Wow. What an amazing experience and sense of the surreal. Upon returning home, I took a nap, and when I woke up, I thought, “wow, did a whole week just fly by? Or was that whole thing a dream?” But as evidenced by my suitcase full of business cards and schwag—and my vivid memories of the experience—it was most certainly not a dream, though it encompassed all the creativity, imagery, innovation, and vision of a good dream.
Innovation and Vision. I think those are the two words that come to mind when I reflect upon this experience. This trip has inspired me with its innovation and filled me with vision for both my professional self and CAM.
One of the main things that hit home for me was the collaboration between the fields. There was technology and science and music and film everywhere. I went to a film about music, learned about music technology, science and music, science and technology, and every single combination in between. This was inspiring to me because so many different creatives are joining forces everyday and creating something new–a new field, a new technology, a new object, etc. I really felt at home in this notion because I think sometimes, there are three misconceptions. One, if you aren’t a musician, or actor, why are you in the industry? Why would you give up the performance and spotlight for something else? Two, if you have multiple passions, why wouldn’t you study something more stable like medicine? Three, I guess you chose the creative route because you aren’t smart enough to study a better field. These misconceptions are ones that I run into everyday, from people as loving as my family, to people as cruel as the comments section on social media outlets. I think SXSW’s strong messages of innovation and collaboration really strengthened my self confidence and confidence in the arts community.
I think Mayim Bialik, actress in The Big Bang Theory, and PhD in neuroscience, says it best, “I don’t think there’s anything particularly spectacular about me that I have both acting interests and science interests, to me that’s just who I am. Being a scientist is as creative, interesting, exciting, as being an artist, looking at the sunset, I love that my brain goes to color, wavelength, rotation of the earth, why the horizon disappears, why it looks different…that’s just how I see the world and I love it. It’s like being in love with every aspect of the universe.”
I have often felt guilty for having more than one passion, and studying music. I have felt a little out of place when I talk about my passion for space, 3D printing, or molecular gastronomy, and my interests to learn about coding and blockchain technologies. I feel guilt in that I didn’t choose performance and guilt in that I didn’t choose a more “worthy” field like medicine or computer science. However at this conference, while there were solely musicians, there were also scientists, computer coders, and some of the brightest most innovative minds–Disney Imagineers–and most of the panels explored all those aspects. I think my biggest takeaway from that is, creators are enough. Creators are worthy. A lot of folks argued that the Obama’s trip to SXSW was nothing more than a “celebrity move” and that they should be acting like politicians and getting “real work” done. However, I disagree with the notion that SXSW isn’t real work, and that creators aren’t worth the time of the President and First Lady. This notion suggests that creatives are unintelligent compared to the rest of the population, that their time would be best spent elsewhere, and that the these leaders would have nothing to say to us that would really mean something to us. Well, my argument, is we are the innovators. We are the Edison’s, the creators of 3D printing, VR, films and music. We are innovation and vision, and we are the people who can creatively think of solutions to change our world for the better. At SXSW I saw environmental innovation, discussion on disability inclusion, new technologies that will take over the future in the next few years, and more. The Obama’s didn’t go to concerts with us, and we didn’t smoke weed while we listened to them. They talked to us about innovation and social change, about education women, and progressing society. They understand that we have multiple passions, skill sets, a way with language, film, music, and technology; and most of all they realize we house the artists to encourage and draw the necessary emotions and empathy from people to make changes happen. I am frustrated when the public dismisses the creatives as being unintelligent, flighty, and moody. While I would agree that we possess different traits, many of which include poor attitudes before 10am, I think those same attitudes and plethora of passions give us a different lens in which we view the world. And I absolutely believe that we as creators are doing real work.
For The College of Arts and Media, I saw vision. Through this conference I realized how much collaboration happens in the real world. I met industry professionals interested in talking to students, finding interns, and wanting to speak and educate the future creators at CU Denver. The networking and collaboration potential that stemmed from this conference just by going as a University was massive. I have already started talking to professors saying, “Hey I saw this film and I think it’d be a perfect educational tool for the recording arts program” or “Hey I met this industry professional who would love to speak about bitcoin and blockchain to music business students.” The connections each of us brought home are wonderful, and on top of that, I think each of us see how important growth is for the college. I think we really united as CAM on this trip, and were able to cross fields and learn about each other and our programs. I think we could really be the next innovators and on the cutting edge in the industry if we continue to use this conference as a learning and growth point. We can attract intelligent future creatives and catch the attention of the industry, perhaps to even speak at a future SXSW panel on university education and the industry. I think our students could start bringing innovative and amazing ideas to pitch and become competitive not only within our school, but across universities, and within the industry itself. I’ve already heard students discuss possibilities on a music business app, new touch pads and synthesizers, and a variety of other creative innovations. We are a college full of intelligent and hard working arts students, and I think we need to maintain those expectations and quality of work in order to create growth and development within our university. I think if we collaborated as much in CAM as we did at SXSW, we could start reaching out within CAM and to other colleges like the architects, engineers, and computer programmers, to start making our big ideas come to fruition. It would be amazing if our students had the opportunity to work together to create new apps, build the best sonic-ally designed room, and engineer new types of instruments. Applying this across the majors, our projects could become so much more powerful if we had more tools and relationships to create and innovate together–not just as CAM, but as CU Denver. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we brought new innovations to SXSW in the upcoming years? Wouldn’t it be amazing if arts students formulated ideas, created works with the help of other majors, and went through the process of executing patents with the business and pre-law students? There is just so much possibility and vision that I see for how SXSW could continue to push us towards growth and new innovations that could come directly from CAM undergrads. I believe we have the potential–we just need the support.