2015 a2ru Emerging Creatives Summit
Hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts

January 28–31, 2015



A project of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, PULSE brings together students and researchers from across the country for creative and transdisciplinary collaboration to shape the city of the future.

By 2050, 67% of the world population will live in cities. Citizens will face uncertainties about equity, creativity, and the design of cities to positively serve future generations. At PULSE, student teams pioneer projects to transform urban landscapes in the coming decades. This think tank allows students to chart their own course in tackling issues anywhere from community development, cultural stability and social justice to engineering, healthcare and economic investment. Students work with national leaders to actualize ideas, while gaining an urban innovation skillset and a new network of cross-country collaborators. A parallel think tank is provided for faculty representatives from A2RU institutions.

PULSE celebrates the rich cross-fertilization produced from the creative collaborations from divergent disciplines. To participate in PULSE, please contact a2ru Education Specialist Lauren Fretz Thompson at Applications due November 14, 2014 can be found at


Wed, Jan 28

Disruptive Thinking


DoubleTree Hotel


Depart DoubleTree, walk to VCU School of Business


Welcoming remarks
School of Business Auditorium

Ed Grier, Dean, VCU School of Business
Dr. Michael Rao, President, VCU
Joe Seipel, Dean, VCU School of the Arts
Dr. Laurie Baefsky, Executive Director, a2ru


School of Business Atrium


Depart School of Business, walk to VCU Brandcenter


Mix and mingle in interdisciplinary groups [Students]

Helayne Spivak, VCU Brandcenter
Lauren Fretz Thompson, a2ru


Mix and mingle [Administrators]
DoubleTree Hotel Lounge

Thu, Jan 29

Ideation and the City


Complimentary Breakfast
DoubleTree Hotel


Depart DoubleTree Hotel by bus for The Depot


Welcome, warm-up, and orientation
The Depot

Joe Seipel, Dean, VCU School of the Arts
Andrea Alvarez, VCU School of the Arts
Lauren Fretz Thompson, a2ru
Susan M Schuld, VCU Theatre


Panel: Future City
The Depot

Introduction: Sarah Cunningham, VCU School of the Arts
Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America
David Evan Harris, Institute for the Future
Pashon Murray, Detroit Dirt
Ralph Remington, Director/Playwright
Maria Rosario Jackson, UCLA


The Depot


Tumml Bootcamp & Idea Storm
The Depot


Panel: Creative Collaborations between Cities and Universities [Administrators]
Depot Gallery Raw Space

Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America
Russell Willis Taylor
Maria Rosario Jackson, UCLA
Dr. Robert Palazzo, University of Alabama at Birmingham


Student project development time
The Depot


Buses begin departing The Depot for VMFA


Arrive at VMFA


Mellon Research Project update [Administrators]


Students visit museum on your own


VMFA Welcome
Jem Cohen: Sensing the City through Film
Screening and Conversation with Stephen Vitiello
VMFA Cheek Theater


Students depart VMFA for DoubleTree Hotel

Administrators depart for The Depot


Student Pizza Dinner
DoubleTree Hotel

Pulse Leadership Dinner [Administrators]
The Depot


Administrators depart The Depot for DoubleTree Hotel

Fri, Jan 30

Ideas into Action


Complimentary Breakfast
DoubleTree Hotel


Creative Collaborations Campus Tour
[Optional Tour for Administrators]
Middle of Broad Studio & Simulation Center


Depart for The Depot
[For students and administrators not on campus tour


Welcome, warm-up, and orientation
The Depot

Lauren Fretz Thompson, a2ru
Susan M. Schuld, VCU Theatre


Student project development


Richmond City Leaders Panel
The Depot




Presentation Finalization
Visuals submitted by 2:00PM
The Depot


Student Initiatives: From Your Point of View [Administrators]
Depot Gallery Raw Space


Depart for Grace Street Theater


Student Idea Showcase
Grace Street Theater


Depart Grace Street for celebration dinner


Celebration dinner reception
The Old City Bar


Bus departs for The DoubleTree Hotel

Sat, Jan 31

Go! Do it!


