Oct 7, 2016

"Fast-paced and urgent": RJ Rushmore tells us all about this year's Creative Time Summit

by: RJ Rushmore, Guest Contributor

Curious about the Creative Time Summit? We’re thrilled to welcome RJ Rushmore back the Mural Arts blog to tell us all about this year’s conference. 

In less than two weeks, one of the leading conferences on art and social change will take place in Washington, DC. That conference is the Creative Time Summit, which is put together by the NYC-based public arts organization Creative Time and has also been held in New York, Stockholm, and Venice. Once to twice a year since 2009, the Creative Time Summit has brought together a unique mix of artists, activists, and thinkers to tackle pressing issues and share strategies for igniting change. At last fall’s Summit on the effects of American education policies, Mural Arts’ Jane Golden helped lead a discussion on one of her specialties: what government can learn from artists.

The Summit is fast-paced and urgent. It’s not a place where you’ll get presenters giving in-depth biographies of their entire career. Instead, speakers present briefly about one specific project that they’ve worked on or are currently working on. The weekend is rooted in sharing real strategies for igniting change and highlighting current crises across the globe, and our attendees view cultural production as an essential part of the political landscape, and they’re open to cross-pollination. That’s how we wind up with an eclectic mix of speakers like drag performance artist Vaginal Davis, political journalist Thomas Frank, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza.

The Creative Time Summit DC: Occupy the Future is a response to the upcoming Presidential election and the state of political discourse around the world. Rather than add fuel to that fire, curators Nato Thompson and Sally Szwed are taking the Summit as a chance to take a step back from the vitriol, approach issues from a grassroots level, look at specific strategies for change, and create a space for nuance and conversation. The themes and speakers came together around what was going on in the news and who is re-shaping the world in the most interesting ways. We know the current state of democracy isn’t ideal, so the Summit is about asking what it might mean to change that.


Since DC has such a historic DIY music scene, we knew we wanted to have a section of speakers on DIY culture. Who else could lead that section but Ian MacKaye, the co-founder of Dischord Records and frontman of both Minor Threat and Fugazi? The Summit is also about finding amazing people who might not be household names, and the curators push themselves to reach outside of their existing circles to find people. A Creative Time intern turned the Summit team on to Crew Peligrosos, a Colombian hip hop group that set up a free public music school in Medellin. Now, they’re coming to DC to share their experience and knowledge alongside MacKaye.

Other speakers are invited because they’re doing something new and amazing right as we’re building the lineup. Earlier this year, Hank Willis Thomas & Eric Gottesman founded For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC. Already, For Freedoms has been sparking conversations and making headlines with a show at Jack Shainman Gallery and events at places like EXPO Chicago and the Brooklyn Museum. Thomas and Gottesman are working right at that intersection of art, politics, and social change that the Summit was founded around.

As the Summit moves to new locations, we also make sure that whatever city we’re in is well-represented. In DC, we’ve partnered with DC’s Provisions Library on a day of breakout sessions led by local artists and activists, and commissioned DC’s Floating Lab Collective to create an interactive stage design. The local partnerships help make each Summit unique to the host city, and we couldn’t have a Summit without them.

The Creative Time Summit DC: Occupy the Future is right around the corner (October 14 – 16), but passes are still available online. What are you waiting for? Check the full line up, book your pass, and meet Creative Time in DC!


We love having guest posts! However, the views expressed in this blog post or any other blog post by a guest writer are not necessarily the views of Mural Arts Philadelphia. 

Last updated: Oct 7, 2016

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