Creative Economy Symposium Places Focus on Diversity

WDI Staff


WDI was a key developer and sponsor of the 2nd Annual Capital Region Creative Economy Symposium which took place on June 21st and 22nd at Proctors in Schenectady. The event was produced in collaboration with Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Upstate Alliance for Creative Economy (ACE), Adirondack Studios, Proctors, and the Themed Entertainment Association.

The focus of the symposium was “The Next Steps Toward a Diverse Workforce,” featuring dialogue among global and regional experts, employees and employers from regional creative enterprises, students, and others seeking entry into creative careers.

The symposium was part of the ongoing Capital Region focus on the Creative Economy. The sector is one of the region’s most significant in terms of overall employment. There are more than 40,000 people employed in a range of industries including, but not limited to: design, media, handcrafted products, visual and performing arts, architecture, museums, and artisanal food and agriculture.

The far-reaching nature of these industries and the projections of continued job growth means that discussions on diversity, opportunity, and inclusion are essential to the vitality of the sector.  As demographics change, employers must expand their recruiting and hiring beyond their traditional prospects. This includes expanding ethnic and racial diversity, looking beyond “traditional” gender roles, adapting to the challenges of multi-generational workplaces, and creating inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities. Employers and industries that struggle to expand their reach will be challenged to survive using their traditional methodologies.

Through presentations and panel discussions, the conference engaged 80 attendees in conversations about recognizing and overcoming obstacles, developing industry-specific educational curriculum, improving diversity hiring practices, and exploring the pathways to creative career opportunities that exist in rural and urban communities. Conference sessions also examined employment barriers facing underserved youth and young creatives, explored locally available vocational and entrepreneurial programs, and celebrated the regional maker heritage and modern maker spaces. The two day event also provided opportunities for attendees to connect with potential employers in creative industries.

The symposium featured keynote speaker Cynthia Sharpe, principal of cultural attractions and research at Thinkwell and co-founder of Harriet B’s Daughters. The event also featured panels and presentations led by Dan Cullen and Ed Murphy of WDI, Carmen Duncan of Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Maureen Sager of ACE, Faryha Chowdhury and Tom Lloyd of Adirondack Studios, Craig “DJ TGIF” Earle, Fri Forjindam of Mycotoo, Bruce Toyama of Besstech, and Kate Baker of SUNY Adirondack.

The conversation will continue on October 25th with “Entrepreneurship and Inclusion,” an event co-sponsored by WDI and ACE to be held at Youth FX in Albany. The 3rd Annual Creative Economy Symposium is scheduled for February 2019 at Proctors.