Rave reviews for ASN Conference from arts community

Rave reviews for ASN Conference from arts community
During the conference’s first day Susan Towler of Florida Blue facilitated a panel consisting of Jacksonville philanthropists Michael Miller, Preston Haskell and Delores Barr Weaver, who shared their insights on giving.

Jacksonville’s reputation as a thriving arts community climbed substantially in the estimation of many arts school educators and leaders from around the world when the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DA) Foundation hosted the four-day 2019 Arts School Network (ASN) Conference in late October.

A nonprofit organization, ASN was founded in 1981 as an association of arts leaders and educators – artists/teachers and administrators from specialized arts schools (elementary, middle and high school), conservatories, colleges and programs at universities. Although ASN has sponsored a conference annually for the past 38 years, 2019 was the first time Jacksonville was selected as the venue by ASN leadership.

ASN Conference Organizer Jacqueline Cornelius, executive director of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Foundation
ASN Conference Organizer Jacqueline Cornelius, executive director of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Foundation

“It took me 10 years to convince them to have the conference in Jacksonville,” said Jacqueline Cornelius, executive director of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Foundation and an event organizer. “It’s always in either New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Miami or Seattle. Never here. They’d ask, ‘What’s in Jacksonville?’ And they laughed at me, although they liked me, just because they couldn’t imagine what the heck you could do in Jacksonville, Florida. With this conference, we blew them away! My goal was to ensure whoever attended this conference would leave with new innovative ideas, strategies, an expanded network, new friends and a greater appreciation for our community in Jacksonville,” she said. “A lot of people said they didn’t know Jacksonville was so beautiful – that it was amazing with its river, art and museums. They couldn’t believe how kind the people were and the interesting collaborations here. It was meaningful. I didn’t want this to be just another conference. Until they came here, the majority of participants had no idea of the depth of the arts opportunities in Jacksonville.”

Gary McCalla, Douglas Anderson Foundation Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius, Gail and Dr. Stephen Trigg of the Mayo Clinic
Gary McCalla, Douglas Anderson Foundation Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius, Gail and Dr. Stephen Trigg of the Mayo Clinic

The theme of the conference was creative arts collaborations among businesses, art institutes and schools, partnerships, leadership development and innovative best arts practices, said Cornelius, and its action-packed four-day schedule did not disappoint.

Headquartered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, the “Creative Arts and Collaborations” conference included three different tours with destinations that incorporated local arts schools such as Fishweir Elementary, LaVilla School of the Arts, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown, the Cathedral Arts Project, art at the Mayo Clinic, a private tour of Preston Haskell’s home art collection, the CoRK Arts District, and Space 42, a unique industrial art gallery. It was attended by 380 ASN members from all over the United States, Canada, England, Vietnam and Singapore.

Most of the activities took place in venues along the St. Johns River, including receptions at the Granada riverfront mansion of Arts Patron Gary McCalla as well as the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, hosted by Museum Director Dr. Adam Levine and Patron Sponsors Ann Hicks, Joannie Newton and Helen Lane, and the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) hosted by Executive Director Maria Hane and sponsored by Smith Gambrell & Russell LLP. A luncheon on the green at Jacksonville University was also hosted and sponsored by Patron and DA Foundation Board Member W.C. Gentry.

Throughout the conference, participants had the opportunity to enjoy performances by student artists from Douglas Anderson, LaVilla and other Florida arts schools. A “mini Extravaganza” was held by students from Florida arts schools outside of Jacksonville, such Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland, A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach and Sarasota School of the Arts/Sciences. “It showcased the arts in Florida,” Cornelius said.

Musicians from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts perform during a reception at the Granada Riverfront home of Jacksonville Arts Patron Gary McCalla.
Musicians from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts perform during a reception at the Granada Riverfront home of Jacksonville Arts Patron Gary McCalla.

Meanwhile, the DA strings ensemble serenaded visitors at McCalla’s grand riverfront mansion in a lavish affair that was catered by Biscottis, and the DA Guitar Ensemble provided entertainment during the ASN Board of Directors dinner at the duPont Mansion at Epping Forest Yacht and Country Club, an affair that was sponsored by Lawrence DuBow, a Jacksonville arts patron.

The Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra played during the Cummer reception, an event that offered each visitor a creative cocktail from the St. Augustine Distillery. Conference goers were ferried to the Cummer via river taxis supplied by Heather Surface. “I’d like to say I’d planned it, but dolphins followed the riverboats to the Cummer,” Cornelius said. “People were amazed that there were dolphins playfully following the riverboats. Then LaVilla students in costumes welcomed them to the museum. It was a beautiful day in the gardens there.”

Students of LaVilla School of the Arts greeted ASN Conference participants at the docks at Riverside Arts Market as they made their way to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. From left, Ayviana Singh, Carolina Baldwin, Elijah Simms, Abby Harrell, Dakota Burton, Ava Clark. Front: Riley Gittens and Owen Betancourt.
Students of LaVilla School of the Arts greeted ASN Conference participants at the docks at Riverside Arts Market as they made their way to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. From left, Ayviana Singh, Carolina Baldwin, Elijah Simms, Abby Harrell, Dakota Burton, Ava Clark. Front: Riley Gittens and Owen Betancourt.

