About the Symposia

WESTAF convenes experts and leaders from fields both inside and outside the arts to address critical issues affecting arts and culture, acting on the rich dialogues as opportunities to reflect on cultural policy issues particular to the West, to introduce practitioners in the region to one another, and to expand the acquaintance of national and international discussions of cultural policy with thinkers in the West.

Visit our Research page to see a list of all WESTAF Cultural Policy Symposia proceedings.

List of Cultural Policy Symposia

The Future History of Public Art

November 5-7, 2017, Honolulu, Hawai’i
This symposium brought together public art practitioners and allied professionals for high-level discourse to explore existing challenges alongside emerging strategies for the successful growth of the public art field. The symposium was organized by WESTAF in collaboration with Forecast Public Art and the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

The Status and Future of State Arts Advocacy

October 3-5, 2016, Denver, Colorado
This symposium convened experts and practitioners in the area of state arts advocacy. Participants examined the current condition of state-level arts advocacy and considered the kinds of strategies, collaborations, and possible organizational reinventions needed to ensure success.

Creativity and Innovation in Public Education: Areas of Need, Mechanisms for Change

March 3-5, 2014, Los Angeles, California
This symposium, co-hosted by the California Arts Council and Frank Gehry Partners, addressed the research and policy work needed to advance creativity and innovation in public education. Discussions included the neuroscience of creativity; evaluation of creativity-based curriculum; innovative approaches to advance arts, science, and technology education; design thinking in higher education; and creativity as collaborative practice. To view the presentations at the 2014 symposia, click here.

Engaging Data: Arts and Culture Research in the Digital Age

April 12-14, 2012, Los Angeles, California
This symposium brought together experts on arts and cultural data to discuss innovative ways for managing, analyzing, and using data and addressed the issue that in all fields, technology is massively increasing both the volume and variety of data available for research.

Engaging the Now: Arguments, Research, and New Environments for the Arts

October 15-17, 2009, Aspen, Colorado
This symposium convened in Aspen, Colorado, in October, 2009. The proceedings feature a keynote presentation by Doug McLennan of, a discussion about the efficacy of state film incentives, a dialogue about the state of arts education research and advocacy, a consideration of new economic arguments for the arts, a review of trends in youth engagement in creativity and the arts, a forum on rethinking the structure and scope of state arts agencies, and a discussion about cultural policy trends in Europe. In addition to McLennan, a wide range of speakers participated in the symposium discussion–from economists and economic development professionals to cultural policy leaders and academics.

State Economic Development and the Creative Economy

December 4-6, 2008, San Diego, California
WESTAF’s symposium on economic development, state government, and the creative economy in the West took place in San Diego, California, on December 4-6, 2008. Symposium participants discussed how creative sectors—both for-profit and nonprofit—have been considered in state economic development efforts as well as how they factor into the way states and cities develop economic policy as economic climates shift. Participants included state economic development officials and senior policy advisers in the West, and selected speakers, experts, economists, state arts agency directors, academics, and participants from related fields.

Perspectives on Cultural Tax Districts

February 11-12, 2008, Seattle, Washington
This seminar featured discussion about the history and formation of cultural tax districts and was sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission and WESTAF. Held in Seattle, Washington, in February, 2008, seminar participants focused on the benefits, drawbacks, structure and impact of cultural tax districts. Participants examined several proposed, unsuccessful, and current tax district structures such as Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which yields more than $42 million annually for arts and culture in a seven-county area. Printed copies of the proceedings are available upon request from WESTAF.

Open Dialogue XI: Global Connections to Cultural Democracy

July 12-15, 2007, Denver, Colorado
Open Dialogue XI: Global Connections to Cultural Democracy included a WESTAF-sponsored symposium and brought together policy makers, academics, arts administrators, theorists, and artists to discuss global migration, cultural democracy, diversity.

The New Face of Arts Leadership in the West

October 20-22, 2005, Boulder, Colorado
Convened in Boulder in 2005, this symposium was a follow-up gathering to the previous year’s symposium, Cultural Identity in the West. The forum focused on emerging young leaders from culturally diverse communities in the West. Topics included: Language as it relates to ethnicity, leadership and people working in the arts; Perspectives on diversity in the arts; Leadership styles in ethnically based communities; and Emerging leaders in the arts.

Cultural Identity in the West

November 11-13, 2004, Los Angeles, California
Convened in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, Cultural Identity in the West grew out of the conversations and discussions of WESTAF’s Multicultural Advisory Committee. The gathering brought together a diverse group of leaders in the arts—arts administrators working in the visual and performing arts, cultural workers, and working artists—to share their personal stories and discuss issues related to multiculturalism and the arts.

Re-envisioning State Arts Agencies

October 17-19, 2003, Denver, Colorado
Convened in Denver in October, 2003, the symposium on Re-Envisioning State Arts Agencies brought together arts policy theorists, practitioners, and volunteer arts leaders to explore a wide variety of approaches to address current and future issues in the area of state arts agency structure and process. The resulting discussions were thought-provoking and are expected to inform continuing dialogue on the topic.

Unified Field Summit on Art, Science and Spirituality

October 4-6, 2002, Aspen, Colorado
The United Field Summit, which was convened at the Aspen Institute in October 2002, brought together 22 prominent artists, scientists, writers and spiritual leaders working to establish a nexus between artistic, scientific and spiritual thought. Managed by WESTAF, in cooperation with the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the convening was moderated by Douglas Rushkoff, a professor of media culture at New York University and a noted commentator, columnist, and theorist of new media and popular culture.

Cultural Policy in the West

September 23-24, 1999, Aspen Colorado
In September, 1999, WESTAF convened a symposium to stimulate discussion about the nature of cultural policy in the West and to identify features of the region’s policy environment that influence and shape cultural policy in the region.

Cultural Policy in the West II

October 6-8, 2000, Aspen Colorado
In October, 2000, WESTAF convened a second symposium at the Aspen Institute on topics that affect cultural policy in the West. Experts in the fields of technology, youth culture, demographics and politics were invited to share their perspectives on important trends and to discuss the relationship of these areas to the culture sector.

Literature Activity in the West

July 17-18, 1997, San Francisco, California

The Visual Artist and the New Funding Environment

December 11-12, 1997, Seattle, Washington