WMCAT relaunches virtual speaker series

Mia Birdsong. Courtesy West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology

A local nonprofit is bringing together national thought leaders and local stakeholders to explore the interconnectedness of systems that impact community prosperity.

The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology said registration now is open for a three-week virtual series, WMCAT 20/20: Exploring Intersecting Visions for the Future, which will explore the intersection of economic prosperity, education, health and well-being, and social capital in community. Presented by Steelcase, the series will begin April 13 and run through April 27.

Area leaders, doers, thinkers and stakeholders are invited to engage with national keynote speakers and local thought leaders via the series.

“We want to create a space to push our thinking, foster conversations and help people make connections,” said Jamon Alexander, president and CEO of WMCAT. “For more than 15 years, WMCAT has provided equitable access to opportunity through youth arts engagement, workforce development and social enterprises. We work at the intersection of different systems. This is the inspiration behind WMCAT 20/20: to host a series that gives participants the same opportunity to explore and question the intersections of community prosperity.”

Mia Birdsong will kick off the series on April 13, speaking on social capital, economic justice, and health and well-being. Author of “How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community” and executive director of Next River, Birdsong is a facilitator and activist who engages the leadership and wisdom of people experiencing injustice to chart new visions of American life, according to her bio.

Andre M. Perry, Ph.D, will close the series on April 27, speaking on education, social capital and economic prosperity. Perry is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and a scholar-in-residence at American University. A thought leader in K-12 education, Perry founded the College of Urban Education at Davenport University in 2013.

WMCAT will announce speaker for April 20 at a later date.

The virtual series will be hosted on the interactive platform Remo, through which participants can connect at virtual tables, ask questions of panelists and speakers, and engage with additional resources for learning. WMCAT also will host an in-person, pre-series happy hour for all registered participants.

This is the second iteration of WMCAT 20/20. After a pivot from a planned two-day, in-person event in June 2020, WMCAT hosted a monthslong virtual series last year titled WMCAT 20/20: Exploring Conflicting Visions for the Future that convened a diverse audience to advance conversation and learning around community prosperity. With more than 200 participants, WMCAT said the inaugural series confirmed the need for this event in the region. With that in mind, the nonprofit decided to bring back the series in a streamlined format this spring.

Registration for the full series is $175. Participants will receive a framework for engagement at the beginning of April, followed by:

  • An invitation to an in-person happy hour from 4:30-6:30 p.m. April 12
  • Three weekly virtual community meetings from 12-1:30 p.m. Wednesday April 13, 20 and 27 with a featured keynote speaker, local artist highlight, live Q&A and opportunities for discussion
  • Emailed resources for reflection and further learning
  • A curated engagement kit, with special treats and learning materials

Reduced rate registrations will be available upon request for maximum inclusion, WMCAT said. More information is at wmcat2020.org/attend.

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