The meat and potatoes of the conference offered keynote speeches by several well-known locals from the Jacksonville arts community as well as arts experts from out of town and break-out sessions that covered all areas of arts education and administration. ASN awards were presented on the last day, with Lavilla School for the Arts receiving the Arts Integration Award.

On the first day, “A Case for Arts and Medicine” was the topic of keynote addresses by Jill Sonke, director of the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida and assistant director of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine and Hope McMath, former executive director of the Cummer Museum, adjunct professor at Jacksonville University and founder and director of Yellow House, a place where art and action creates change through thought-provoking exhibitions, public events and community dialogue.

Sponsored by Full Sail University in Orlando, Chance Glasco, co-founder of Doghead Simulations and co-founder of the Virtual Reality collaboration app rumii and Call of Duty, gave a speech entitled “The Impact of Virtual & Augmented Reality on the Classroom and the Arts,” which was especially popular with the California crowd, said Cornelius. Other keynote addresses were by Jacksonville University President Tim Cost, entitled “The Changing Face of Art in Higher Education,” and DA Alumni Ulysses Owens, a Juilliard faculty member and founder of the nonprofit, Don’t Miss a Beat, who spoke on the topic of “Entrepreneurship & Serving Marginalized Communities.”

JU Event sponsor W.C. Gentry with Douglas Anderson Foundation Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius and Jacksonville University President Tim Cost
JU Event sponsor W.C. Gentry with Douglas Anderson Foundation Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius and Jacksonville University President Tim Cost

In addition, a fundraising workshop was offered by champion fundraiser Chuck Loring, past president of the Indiana Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and a senior partner of Loring, Sternberg & Associates.

Cornelius also included something no other ASN conference had tried before – panel discussions by local philanthropists and successful business leaders who shared their first-hand experience in supporting the arts.

One panel was comprised of nationally recognized philanthropists Delores Barr Weaver, former co-owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and managing partner of John Gorrie Investment Group, Preston Haskell, founder of The Haskell Company, and Michael Miller, co-founder and CEO of Brightway Insurance, and was facilitated by Susan Towler, vice president of Florida Blue Foundation and a San Marco resident. “I thought it would be beneficial to leaders of the arts schools to hear from people who give away millions of dollars talk about why they give, why they don’t give and what they look for when they are giving,” said Cornelius. “Arts schools are always looking for funding. This was never done before, and it was all about giving.”

The second panel was comprised of chief executive officers, presidents and founders of companies and included Hap Stein, chairman and CEO of Regency Centers, Gary Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta, Inc., Phillip R. Cox, president and CEO of the Cox Financial Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Barbara Drake, who had a long career in the recycling industry and was the founder of the commercial recycling business, Covenant Paper Stock. Darnell Smith, market president of the North Florida Region of Florida Blue, was the panel facilitator. “I wanted them to speak because leadership is leadership, and when you are the head of a top art school or university arts program, there are different leadership styles that are successful. I wanted them to leave with new ideas, strategies and friends. It was very successful,” Cornelius said. 

Arts Conference participants enjoyed a water taxi ride from the Hyatt Riverfront Hotel downtown to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, where they were greeted by students in costume from LaVilla School for the Arts. ( Photo courtesy of laird/blac palm inc.)
Arts Conference participants enjoyed a water taxi ride from the Hyatt Riverfront Hotel downtown to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, where they were greeted by students in costume from LaVilla School for the Arts. ( Photo courtesy of laird/blac palm inc.)

Amber Amerson, a theatre instructor at LaVilla Middle School of the Arts, said she has attended nine ASN conferences in far-flung locations such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Minnesota, Charleston, New York, Orange County, California, and Seattle, but was most impressed by the conference in her hometown.

“Our conference blew the others out of the water,” Amerson said. “I have never seen an entire city, arts community, and school system open its doors, welcome (visitors) and produce high-quality interactive sessions as well as donate the time, money and resources the way Jacksonville did. The arts educators, professors, advocates and board members were truly in awe of the support our students and schools received and expressed interest in collaborating with our arts community further. Plus, it’s great for universities like NYU, Webster, USC and others to understand that our students, who will audition for their programs, come from a community of sustainable art and that provides them with an accelerated arts context.

Jeffrey Dunn, Anne Hicks, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius and Cummer Museum Director and CEO Dr. Adam Levine
Jeffrey Dunn, Anne Hicks, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Executive Director Jacqueline Cornelius and Cummer Museum Director and CEO Dr. Adam Levine

“I benefited from meeting other arts educators from all over the world. I had one-on-one time with admittance directors from prestigious private and public arts schools as well as universities. We had intimate talks about process and the future of the arts. I learned different skill sets and concepts from leaders in my own community as well as other regions, she said.

A letter written to Melissa Ann Brookes, managing director of the Arts School Network, by Theresa West-Taylo, arts director for the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts perhaps sums up the appreciation of the conference by the out-of-town visitors. “I wanted to send a reply directly to you about how incredible this conference was,” West-Taylo wrote. “I have attended multiple ASN conferences in multiple cities.  This was VERY well run, very informative, and most of all, very inspiring.  The city of Jacksonville made me feel valued as a professional art educator. The venues and break-out sessions were valuable and on point for our organization. My team had a great experience, and I shared many photos and valuable tips with our school administration and our school foundation. Thank you for a great experience!”

Preston Haskell with Caitlín Doherty and Sally Larkin Hall
Preston Haskell with Caitlín Doherty and Sally Larkin Hall

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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