Acting with Intent: Reflections on the second year of Hopscotch Design Festival

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Last fall, I went to the first year of Hopscotch Design Festival as an attendee.

The festival elevated me above my ground level perspective of my day-to-day endeavors. It gave me a view of the sweeping and vast landscape that is design in Raleigh and beyond. I had just finished a year-long fellowship with Design Corps and was uncertain what I would do next. The festival helped me align my direction and chart a course. I was reconnected to my own love of design and as one of my best friends says, “my batteries were recharged.”

You can only see so far

What I didn’t see when I was charting my course was that I would attend the second Hopscotch Design Festival as Director — which took place a few weeks ago on Sept 9 and 10. (In retrospect, maybe if I had squinted my eyes, I might have spotted a tiny dot on the horizon. But sometimes you don’t know what you’re seeing until it’s right in front of you).

 

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This year’s keynote speaker Austin Kleon said in his opening keynote: “The day is the only unit of time I can get my head around. Live one day at a time.”

Chart a course, but be ready to alter your route

Hopscotch Design Festival “brings people together to challenge the status quo and shape our cities and our lives not by default but rather with intent.”

I took this philosophy to heart.

I acted with intent seeking an opportunity to join New Kind as a writer. New Kind co-founded Hopscotch Design Festival and I actually connected with Jonathan Opp, New Kind’s Chief Poetics Officer, during the festival. I loved my previous work in event planning and community organizing, but wanted to exercise my writing muscles.

My first day at New Kind was October 9, 2014. I had embarked on my charted course.

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Festival goers visit Tactile Workshop’s Transformable Pavilion which was designed to address the need of fluidity in our lives. “Each person that visits the pavilion can create their own form depending on how they move the parts in relation to each other. Its potential is to show individuals how our built environment can be more dynamic, and how they themselves have the capacity to choose the possibilities.” Image credit: Our City

You will visit the crossroads of uncertainty more than once

Around the time I joined, one of the big conversations happening at New Kind was what the 2015 Hopscotch Design Festival would look like. How would we incorporate the lessons learned from the first year? How would the future of Hopscotch Music impact the Design Festival? And is this something we want to do annually or bi-annually?

New Kind’s Chief Design Officer Matt Muñoz wrote immediately following the first year of the Festival about how “the future reeks of uncertainty.” He said you have two options for how you handle uncertainty: wait and see what happens or do something now.

After a successful first year, the festival arrived again at the very crossroads where it started. This time uncertain of what exactly the second year would be. Personally, this is what I find exciting about uncertainty: it doesn’t exclude anyone. Everyone is faced with uncertainty — what you do about it is the difference.

 

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Jed Gant aimed to bring the  quality of serendipity throughout the festival. He created a series of benches that served as a “collective urban porch that can be experienced by anyone and at any time.” His benches are pictured here outside Clearscapes. Image credit: Our City

An unexpected junction

In early January of this year, I found myself standing at the crossroads alongside the New Kind team and Hopscotch Music Festival Director Greg Lowenhagen. I had an opportunity to share why I was excited about the festival and why it mattered to me:

1). Raleigh has a legacy of design — a history to celebrate and a story to tell. The same is true today, people are doing great work here and the festival is a great way to showcase and share. I believe as a city, we are positioned to be a national design leader.

2). As a company, we believe in design and we want to share it with others — a festival is one of the best ways to be an active participant in the community we care most about and want to support — I call this design citizenship.

3). New Kind “brings people together to share in the adventure of creating the future.” Hopscotch Design Festival enables us to openly share our process and find ways to improve it.

I didn’t know by sharing my ideas that I would be asked if I wanted to take on a leadership role with the festival. (So I’ve made a new rule: in uncertain times, always share your thoughts.)

When you have the chance to do something or not, take the chance and do something

In the past taking a chance has always lead me to exciting places. So, I took the chance to be Director. (Even though I had originally joined New Kind with the intention of being a full-time writer). Deciding to be Director was one of those “must” decisions first year Hopscotch Design speaker Elle Luna urges us to follow.

Thanks to the awesome work of first year Director, Hannah Ross, I was starting in a great place. It was still a whirlwind seven months, but we did it. We chose again to do something now. We acted with intent to shape a future we believe in.

I’ve learned that acting with intent can lead you to a place you don’t expect. And my advice is to embrace it.

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Photographer Helena Price talked about taking a chance when she quit her job in Tech PR to focus on photography. Not expecting to be overwhelmed with the opportunities to work with tech clients like Dropbox and Airbnb.

Reaching the tiny dot on the horizon

My experiences as an attendee and as Director were exactly what the festival is intended to be — a place to help navigate the messy process of creating the future. The festival serves as an annual crossroads (even for the organizers) — where everyone can find inspiration, revisit their why, and align their endeavors around what they believe in. So they know what direction to head in — at least for a little while.

I hope this was the experience for anyone who attended this year.

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At some point in time, everything is “in progress.” Artists from Raleigh’s Peregrine Project re-invented the look of a Flow Mini Cooper during the festival. Image credit: Basia Coulter

From what I can see, people did experience this. Kate Studwell highlighted“Don’t Go it Alone” as one of the major themes for her from this year and I can’t agree more of the importance of having others along for the journey. Jen Baker wrote about the recurring theme of analog vs. digital in her recap“WARNING: Everything is okay” on Raleigh Co. and New Media Campaigns and AIGA Raleigh shared their favorite moments as well.

Our Storify threads help summarize the many questions and ideas explored at the different venues (RCC, CAM, CTK, FEED, and Clearscapes).

Always pack your bag full with gratitude

I feel most proud when I think about what would have happened if we had gone the other direction. If we had waited and if the festival hadn’t happened this year. That’s when I feel really excited about the impact of so many people coming together.

I’m thankful to the nearly 400 people who took a chance to do something and joined us for the second year. I’m thankful to our venue emcees, captains, volunteers, and sponsors who made the festival possible.

And I’m thankful to the speakers for how they embrace uncertainty in their work and for their openness in sharing what they’ve learned.

Celebrating your way through uncertainty

One of the best ways to embrace uncertainty is to celebrate. People have been coming together for centuries in the form of festivals to celebrate their culture and create meaning in the face of uncertainty.

 

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Festival goers celebrated at the Design Block Party along S. Harrington Street on Wednesday night in conjunction with CAM, Innovate Raleigh, and the Sir Walter Raleigh Awards. Image credit: Basia Coulter

This is my intention for the future of Hopscotch Design Festival: to continue building an experience around a culture that embraces uncertainty. Because when we embrace uncertainty, we can all ask big questions and take chances on our ideas.

I hope everyone will join us to celebrate, together.

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