Anyone who cares about the arts should pay attention to Ben Cameron. One of America’s most important arts administrators, for years Cameron has supervised multi-millions in annual arts grants and served on the Tony Awards nominating committee. He also delivered one of the Top 10 most acclaimed art-focused TED Talks.
Cameron believes the arts have entered a new chapter. The always-on Internet may be the live arts’ toughest competition, but that very technology’s democratization of the means of distribution has led to an explosion of arts participants “beyond our wildest imaginations,” says Cameron. Everyone takes photos, makes videos, writes, sings and thinks they can dance. And now that we’re all artists, we are a transformed audience. We want more engagement. “Ultimately, we now live in a world defined not by consumerism but by participation.” This is the revolution about which the Alliance's annual conference takes its name.
At REVOLUTION: Engaging Human Creativity, Cameron will focus on ways to inspire and grow this new audience. While critics may see this as a time when much of the arts are struggling, Cameron sees this as a time of new possibilities—aesthetic and social—and argues that perhaps now is the time that the arts might be needed more urgently than ever—if we only have the courage to listen to what our audiences, our communities, are telling us.
More about Ben Cameron: From 2006 to 2015, as a director of New York’s Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Cameron supervised a $15-million grants program for theatre, dance, jazz and presenting fields, as well as a special $50 million initiative designed primarily to serve individual artists. In recognition of the work during his tenure, the Foundation received the National Medal of the Arts from President Barak Obama. Cameron was director of the Theater Program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and served for nine years on the Tony Awards Nominating Committee. A force on the podium, Cameron has delivered engaging talks around the world about the state of the arts. Currently based in Minneapolis, Cameron is now president of two arts foundations founded by Jerome Hill.
Cameron, himself, recently submitted rather different biographical information to us. It mentions nothing of above — and it duly impresses.
Ben Cameron is the youngest child of a traveling button and thread salesman and an opera singer turned housewife, and the proud youngest grandson of a Scottish immigrant railway worker and an Appalachian country doctor. He was both the valedictorian and the student body president of the first class to complete all three years of high school at the public school whose opening ended segregation in his home town; he subsequently attended his state university on full scholarship and received his degree with honors. In his career, he has worked as a newspaper delivery boy, a lawnmower salesman at JC Penny’s, a dishwasher, a Presbyterian summer camp counselor, a film projectionist, a waiter, and a high school English teacher, and has volunteered in youth mentoring programs, suicide prevention lines and intellectually disabled children services. He currently resides in Minnesota with his husband and their dog.
BC Alliance annual conference in brief:
REVOLUTION: Engaging Human Creativity, the annual conference presented by BC Alliance for Arts + Culture, features 18 great minds sharing insights on connections between creativity, innovation and social progress. Speakers include powerful arts campaigner Ben Cameron, Toronto theatre visionary Franco Boni, and UBC’s Dr. Ray Hsu, on ways virtual reality will revolutionize arts and communications. Be inspired: June 8, at Annex and Pyatt Hall, with post conference reception at the Alliance. Tickets: $39 to $179 (includes lunch); more info allianceforarts.com/revolution-2017
Conference speakers include (clockwise from top left): Franco Boni, Teara Fraser, Brenda Leadlay, Dr. Ray Hsu, Dani Fecko, Nina Buddhdev, mia susan amir and Anoushka Ratnarajah