(Photo courtesy TEDxRVA)
“Really, we’re using a word that captures the zeitgeist of Richmond right now. There’s the literal sense of artful, of course, but there’s also the metaphorical meaning, too. We’re having a little bit of an artful moment in Richmond."
On Friday, over a thousand people, all of them eager to see and learn from some of Richmond's most creative minds, will gather at the historic Carpenter Theatre for TEDxRVA 2016. This year's event marks the fourth in the series, which launched in 2013 under the direction of Andy Stefanovich, TEDxRVA's official spokesman and head curator.
"The first one, we literally created a stage in a 50,000-square-foot power plant," says Stefanovich. "Which was ironic because the theme was 'create.' "
The inaugural event sold out, as it has each year since then. Which speaks to Richmond's hunger for innovation, its thirst for fresh ideas.
"TEDxRVA has played a humble role in adding to the creative fabric of our community, which is so vibrant," says Stefanovich, "and we have so many to thank for that."
A faithful attendee to the global TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, for 15 years, Stefanovich saw how that type of event could benefit the River City.
"When I went, I would always wish I could take Richmond with me. I thought, 'I wish VCU was here! I wish Mayor Jones and his council were here, I wish my children were here, I wish the students of Richmond were here. ' ”
Those wishes bloomed into inspiration, and after TED (the letters originally stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design) launched the TEDx program in 2009, allowing communities around the world to organize their own TED-style events, Stefanovich applied for and was granted a license to create TEDxRVA. It takes a team of 150 people — all volunteers — about six months to plan the event.
1 of 4
TEDxRVA founder and head curator Andy Stefanovich welcomes the masses to TEDxRVA 2015. (Photo by Cambria McCue)
2 of 4
TEDxRVA 2015 speaker Dr. Ram Bhagat, who is a longtime Richmond Public Schools educator, co-founder and artistic director of Drums No Guns and an international conflict resolution trainer for the Richmond Peace Education Center. (Photo by Cambria McCue)
3 of 4
A performance at last year's TEDxRVA. (Photo by Cambria McCue)
4 of 4
Classical Revolution RVA performs at TEDxRVA 2015. (Photo by Cambria McCue)
This year's TEDxRVA features a stellar lineup of artists, scientists, activists and educators, including drug intervention specialist Bill Maher, human rights activist and author John Dau, burlesque performer Moxie LaBouche and many others (full list here). Stefanovich, along with a team of 20 volunteers, collaboratively chose this year's speakers, leaning heavily on input from the Richmond community.
“I get an email almost every day saying, 'You ought to think about this person as a speaker,' so we really benefit from the community’s suggestions in that area,” says Stefanovich. This year, the public voted on two of TEDxRVA's speakers at sold-out "Open Mic Night" events.
In addition to the speakers' talks, which are kept to a strict time limit of three to 18 minutes each, there are several "interactive experiences" at the event, which encourages attendees to share their ideas and collaborate on community projects. This year, TEDxRVA guests will be able to help create a "large-scale paint-by-number mural," based on a design by Nosaj Authentics founder and Richmond native Jason Ford. Painting not your thing? Check out the exhibit by Performing Statistics of a full-scale youth jail cell and answer their question, “How can we create a world where no youth are locked up?” In "The Memory of Scent" demonstration, perfumer Holladay Saltz will present six scents, demonstrating the "connection between our sense of smell and memory." Attendees are invited to share their scent memories online with the hashtags #TEDxRVA and #evocativescents.
There are several built-in breaks during the daylong schedule, which has sessions slated from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lunch will be provided, and an after-party will follow the event's wrap.
Richmond loves TED-branded events, as evidenced by the growing popularity of TEDxRVA, and widespread support for the TEDxYouth@RVA program. With the enthusiastic backing of the community, Stefanovich says TEDxRVA has a bright future.
"We invite people to continue to get involved and to collaborate with us. We want to share good stories and be inspired. We’re hoping to see some artful outcomes, in how we all see the city and how we engage with our community.”
TEDxRVA takes place Friday, April 8, at the Carpenter Theatre (600 E Grace St.) starting promptly at 9 a.m. Though tickets are sold out, you can stay updated by following TEDxRVA's Facebook and Twitter and by checking the website.