Complimentary Breakfast
DoubleTree Hotel


The Next Leap: Supporting Great Ideas
DoubleTree Hotel

Sarah Cunningham, VCU School of the Arts
David Holland, VCU School of the Arts


Closing Remarks
DoubleTree Hotel

Laurie Baefsky, a2ru
Sarah Cunningham, VCU School of the Arts


Conference ends


Julie Lein

Co-Founder and President, Tumml

Julie Lein is the co-founder and President of Tumml, an urban ventures accelerator. A nonprofit, Tumml’s mission is to empower entrepreneurs to solve urban problems. Julie is responsible for Tumml’s day-to-day operations, programming, and financial planning. Tumml was named “The Next Urban Innovation” by Dr. Michael Porter’s Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, and Julie has spoken about her work at conferences around the country. Julie and the Tumml cohort companies have been featured in several publications, including Forbes, CSpan, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Silicon Valley Business Journal. Julie has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a BA from Stanford.

Pashon Murray

Founder, Detroit Dirt & MIT Media Lab Fellow

Pashon Murray has an unrelenting drive for waste reduction, recycling, and reuse of materials. She is helping to change the carbon footprint of Detroit through revitalizing neighborhoods, finding solutions for everyday waste, and eliminating trips to the landfill. In 2010 Murray co-founded Detroit Dirt, a local composting and biomass collection company that specializes in providing compost and biomass solutions for the metro Detroit community. Detroit Dirt’s closed-loop model process was designed by Murray to help revitalize Detroit. In 2012, she launched Sustainable Integrations (SI), a Detroit-based 501(c)(3) organization that combats environmental deterioration through learning, educating, leading, and serving the public with programs and services on sustainable land utilization, ecosystem remediation, renewable energy practices, and improved waste management. In May of 2014, Newsweek named Murray as one of 13 Disruptive Women, and she was named as a Director’s Fellow of the MIT Media Lab.

Jamie Bennett

Executive Director, ArtPlace America

Jamie Bennett has been the Executive Director of ArtPlace America since January 2014. Previously, Jamie served as Chief of Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts and Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. He has also provided strategic counsel at the Agnes Gund Foundation; served as chief of staff to the President of Columbia University; and worked in fundraising at The Museum of Modern Art, the New York Philharmonic, and Columbia College. His past nonprofit affiliations have included the Board of Directors of Art21 and the HERE Arts Center; the Foot-in-the-Door Committee of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation; and Studio in a School’s Associates Committee. Jamie received his B.A. from Columbia College in New York City.

David Evan Harris

Social Change Agent, Institute for the Future

David brings an international perspective and a deep passion for social justice to his roles as IFTF’s social change agent and member of the Ten-Year Forecast and Governance Futures Lab core teams. As social change agent, he works to bring a critical social activist perspective to IFTF’s work. He is responsible for strategically identifying and developing collaborations that contribute to IFTF research, with a special focus on social action organizations and initiatives. He also contributes regularly to the Technology Horizons, Health Horizons, and Global Food Outlook programs. His research across programs focuses on poverty and inequality, development, geopolitics, political economy, social movements, and new media technology. A cross-disciplinary mediamaker, David founded the Global Lives Project, a growing video library of life experience; wrote and directed newscasts for CurrentTV; and penned articles and shot photos for the BBC, the Guardian, Adbusters, and others. David joined IFTF in 2008 and holds a BA in the political economy of development and environment, with a minor in forest science, from UC Berkeley and an MS in sociology from the University of São Paulo.

Jem Cohen

Artist and Filmmaker

Jem Cohen is a New York City-based American film maker, especially known for his observational portraits of urban landscapes, blending of media formats (16mm, Super 8, video) and collaborations with music artists. He is the recipient of the Independent Spirit Award for feature filmmaking. Cohen's films have been broadcast in Europe by the BBC and ZDF/ARTE, and in the United States by the Sundance Channel and PBS. They are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney, and Melbourne's Screen Gallery. He also makes multi-channel installations and still photographs and had a photography show at Robert Miller Gallery in 2009. He has received grants from the Guggenheim, Creative Capital, Rockefeller and Alpert Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other organizations. Cohen was born in Kabul, Afghanistan where his father was working for the U.S. Agency for Information and Development. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1984, with a concentration in film and photography.

