How Was Your Year? Ours was...

...surprisingly full of insights...and glimmers of hope amid stressful darkness...

Who knew that the idea between “2020Visions” would prove so resonant in this Year of Living Stressfully — hungry for “dreaming forward”?

In our first newsletter last March, I described the genesis of 2020Visions two years ago, born in a climate of intense political negativity. The insight was: instead of obsessing about the heinous acts of politicians (particularly he-who-shall-not-be-named), and wallowing in seductive dystopias, the advancing horrors of what we don’t want, what about using those same obsessive energies to conceive desired outcomes — even seemingly irrational ones?

At the core of this idea were artists, notably those making “social sculpture” (many described in previous newsletters), who are imaginatively crafting structural interventions within society itself. They might be conceptualizing fertile, healing earthworks or building listening-bridges between communities.   

Of course, the spirit of invention is in all of us. The point was to learn to draw from the creative imagination’s power to reframe, to find solutions — sometimes solving a challenge by completely leapfrogging it entirely. And then came Covid-19, with all its tragedies, our innovative resilience needing to be implemented in ways we never imagined.

Through it all, during the course of this year, our team grew to comprise ten amazing dream-makers, collaboratively producing a wide field of initiatives (see them below). To cap off everything, on December 3–5, we were able to stage The New City: Navigating the Future, a How-To, a virtual solutions-oriented conference bringing together some 64 incredible speakers, visionaries and on-the-ground problem-solvers, from revolutionary muralist Judy Baca to political change-maker Andrew Yang to environmental ethicist Karenna Gore — mapping out a terrain of possibilities with a purpose.

Many who attended have shared how moved they were. You can access videos of The New City via our Mighty Networks (see below). And our recently launched Instagram boasts exclusive video excerpts.

What originated as an inkling, a tiny seed, about the creative innovation has transformed into shoots that will grow into gorgeous trees—or wildflowers, possibly beyond us. Our mission at 2020Visions, though, is to keep evolving ourselves, because the world itself evolves.  Now, the year 2020 is over. What will come next? The point is live in the solution, propelled ever forward. 

We are most thankful to our partners, Union Theological Seminary and CalArts, without whom none of this would have been possible, and to Exalt, which hosted our Local Labs. And to you, dear co-conspirators, who have been with us on this journey.  

Onward!

Carey Lovelace, Founder, 2020Visions

Our Initiatives

We asked 2020Visions team members, and our partners at UTS, to reflect on one aspect — always in the spirit of encouraging imagination and dreams — of what we’ve done this year. 

The New City: Navigating the Future, a How-To

Robin Reese, Vice President, Communications & Marketing; and Rita Walters, Vice President of Development at Union Theological Seminary (2020Visions partner)

Dreaming. It’s been tough to do that in 2020. But dreaming is exactly what the early December New City conference was all about. The timing couldn’t have been better to bring together brilliant, creative, thoughtful, and innovative minds to reimagine the future of our cities—from architects to artists, educators to economists, techies to theologians, agriculturists to advocates. It was three days of melding art and design with equitable visions for new ways of urban farming, policing, access to capital, education, spirituality, sustainability, and many other ideas.

Three days of hope and promise for a new way forward. We were challenged to set aside old paradigms and systems regarding change and instead leverage our radical imagination to think differently. We return to our communities to press leaders, creators, makers, and doers that the time is ripe for progress. We join together in this effort for what is yet possible.

As one of The New City conference presentations, Christoph Schäfer explains Park Fiction – a neighborhood park in Hamburg’s former red light district, that was designed in an interactive process by local residents.

Artist Collaborations, Started in 2019, Were Our Very First Initiative.…

Elizabeth Thompson, Director of Creative Programming

…and since then, an extraordinary group of eight artists selected as our inaugural cohort have produced a compelling portfolio of unique visions for the future. We matched each artist with a “practical problem-solver”—an ethicist, a marine biologist, a guerilla chef, a gamer, two technologists, a group of cognitive neuroscientists, and two different technologists. Artists and collaborators took the seed of a “crazy” idea and spent the year growing the vision into a fully realized project. From creating new, ethical forms of AI to rethinking the restaurant experience; from teaching science using the tools of hip-hop and gaming to reseeding our urban shorelines with seagrass — each project offers a deeply creative vision for a better future. Artists, now in Phase II, will continue development of their projects through 2021, culminating in a public event in September. Stay tuned!  

We could not be more grateful for their participation and more proud of the work they have accomplished.   

