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A Look Behind the Scenes of the 2021 AEP Virtual Gathering

Date: 26 July 2021
The branded Arts Education Partnership Virtual Gathering image includes a graphic of a computer with the AEP logo and the text, "Virtual Gathering 2.0". The computer graphic is gray with an orange screen. The image background is light purple with decorative orange squiggles, lighter orange dots and other AEP branding objects.

The branded Arts Education Partnership Virtual Gathering image includes a graphic of a computer. The computer graphic is gray with an orange screen. The AEP logo and the text, “Virtual Gathering 2.0,” is overlaid on the computer screen. The image background is light purple with decorative dark orange squiggles, lighter orange dots and other AEP branding objects.

The Arts Education Partnership team is hard at work preparing for the second ever Virtual Gathering on September 14-15, 2021. Our team of 22+ AEP and ECS staff, advisory council members, federal partners from the National Endowment for the Arts and U.S. Department of Education, and four teams of external consultants have been working since January (and earlier!) to develop the event. Now that registration is live, we want to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our planning process and share updates to our planning and decision-making processes this year.

Building an Inclusive Proposal Process

Our guiding value for the event is the belief that everyone working in arts education has valuable knowledge and insight. Each year, we open a request for session proposals for those interested in sharing their work at the event. Our goal is to create an inclusive environment that represents and honors diverse voices, in service of the needs and diversity of learners we all serve. We recognize that uplifting voices who may have previously been left out of the national conversation is critical to meet this goal. In naming that omission, this year, we prioritized proposals that include individuals who have not presented previously at our event.

This decision was only one small part of making sure that the entire process is more welcoming, supportive and inclusive. We re-designed our call for proposal process to take the guesswork out of crafting a proposal and to ensure that the work done to develop a proposal could be referenced by presenters and AEP staff throughout the planning cycle. We also hosted an open virtual workshop in April to review the submission process and to provide support on writing a strong proposal. For those unable to attend the session, our staff coordinated individual brainstorming sessions upon request.

Ultimately, every proposal we received included at least one new presenter, and 86% of the individuals named on the proposals had not presented a session at any of our past events. We are excited that this turnout has allowed us to craft an agenda in which every session will feature speakers who have never presented at an AEP event before. We are so grateful to all who submitted a proposal and especially those who submitted for the first time.

Preparing Presenters for Lively Sessions

Leading up to the event, presenters will work with Masharika Prejean Maddison from LightWell Coaching and Consulting to develop their sessions, gain clarity on audience, articulate vision and define inclusive practices. Masharika provides coaching that aims to ensure all presenters have access to resources, insight and feedback while designing their session presentations to make the experience welcoming, supportive and a shared learning experience for presenters and the audience alike. This inclusive coaching approach aligns with AEP’s strategic mission to build leadership capacity.

AEP and ECS staff, as well as a team of technical consultants, are currently working to build the event platform, plenary sessions and networking opportunities. Here is what you can expect this year, in addition to an exciting roster of presenters:

  • Content focused on equity in arts education, the role of technology in arts education, how schools and communities work together to catalyze learning in the arts and how to center children in learning.
  • “Engage/Discuss” sessions designed for discussion and shared learning.
  • “Listen/Learn” sessions designed for information sharing.
  • “World Café” sessions focused on small-group, topical conversations.
  • “Office Hours” for one-on-one networking and relationship building.

We hope you can join us this September for what is shaping up to be a not-to-miss event. Registration is free and open to anyone interested in growing their expertise in arts education. We encourage you to register early to be the first to hear speaker and agenda announcements and to set up your event agenda. We look forward to connecting with you online!