Sarah Cunningham

Executive Director of Research, School of the Arts

Dr. Cunningham currently serves as Executive Director for Research at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. In this position, Dr. Cunningham works with university, school, faculty, and student partners to expand VCU’s presence as an international leader in arts research.

Internationally, Cunningham serves as a U.S. representative to the Council of Europe's Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, as well as the author of the United States Profile for the World Cultural Policy database hosted by the International Federation of Arts Council and Cultural Agencies. Domestically, Dr. Cunningham serves on the boards of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Survey (SNAAP), and the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities (A2RU). In 2012-2013, Cunningham co-chaired the policy committee for the CA CREATE initiative, an effort of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s office to improve and increase arts education in California’s public schools.

From 2005-2011, Cunningham held the post of Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts, founding the NEA Education Leaders Institute to develop arts education policy and strategy in 29 states. In addition, Cunningham was responsible for numerous research reports including “Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts,” as well NEA’s investment in the Strategic National Arts Alumni Survey. In 2011 and 2012, she was named in the top 30 most influential leaders in non-profit arts.

David Holland

Director of Grant Coordination and Entrepreneurship, School of the Arts

David Holland, Director of Grant Coordination and Entrepreneurship in the School of the Arts, guides and counsels faculty through the development and submission of proposals for national and international grants, fellowships and awards, manages internal grants programs for faculty and students, and collaborates with other faculty and administrators on the development of a new curriculum in creative entrepreneurship. David also teaches The Creative Economy course in the creative entrepreneurship program, which examines the economics of arts and design fields.

David has conducted significant research and program evaluation related to arts education, and his work in this area was published in The Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning in 2011. His research on other topics related to cultural policy and arts development has been published by Arts Council England and the British Council, an international cultural relations agency. He is a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and a member of the research committee of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, and recently participated in the 2014 Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

David is a Salzburg Global Fellow, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an Evan Carroll Commager Fellow. His education includes MA degrees in international studies and art history from University of London, SOAS and a BA in economics from Amherst College.

Maria Rosario Jackson

Urban Planning and Policy Specialist

Maria Rosario Jackson is an expert in the fields of urban planning, comprehensive community revitalization and arts and culture. Jackson is senior advisor to the arts and culture program at the Kresge Foundation. She is on the advisory board of the Lambent Foundation and on the boards of directors of the National Performance Network and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Jackson teaches in the arts management program, Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. She was previously on the boards of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Cultural Alliance for Greater Washington, and the Fund for Folk Culture. Jackson was director of the Culture, Creativity and Communities Program at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based national public policy research organization, where she was based for 18 years. There, she led research on measuring cultural vitality and the role of arts and culture in community revitalization, the development of art spaces, and also research on support systems for artists. Additionally, she participated in projects concerned with public housing, public education, public safety, and parks. Jackson earned a PhD in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a master of public administration degree from the University of Southern California.

Ralph Remmington


Ralph Remington is an American theater producer, theater director, actor, writer, former funder, former American politician and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Remington is the former Western Regional Director/Assistant Executive Director of Actors' Equity Association.[1] In 2010 he became the Director of Theater and Musical Theater for the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently resides in the Los Angeles, California area. Remington has written seven feature screenplays and two plays. He is founding producing artistic director of Pillsbury House Theatre, in Minneapolis Minnesota where he was also an elected member of the Minneapolis City Council. He served one term from 2005 through 2009. Ralph Remington is a US Army Veteran, certified AIDS/HIV educator, union member and former International Brotherhood of Teamsters organizer. He is currently a member of Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and Actors' Equity Association (AEA).

