both speakers had such differing approaches and messages, but both were impactful and so inspiring!
  • Comradery and Insights – whether it was riding on the bus to our off site visits on Saturday, sharing experiences over a glass of wine at the reception, or finding time for coffee with a new friends, I learned so much about what other educators are doing across the nation. We all seem to be examining similar issues – how to support teaching artists through mentorship networks and professional development opportunities, how to share knowledge, how to collect data and conduct research that captures the true impact of our work. Finding these quieter moments throughout the conference to explore and share our stories provided me with amazing new insights. I look forward to staying in touch with these new connections and continuing to learn from each other.
  • Off-site experiences – what an opportunity to be in a city as amazing as San Francisco, and one that truly embraces and showcases the arts! I was lucky enough to get to visit the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and see how they are finding new ways to attract teens to the theater through their multitude of teen programs. It is all about youth voice, and we got to hear from the teens themselves – how they contribute to the theatre through a teen advisory council, how they are involved in the writing and production of plays through their Young Writers Collective, and how they all celebrate each other and recognize their amazing talent through the Teen One Acts Festival and other programs. To have this first-hand experience was invaluable!

To all come together as thought leaders in the field of Creative Youth Development is so important, and I applaud the National Guild for all of the hard work they put into making this year’s conference such a success. By learning and sharing our thoughts, ideas, practices, we can all be a part of transforming our world through the arts.

Published: January 08, 2018