Even before the world as we know it got body-slammed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the folks at the Kenan Institute’s Creative Catalyst Initiative had decided to make their second annual Artivate Summit about art and healing.

Artivate Summit 2020 — Art + Healing will be online Sept. 15-16 with keynote speakers, breakout sessions and other virtual community-building exercises in the spirit of the original in-person event.

It aims to bring together creatives in the arts, medical and spiritual fields for a practice-based event that inspires inquiry among the arts, science, spirituality and holistic wellness.

It will focus on three paths:

  • Arts Innovation: How can we use arts practices as a strategy to create new knowledge or effect positive change? How can we adapt our practices for a changing world?
  • Creative Entrepreneurship: In what ways can artists create value in the worlds of health and spirituality?
  • Artist Leadership: How can artists lead projects or movements to promote community healing?

Nadiyah Quander, the program manager for Creative Catalyst Initiative, is an example of an artist leader. She trained as an actor, so she embodies the actor’s skills of being present, paying attention and being able to respond in the moment.

Before joining the Kenan Institute, Quander was executive director of Delta Arts Center. Now, besides administering the Artivate Summit, she manages the facilities for Creative Community Lab, Creative CoWorks and UNCSA’s arts programs at the Happy Hill neighborhood.

“There are lots of creatives in our community and throughout North Carolina,” Quander said. “The Artivate Summit aims to connect them.

“The programming will be true to the original goals of the summit, while being sensitive to those most impacted by COVID-19 at this time.”

Art and healing

Quander said that the purpose of this year’s summit is to acknowledge the split between arts, science and spirituality, and to propose that art and healing practices create a powerful mindset for exploration and renewal among a diverse group of innovators and leaders.

The summit will address questions for health and spiritual professionals like, “How can I benefit from engaging the arts in my practice?” and encourage creatives to ask, “How can I integrate my practice into the worlds of health and spirituality?”

Buddy Marterre, an assistant professor in the Departments of Surgery and Internal Medicine (Palliative Care) at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, sees value in the intersection of arts and medicine.

“Medical learners can use the arts and humanities for their own self-awareness, care and compassion,” Marterre said, “which, hopefully, will translate to cultivating more empathy and compassion for patients.”

Creative keynotes

Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni and multi-disciplinary artist Chris Wells are the keynote speakers.

Among many other things, Wells does a daily noontime program, “Daily Artistic Inspiration for Troubled Times,” on his Facebook page, The Secret City. It’s a response to the COVID-19 isolation.

This past Thursday, he chose a word of the day, “intention.” His Facebook followers chimed in in the comments section with their intentions, and Wells wrapped up the discussion by reading an essay that he had written about intentions.

He mentioned the coming Artivate Summit, saying that his message will be, in part: “If you want to be an artist, if you want to live a life of creative purpose, if you want to seek meaning in the making of things, never, never, never give up.”

Besides being a Facebook page, Wells’ Secret City is “a community of artists, creatives and others who seek a deeper engagement with the world. Wells serves as host, producer, lead artist, storyteller and head curator, presenting an endless variety of artists in a setting dedicated to connecting artists to community and building community around the arts.”

In 2010, he received a Special Citation Obie Award for creating The Secret City, and for service to the New York City artistic community.

Wells is also an award-winning actor who has developed and performed original work with theaters including The Actors’ Gang, La Mama, Baltimore Center Stage, Alabama Shakespeare, Cornerstone Theater and Yale Rep. In 2007, Wells was honored with The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists for his work in support of new play development.

Artistic insight

Giovanni is one of the most widely read American poets. She has been called a firebrand, a radical, a healer, and a sage; a wise and courageous voice who has spoken out on the sensitive issues, including race and gender.

She has written more than 24 books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. With her new collection, “A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter,” Giovanni offers an intimate, affecting and illuminating look at her personal history.

She has won many awards, including the Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award, has been named as one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends.” She has been a Distinguished Professor teaching writing and literature at Virginia Tech since 1987.

Giovanni continues to fight for civil rights and equality. She focuses on the individual, specifically, the power one has to make a difference in oneself and in the lives of others.

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are,” Giovanni says. “Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”

That’s the kind of thing that Quander hopes folks will take away from the summit. She said that artists can learn to imagine themselves as cross-practice collaborators — outside their chosen disciplines of the arts.

“How can they find new creative pathways and be engaged in the work of others?” she asked. “What sectors can benefit from what artists bring, such as emergent ideas, asking a lot of questions, and the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty.”

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