Matthew Freeman

President and Senior Consultant, TMI Consulting

Matthew Freeman specializes in designing and implementing diversity and inclusion strategies for business, government, and community organizations. Matthew is a facilitator and trainer with over 10 years experience working on race and diversity issues, civic engagement, and organizational development. He has pioneered the use of cutting-edge audience response technology to make group conversations more productive and participatory. Matthew has published numerous articles on the subject, including “Using keypad polling to make meetings more productive, educational, and participatory” in the National Civic Review. Matthew has worked with a diverse roster of clients, including the University of Richmond, Leadership Metro Richmond, the National Institutes of Health, the University of South Dakota,and the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.

Stephen Vitiello

Professor, Kinetic Imaging, VCU School of the Arts

Vitiello is an electronic musician and media artist whose works have been presented in the forms of sound installations, performances, photographs and CDs. His sound installations are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Vitiello has collaborated with such artists as Nam June Paik, Pauline Oliveros, Jem Cohem, Joan Jonas, Julie Mehretu, Taylor Deupree and Ryuichi Sakamoto. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Creative Capital grant, and an Alpert/Ucross Award for Music.

Dr. Robert Palazzo

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Alabama at Birgmingham

Dr. Palazzo is accomplished scholar and academic leader. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He has held research, academic, and administratitive appointments at Univerity of Virginia, University of Kansas, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the New York State Department of Health. An active contributor to his field, Palazzo is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Scientific American Magazine and is a member of the Board of Directors for The Alliance for Science and Technology Research in America (ASTRA).

Joe Seipel

Dean, VCUarts

Before becoming Dean of VCUarts, Joe Seipel was the Vice President for Academic Services at the Savannah College of Art and Design. From 2001 to 2009 he was Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of Graduate Studies for the VCU School of the Arts. For seventeen years previous to his appointment in the dean’s office, he served the School of the Arts as Chair of the Department of Sculpture, during which, US News and World Report ranked the Department of Sculpture’s graduate program number one in the nation. While he was Senior Associate Dean and Director of the School’s Graduate Studies programs, VCUarts became the highest ranked public arts program in the country, and continues to remain so.

He is on the board of several national organizations including the Mid-America College Art Association and in the past served three terms on the board of the National Council of Arts Administrators and two terms as president of the organization. He has been active in the cultural affairs of the City of Richmond as a founding Board Member of the 1708 Gallery and served as its first president. His own studio production is monumental in scale and ranges from conceptually based objects to multimedia pieces and robotics. His numerous national and international exhibition venues include among others, exhibitions in New York City, Peru, Milan, Baltimore, and Richmond.

Bill Martin

Executive Director, The Valentine Museum

As director of The Valentine, Bill Martin brings cultural diversity and current relevance to the museum visitor’s experience. Under his direction, The Valentine recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation, which has created a people’s space for visitors to engage in public dialog about important urban issues. This will allow the history museum to act as an active convener of civic conversations that will have a forceful impact on Richmond communities, as a leader among regional and national urban history museums and organizations, and as the principal steward of Richmond's history. Under his leadership, the institution recently developed a highly popular exhibit, History Ink: The Tattoo Archive Project in response to NBC’s “Today” reference to Richmond as the third most tattooed city in the U.S., based on the number of tattoo shops per capita. The project, which photo-documents the work of local tattoo artists, brings the city’s past into the ongoing urban conversation and underscores Martin’s mission to capture and articulate the vibrant contemporary voice of a city rich in history, and yet in constant change. With a degree in urban studies and twenty-five years in tourism and museum management, Bill brings the city to life for locals and visitors alike.

Russell Willis Taylor

Russell Willis Taylor was President and CEO of National Arts Strategies from 2001 through 2014. She has extensive senior experience in strategic business planning, financial analysis and planning, and all areas of operational management. Educated in England and America, she served as director of development for the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art before returning to England in 1984 at the invitation of the English National Opera (ENO) to establish the Company's first fund-raising department. During this time, she also lectured extensively at graduate programs of arts and business management throughout Britain. From 1997 to 2001, she rejoined the ENO as executive director.

