This is Brandon Black–a budding visual practitioner from Cincinnati, Ohio–reporting on my experience as a 2017 IFVP conference scholar. In case you need a reminder, I was the fuzzy faced communication and social media scholar who warned you of impending personal space intrusion and told you that he loved you. Before I go any further, I want to say a huge, "Thank you" to the IFVP conference staff for the opportunity to be a scholar and to all of you who welcomed/tolerated me and my camera phone inside your aforementioned personal space.
This year’s theme–Discover Hidden Treasure–was X marks the spot on. My experience of being a scholar was the ultimate role of treasure hunter. By that I mean I was constantly on the lookout for the hidden and emerging gems of the conference. Being a scholar forced me to listen more deeply, be more intentional and exercise a bit more courage. From my black bearded heart to your unpatched eye, here is a list of eight treasures uncovered during my time as a scholar at this year's conference in Decatur.
#1. Claudia Lopez: She was the better half of the communication and social media scholar team. Whenever the voice of doubt started "should-ing on me," I’d look to Claudia whose confidence and positive “Let’s go for it!” attitude would anchor me. Cool thing numero uno about being a scholar is working with other passionate, talented scholars.
#2. People are the real treasure. "The map is not the treasure, but the evidence that it exist." Quotes like these and many other showed me the true brilliance of our work. IFVPers are a wealth of knowledge and experience. Most of the time, gems like this one seemed to fall from the sky, but my position as a scholar gave me permission to dig for them when necessary.
#3. Amazing talent. There were many opportunities for people to show and sharpen their scribing skills. Blank canvases transformed into beautiful, captivating works of art through the hands of the recorders. The new captures were displayed everyday for all to see. The diversity of choice and style is breathtaking and–for me–never gets old.
#4. There's something special about the IFVP conference crowd. A culture that truly honors and values the sharing of experience has been establish. This goes for those who have been in their practice from 24 hours to 24 years. All seem so deeply vested in pouring into the chalice of collective wisdom. This, undoubtedly, is why the sessions and conversations are so rich.
#5. Contributions are welcomed. One attendee put it this way, "Our ability is a gift we can use to give a gift." This doesn't just apply to visual practice. When I was selected to be a scholar and given my assignment, my initial thoughts were, "earn your keep and don't screw up!" What I learned was that if I just made the decision to bring me to the conference, that it I couldn't go wrong.
#6. Three newly minted board members: Katerina Bogina, Kim Dornisch, and Greg Whicker. Speaking of welcomed contributors, these good folks stepped up to offer their gifts and talents in service of IFVP. I love that being a scholar gave me an excuse to chat with and congratulate each of them. I was really struck by their generosity and willingness to engage in an official way.
#7. Treasure seen, is treasure owned. As conference facilitator Mary Alice put it, "The only way that you can see [the treasure] in the other person is when you have it in yourself. All that we are...doing is being a mirror to your own possibility, potential and brilliance.” Isn't that powerful and empowering?
#8. Real community. Rachel Smith, who has been coming to the IFVP conference for many years now, said it best this way, "The people may change but the level of care [and sense of community] remains the same." The decision I made to just focus on bringing myself to the conference and role of scholar was the best one because people reciprocated that energy and authenticity. I was able to see why so many people belong to IFVP, and in turn that I belong, too.
Wrapping up here, my experience as a scholar gave me a platform to contribute, engage, and learn. I got to witness people in a range of states from serious, silly, and generous, to tearfully grateful. I was able to speak, work, dance and draw with some amazing and radically accepting people. I hope that you know the location of your treasure, because thanks to this experience, I found mine.
Your Ultimate Dance Partner,