VAE’s annual summit brings together a diverse cross-section of the region’s creative community to listen, discuss, and collaborate around a timely theme. We want to challenge creative people to think about the impact their work has on communities, and to inspire and excite them to use their creative super powers for good!


The 2019 summit’s theme is Listening - looking at how active listening can make us better artists/makers and better community allies. Over the course of five days of events, talks, and workshops, artists and arts administrators will learn ways to listen to their sources and subjects to create the most genuine, powerful work possible.

This theme was born out of the ever-growing trend of artists depicting communities they are not a part of, in order to gain profit or notoriety. The summit will put people who are often marginalized or used without payment in a position to be heard, while artists, arts administrators, funders, and community leaders listen with the intent to hear and create a stronger and more equitable arts community.


This year’s summit is five days of connecting artists and arts administrators with community, resources, and new ideas! There’s a virtual lunch session with VAE staff, one-on-one time with creatives in our community during the Talking with Strangers sessions, an opportunity for our community to pitch their ideas to VAE’s staff and get connected with resources, a film screening party, a free public keynote address, panel discussion, and break out session workshops! WHEW!



Online / 12-1 PM
FREE, open to everyone

Staff is hosting a virtual lunch and listen as an accessible way for our community to ask questions about the Summit schedule, VAE’s upcoming programming and calls for art, and to ask any other questions about our staff’s priorities and work. Use the link below to join the video conference through Google Hangout or join by phone: +1 507-690-2079‬ PIN: ‪301 327 981‬#


Three locations: The Carrack 11am-3pm, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe 11am-3pm & VAE Raleigh from 2pm-6pm
FREE, open to everyone

Imagine if instead of checking out a book at a local library you could check out an artist and ask them for advice, listen to their personal experience of making art in our community, or just celebrate your successes and share your challenges together. Talking with Strangers is designed to let our community do just that. Guest artists of various disciplines and backgrounds will sit in three locations in the Triangle and talk with whoever comes to visit. The artists will facilitate conversations with attendees by providing a list of prompts and questions that they are willing to discuss with attendees. The prompts will include items about their identity,  cultural background, career challenges, and successes such as “How does your identity impact your art?”, “Is a successful career contingent on money or impact? How do you measure that?”, and “How do you choose whom and what you listen to?”

The guest artists include:

A.Yoni Jeffries, Afro-Indigenous singer-songwriter
Quayshaun Weston, rapper, graphic designer, and speaker
Jim Lee, visual artist
Trey Lynch, cultural organizer, and event curator
Faith Holsaert, writer, poet, and activist
Myra Weise, dancer, organizer, and curator


6-8pm @ VAE Raleigh
FREE, open to everyone

VAE is listening! VAE has had an online portal for artists to pitch ideas at the staff for several years, we are expanding that platform to include an in-person time for artists to visit our space, meet staff face-to-face, and share their ideas. We will use this as an opportunity to expand our community, generate new ideas, create new partnerships, and share resources.


We’ve rescheduled this screening for April 4, 7-9.
Learn more + get tickets here!

7pm @ VAE Raleigh
$5, open to everyone

VAE is partnering with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to create an evening of listening using multiple senses. Set as in interactive and immersive experience in VAE’s See(d) the Future exhibition, VAE is inviting our community to watch the Oscar Micheaux "Within Our Gates" a silent film from 1927 while musicians take turns improvising their interpretation of the score to the movie, culminating in a collaborative jam session at the end of the film.


7pm @ National Humanities Center, RTP
FREE, open to everyone

Kimberly Drew, writer, curator, and activist will present a keynote address on the topic of listening. As the former Social Media Manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an independent curator, Kimberly will share her experiences being listened to and her own experiences of using listening as a tool to resolve conflict within her own communities. Specifically, Kimberly will discuss listening to her community of Black artists after they were upset by her decision to bring a white man in as a speaker for a project that centered Black art and artists, and how listening during a time of contention only made the project stronger and gained additional buy-in from the community. The address will be followed by a question and answer session and end with a networking reception.


@ National Humanities Center, RTP
$15, open to everyone

The 2019 VAE Summit culminates in a full day of sessions, panel discussions, conversations, and networking. This year's summit theme is Listening - looking at how active listening can make us better artists/makers and better community allies. Let’s gather and discuss the ways we can build our most exciting and equitable creative community. Arts admins and artists of ALL backgrounds—we want you at the table!

Tickets are $15 and include light breakfast, full lunch, afternoon snacks, and a beer + wine reception. BUY YOURS NOW!


10am: Welcome

10:30am: Toshi Reagon will sonically open the space with a musical presentation that will engage the audience to create a collective song as they listen and respond to each other. Reagon is a blues, gospel, funk, and rock musician and the composer Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of Sower opera.

11-11:45am: Concurrent sessions BLOCK 1

12-12:45pm: Concurrent sessions BLOCK 2

CONCURRENT SESSIONS: There will be two blocks of concurrent sessions, allowing participants of choice two out of four sessions:

  1. History of Sampling and beat-making
    Beat-making lab session that will guide participants through the process and history of sampling and beat-making.

    An improv workshop that will challenge participants to question their listening and responding abilities.

  3. The Internal “Why?”
    Rachel Herrick, VAE Director of Communications
    A discussion on artistic purpose and listening to our internal “why”

  4. Listening v. Understanding
    Liani Yirka, Diversity Outreach Specialist at NC Wildlife Resources Commission
    Brandon Cordrey, VAE Executive Director
    A group discussion on the difference between listening and understanding.

12:45-1:40pm: LUNCH. Refresh and restore with a beautiful catered lunch by The Palace International, a family owned restaurant serving up East African food. This hour break is for you to recharge however you want— take a walk around NHC’s beautiful grounds, do some stretching, or chat with fellow attendees.

1:45-2:30pm: Panel discussion. A panel of diverse community members will speak on their experiences of engaging with cultural institutions. The panel was selected for diversity of age, arts engagement, cultural background, disability, gender, and urban v. rural locale. VAE is asking the panelists to bring all of their identities to the panel for a discussion about what makes them feel welcome and engaged in cultural spaces and what makes them feel unwelcome or excluded in cultural spaces, both physically and programmatically.

Panelists :

Liani Yirka - arts advocate and Diversity Outreach Specialist at NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Daniel Coleman, Ph.D. - Practitioner of Scholarship, Performance Work, Feminist Pedagogy and Justice-Centered Projects. Transfeminist.

Devra Thomas - creative consultant and producer in Fayetteville

2:30-3:00pm: Fellowship Awards. VAE has $1000 to give toward supporting great ideas sparked by summit! Attendees will write their ideas down on a 3x5” index card and staff will read them aloud. Fellowship award money will be decided by popular votes!

Closing reception: 3-4:00pm. Enjoy a beverage and decompress from a full, exciting day!


We love funding great ideas!

We want you to come to come to summit, learn some stuff, and hatch up all kinds of great project ideas! And to help you realize those great ideas, we have $1000 to split between the projects that get the most votes from your peers at summit! Here’s how it will work:

STEP ONE: Come to summit. That part’s easy!

STEP TWO: Come up with an idea and write it down on the 3x5 index card we give you when you check in. We don’t need a budget or your life story. Just a few words about what you want to do.

STEP THREE: Put your card in the receptacle before 2:30pm. We will read the ideas aloud and everyone will vote for their favorite project idea using a special voting token. (NOTE: we will not read your name. It is all done anonymously.)


This project was supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.