Russell has held a wide range of managerial and Board posts in the commercial and nonprofit sectors including the advertising agency DMBB; head of corporate relations at Stoll Moss; director of The Arts Foundation; special advisor to the Heritage Board, Singapore; chief executive of Year of Opera and Music Theatre (1997); judge for Creative Britons and lecturer on business issues and arts administration. She received the Garrett Award for an outstanding contribution to the arts in Britain, the only American to be recognized in this way. She currently serves on the advisory boards of The University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, Salzburg Global Seminar, and the Arts Management program at American University, on the British Council's Arts & Creative Economy Advisory Group and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2013, Russell was honored with the International Citation of Merit by the International Society for the Performing Arts, presented in recognition of her lifetime achievement.

Douglas Dunlap

Interim Director of Economic & Community Development, Richmond City

Currently serving as Interim Director of Department of Economic and Community Development, Douglas Dunlap has over 20 years of experience in community and economic development, 14 years employed with City of Richmond in various capacities. He previously served as Deputy Director of Department of Planning and Development Review with oversight of Planning and Preservation, Zoning, and Land-use Administration. He has also served as East District Manager, a position where he oversaw all operations at the East District Center, which is a City Hall Satellite. He also has six years experience in residential development administering First Time Homebuyer programming, where he was in charge of construction of homes, facilitating first time buyer training, property acquisitions, home marketing and sales.

Robert L. Dortch Jr.

Director, Community Innovation for the Robins Foundation

Robert is Director, Community Innovation for the Robins Foundation, a family foundation based in Richmond, VA. He’s a social entrepreneur with more than 20 years of executive leadership experience in the for-profit, faith based and non-profit sector. This has included serving as President of three Richmond based non-profits. Robert is a certified leadership coach who coaches individuals, organizations and communities locally, nationally and internationally on: discovering purpose, leveraging assets, customizing processes, imagining possibilities and taking actions that lead to transformative results. As a guest lecturer, keynote speaker and facilitator, he partners with audiences on how to dream big and to be strategic and innovative doers. He was the Executive Producer for the African American Trailblazers documentary and educational series which broadcast nationally on PBS stations. He is co-founder of the Ujima Legacy Fund, a giving circle designed to encourage philanthropy and investment in education based initiatives that serve youth. Also, he serves on a variety of boards and community initiatives.Robert has a BBA from James Madison University and M. Div degree from the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. He received his leadership coaching certification through Georgetown University. He has completed three marathons and enjoys journaling, photography and great conversations.

Niraj Verma

Dean, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Dean of the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Dr. Verma is an internationally recognized expert in urban planning and management. He began his academic career at the University of Southern California, where he was an associate professor of planning and management and director of doctoral programs in the School of Policy, Planning and Development. He went on to become chair of the department of urban planning at the University of New York, Buffalo before joining VCU.

Verma has authored or co-authored more than 25 articles and book chapters. Verma wrote “Similarities, Connections, and Systems: The Search for a New Rationality for Planning and Management,” which was published by Lexington Books in 1998. He is also the editor of “Institutions and Planning,” published by Elsevier in 2007. An invited speaker at many distinguished universities in the U.S. and abroad, his work has been translated into German, Italian and Korean. Verma’s research has been supported by grants from the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Transportation. Professionally, his work includes large-scale projects such as technology planning for an integrated steel plant in India and developing a master plan for the State of Hawaii’s library system. His research and scholarship have been recognized nationally by fellowships from the Rotary Foundation, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Zumberge Foundation.


Who can attend?

Undergraduate and graduate students from a2ru partner universities are invited to attend, as well as administrators and staff at those institutions who work with students in an interdisciplinary capacity. In an effort to support a productive and intimate atmosphere at the conference, only 3 to 5 applicants from each partner university will be selected to attend. Some universities may decide to select participating students directly, but must contact Lauren Fretz Thompson ahead of time to coordinate the process.

Applicants must be an undergraduate or graduate student at an a2ru partner university.

Applicants should be interested in actively engaging in interdisciplinary endeavors and projects on their home campuses and/or communities.

How to Apply

Interested students must submit a completed application to a2ru Education Specialist Lauren Fretz Thompson no later than Friday, November 14, 2014. a2ru will work with university faculty and staff to make selection decisions. Applicants will be notified of selections by Monday, November 24, 2014.


There are no registration fees for this conference.