In the Loop
General News : Mar 22, 2017

NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu visits UF, speaks at Convening Culture Conference

By Marie Callahan

The 2017 Convening Culture Conference took place in Gainesville this year and brought together dozens of arts advocates including National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairwoman Jane Chu.

This year’s conference theme was Exploring Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Arts and Culture. The conference featured discussions of ways to approach innovation within both cultural programming and cultural organizations. Areas of marketing, fundraising, collaboration and leadership were explained. Artists whose work spoke to the theme were highlighted.

Chu spoke about what an exciting time this is for the arts in America, as the arts sector is growing rapidly and making huge impacts on our society. She discussed how the arts create jobs and stimulate economies, and how they are working now in so many important sectors, like the US Military.

“We were hugely honored that Chairman Chu chose to attend and speak at the conference,” Jill Sonke, director of UF’s Center for Arts in Medicine said. “Having her speak and share her optimism and vision for the arts nationally at this time was important and inspiring for us all.”

Chu also visited UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital during her time in Gainesville. There, she had a conversation with UF Center for Arts in Medicine researchers and artists participating in a project that the NEA awarded a $25,000 grant for in 2015.

She made a site visit to the Center for Arts in Medicine to hear a report on the Music in Emergency Medicine project, which the NEA is funding, and to see the program in action.

“She was very excited about the project and commented on how important it is that this level of research is happening to help us understand the impact and value of the arts in healthcare,” Sonke said.

James Oliverio, Director of UF Digital Worlds Institute was also featured as a guest speaker at the conference. Digital Worlds hosted previews of "CO₂ and You: The Power of Personal Choice," an immersive, widescreen, interactive media experience exploring climate change on the global level. "CO₂ and You" examines daily choices made around the world that may have environmental consequences. 

Audience members were able to use their smartphones during the show to collectively decide what the animated actors should do in a number of real-life situations. As a result, the course of the show, which runs on the Unity game engine, was altered according to the audience members' choices.

The conference was a great success, particularly in regard to networking. Attendees made connections, shared resources and program models, and even made plans for collaborating and innovating in the future.

“The theme of innovation and entrepreneurship seemed to inspire people to connect and think about new possibilities,” Sonke said. “We saw amazing innovations in the arts and across a range of sectors, which was very exciting and inspiring.”

The Convening Culture Conference is presented by Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc., a statewide non-profit organization that works to support the efforts of the Division of Cultural Affairs.

The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence.

Jane Chu is the eleventh chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. With a background in arts administration and philanthropy, Chairman Chu is also an accomplished artist and musician. She leads a dedicated and passionate group of people to support and fund the arts and creative activities in communities across the nation.