2023 National Conference: “What’s Next?: Imagining New Educational Futures for Ourselves, Our Communities and Our Planet”

2023 National Conference: “What’s Next?: Imagining New Educational Futures for Ourselves, Our Communities and Our Planet”

Deadline to Apply: March 5, 2023

The Theme

The study, practice, and centrality of the arts in higher education are inextricably linked to our ever-changing social, cultural, political, and environmental landscape. These changes force us to re-evaluate old mechanisms and ideas to meet the challenges of an uncertain future. How are students, faculty, institutional leaders, and institutions grappling with this uncertainty? How have creative communities addressed regressive responses to social justice, the looming consequences of climate change, and concerns with equitable values as new technologies evolve? How are we managing to maintain healthy bodies and minds for ourselves and for communities both within and outside the educational project-at-large?

What’s Next? Imagining New Educational Futures for Ourselves, Our Communities, and Our Planet, welcomes proposals that present and explore new modes or models of practice, pedagogy, programming, research, and community partnerships that respond to our present moment and imagine educational futures that have the potential to positively impact global communities through the arts.

Call For Proposals

For the 2023 conference, we are seeking presentation proposals within four content tracks; the format options for presentations are outlined in the “Session Formats” section below.


Health refers to a state where the physical body is free from disease, while wellness refers to an overall balance of a person’s physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, environmental, and occupational well-being. How are institutions connecting art and design to health and wellness practices? How do/can artists and designers take a lead in our understanding of the importance of health and wellness to our collective work in the academy? How can arts- and design-based work broaden access to power, decision making, and resources that strengthen and empower the communities we sit in? What are examples of new or developing health and wellness practices or institutional policies that provide new opportunities for interdisciplinary and robust inclusion for faculty, staff, and students? How are socio-political and socio-economic determinants fostering disparities in attaining ‘health equity’ and ‘wellness justice’?


Presentations in this area could address: practices, research, programming or projects that have sought to disrupt the status quo regarding who is invited to the table and given opportunities to contribute to research, to teach, or to curricularize practices or subject matter not commonly brought into the classroom or presented to arts audiences? What have white arts practitioners learned about their privilege and anti-racist practice? What are new or developing examples of models for equitable pedagogies or institutional policies that provide new opportunities for transdisciplinary collaboration and robust intersectionality? How are institutions using the arts to broaden access to power, decision making, and resources that strengthen and empower communities? And, how are institutions and arts-based degree programs incorporating financial education and critical studies to contextualize student loan debt, the cost of higher education, and or the influence of economic systems on access to arts education and careers? 


Sustainability encompasses the simultaneous pursuit of human health and happiness, environmental quality, and economic well-being for current and future generations. As we face climate change, the limits on our resources, and unprecedented pressures on how we live, we seek socio-ecological solutions for a sustainable future in a way that no one is left behind. What can we do as artists and designers for a sustainable future for ourselves, our communities, and our planet? How can we contribute to achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals? How can artists and designers initiate interdisciplinary dialogues toward a sustainable future? We ask how innovative arts and design teaching, research, and practice can challenge how we create, design, and perform for a sustainable future.


For centuries, artists have readily adopted new technologies in the process of expanding and improving their work and finding new ways of reading and understanding the world. Some of these technologies redefine visual communication as well as models of representation. Topics on Track Four dive into the possibilities, challenges, and pitfalls afforded by contemporary digital culture and computational systems including machine learning and artificial intelligence. Considering that we have gone through similar transformative moments in recent history although at a lower speed, this track is interested in investigating the following questions: What are the implications for art history, art, and design in a period heavily driven by computation? What other modes of representation do computational cultures enable? How should we think about race and technology in our current digital culture?  Can these evolving visual technologies contribute to envisioning and making a more equitable and sustainable world?


Practical Applications of Arts Integration in Higher Education

These sessions sharing current best practices from around the a2ru network are primarily concerned with creating and supporting work, developing tools, and presenting ideas about integrating arts and design in the context of academic research and teaching cultures. In crafting your proposal, please consider one of the four thematic tracks for the conference; we will prioritize programming that speaks to one or more of the four tracks. “Practical Applications” proposals may use any of the format options outlined in the “Session Formats” section below.


Presenters will be expected to present in person to a potentially hybrid audience (please note: workshops will be in-person only, and not all presentation sessions will be live-streamed).


Proposals for workshops provide opportunities for immersive work sessions that address a topic or question related to the themes of the conference. Proposals should consider including at least two of the following elements: an intentionally designed format to foster discussion or activity across areas of expertise; a topic or artistic practice connected to the conference theme or arts-integrative methods; intended working methods and outcomes of the group process; hands-on activities; and a mechanism by which to continue the work post-conference.

Lightning Talks

Proposals in this section should consider work that is in development. Through shorter (approximately 10 minute) presentations of early-stage work, artists, designers, scholars, and students have an opportunity to exchange information and ideas to better inform the work in its pre-publication stage. Lightning talks may include: basic keywords to describe the multiple facets of the work; ideas for who might collaborate in the next stages (e.g., computer engineers, biochemists, composers, choreographers, designers, etc.); challenges faced in doing the work, and next steps/questions to work toward.

Presentations / Panels

In this format, presenters will share work that is more fully developed (approximately 20 minutes). Presenters and performers can reflect on completed work or suggest next steps for projects that have already been launched. Proposals should include a description of the content to be presented and an explanation of how the format of the presentation will be conducive to the next steps. Proposals for both Individual presentations and full panels will be considered.


Building on the unique format of our 2021 conference, Sharing Stories, we invite proposals from those who want to use art to share their research or in their exploration of artistic research/teaching. Storytelling can take the form of dance, acting, film, music, puppetry, painting, sand animation, sculpting, song, spoken word poetry, etc. Performers may submit a narrative to accompany their performance, but this is not necessary. Individual stories should be 5-7 minutes long. Group stories may be given more time. When submitting your story proposal, please indicate your ideal length of storytelling time.


  1. Proposals from all higher education faculty, administrators, staff, and students will be considered, as well as proposals from independent artists, scholars, curators, etc.  Proposals from a2ru members or from individuals/groups invited by a2ru leadership will receive priority consideration.
  2. Both individual and group proposals are encouraged.
  3. Applicants may submit more than one proposal and be considered for more than one type of session.
  4. Acceptance for a session implies a commitment to attend that session and participate in person.
  5. All presenters are required to register for the conference. Previous registration fees can be viewed at
  6. All proposals will be reviewed blindly by a2ru committees and staff.
  7. Proposals must be anonymized and may not include, either explicitly or by implication, any identifying information–e.g., name, institution/organization, advisors, etc. This policy also applies to any supplementary or linked material. If you include links to any external material, it is your responsibility to guarantee anonymous browsing. Submissions violating anonymization rules will not be considered for review.
  8. You will need to upload your proposal to the Qualtrics form linked below by March 5, 2023. No identifying information should be included in your proposal or in your file name. Proposals that violate this anonymization policy will not be considered for review.