Our Salons Went Virtual Very Early On

 —Pedro Hernandez, Production and Design Manager 

One of the initiatives, launched on March 18th, that has shone a light on our incredibly dynamic and innovative 2020Visions artists—and also our burgeoning community—is our Salon Series. Via Zoom sessions and shared screens, artists and their collaborators presented their unique ideas at various stages of development to an invited audience who offered questions and feedback to each pair. It is our honor to support process-oriented idea-building amongst artists and community members. These ways of working allow us to collectively think through what’s needed to design the kind of future we want to inhabit by leveraging creativity to break boundaries. 

We also staged two salons for the wider public: conversations between Union Theological President Serene Jones and actor/playwright Anna Deavere Smith on art, racial justice, and spirit; and with Spiderwoman Theatre’s Muriel Miguel on indigenous issues, mortality, and the extraordinary.   

Collective Dreaming, Too, Was a Formative Component

Alexis Morley, Director of Communications

In pursuit of our call to “Dream Forward,” 2020Visions sought to develop techniques to help invoke states of openness and tap into the radical creativity that inhabits each of us. On a Saturday in mid-August, a group of 15 gathered virtually for a daylong Collective Dreaming Workshop: seven hours of guided experiences (meditation, movement, visualization, drawing, writing, conversation, and even eating) and conversations that helped us to dig deep, accessing the imaginative, artistic wisdom that we possess—individually and collectively.

We worked to invoke what Buckminster Fuller called “preferred states” and to come up with pathways to realize them. The result was a number of “inventions”—some abstract, some material. Openness, vulnerability, and true freedom of thinking were encouraged. We worked individually, then in dyads, triads, and ultimately all together, finding that the group almost magically amplified the brilliance each participant brought to the project. Over the course of this transformative day (which somehow passed very quickly!) we witnessed visions evolve into projects and solutions. Perhaps equally important was the profound sense of community we each felt (not something easily achieved over Zoom), as well as the glow of inspiration and optimism that I believe we carried with us after our day came to an end. 

Local Labs

Yona Backer, Executive Director

Local Labs consists of workshops that seeks to unlock the power of the imagination to solve problems, currently structured as an after-school program for young people and piloted in partnership with Exalt—a New York City-based institution that works with court-involved youth and serves as a catalyst for transformation in the way young people think, both in the moment and for substantive long-term behavioral change. 

Facilitated by artist educator Juanita Lanzo, the program launched in October and culminated in final presentations by each of the dozen-or-so participants. We met over three weeks, during which time the teens identified real-life problems, such as homelessness, unemployment, and food insecurity, and also visualized solutions and innovations, including apps that deliver medicine, a lighter that can’t be lost, magic kits, and much more. Once their imaginations were stirred, anything seemed possible. The process unleashed so much creativity — it was thrilling to witness. The Local Lab workshops revealed how powerful the imagination can be once unleashed, much to the surprise of some of the participants themselves.  

We will continue to partner with Exalt in 2021, tweaking the program so it can be duplicated and applied in other contexts and for other constituents, including seniors and incarcerated populations.  

A Holistic and Community-Focused Approach to Utilizing Technology 

James Andrews, Strategic Consultant

2020 Visions has been unafraid to try new approaches and stay on the cutting edge of community and content platforms. From the beginning, we used Substack, Zoom, and other platforms, like Run the World. Currently, we have initiated Topia, an avatar-based piece of “digital real estate” that allows for asynchronous and synchronous spatial experiences and events. Consonant with our mission, we sought and used the most robust platforms that can bring us into the future.  

Now Open: Mighty Networks

Amy Sadao, Community Manager

We’re excited to offer our community a new form of networking, discussion, and imagining collectively. Through a developing network on Mighty Networks, a curated community-building platform, we offer thought-provoking conversations and share inspiration toward a solutions-based future. Videos from The New City will be “living” here—so if you would like to access them, we invite you to become a member.  Joining is easy.  It is also a way to connect and ideate with our 2020Visions Mighty Networks community who are similarly motivated to explore and experiment. We look forward to seeing you there!  

Above All, We Focused on Group Process

Vera Petukhova, Project Manager

Our team established our own evolving methods wherein our ways of working together have been rhizomatic—responding to our multiple needs, our bicoastal team, and our various work styles. Decision-making involved open discussion with all team members; sometimes decisions moved at a slower pace to allow all to weigh in to reach a consensus. It is an unconventional approach that mad our team dynamic and unique. Information is lateral, not top-down, and decisions are made collectively, with transparency on all sides. Experimentation has been a core value of 2020Visions; it points us toward the future. As with any experiment, we did not know the outcome — but we believe in the process and trust in the collective knowledge we hold as a team. In the projects, events, and programs 2020Visions developed, we sought, via other industries various among us have worked in (art, tech, theater, music, education, etc.), to move away from models with which we have become comfortable. The process of experimentation is prone to error. We leaned into the pain-points that accompany this type of growth as our amorphous organization evolves toward the future, utilizing new formats and approaches.