First SLAP Conference Focuses on Issues in the Arts Community

First SLAP Conference Focuses on Issues in the Arts Community
Photo courtesy of SLAP

In some ways, its goals are as aggressive as its acronym, though the methods are more guerilla than they are violent. The latest enterprise from the St. Louis Art Project (SLAP) is an unchecked effort of creativity that will last four days, feature live musicians, explore the local music and art scenes and probe some big -- no, seriously -- ideas. It's collaborative in the way only grassroots efforts really can be, and if the whole thing sounds slightly wild, that's because it might be. And that's a good thing. A to Z talked to organizer Liz Deichmann about the issues and expectations behind the 2011 SLAP Conference, the first in what she hopes will become an annual event.

Kelsey Whipple: Which came first: SLAP or the SLAP conference? The group only got started in January, so it seems like the operation developed quickly.

Liz Deichmann: It started in January with an idea. The Secret Sound Society had a music festival previously on Cherokee Street in October, and it showed us how many amazing people were working in the city and had really interesting projects in the art community. It opened us to a vibrant arts scene we didn't even know existed, really. The whole thing happened pretty organically because we wanted to work with more people doing interesting things in St. Louis. There's kind of a chicken and the egg situation: Did SLAP come first, or did the conference? I'm actually not sure. Whichever one did, it really let us find a way to become involved with like-minded people who were interested in the same aspects of culture in the city. So we got together the first week in February and decided to create a community arts resource.

Why does St. Louis need a community arts festival like the SLAP conference?

Probably one of our primary goals, just because it's what inspired us, is working together to bring together a group of really diverse individuals to construct comprehensive programming and have meaningful discussions. It sounds complicated, but we want people to talk -- to each other -- about the arts. This year alone, there have been a few arts festivals, so those are definitely things that are going on in St. Louis. This conference is trying to reach out to a broad audience to get people engaged in the arts community who maybe aren't already. How is this festival different from the others?

I think this is the biggest conference that has happened. That has given us the opportunity to touch on a lot of different subjects. We have panels, workshops, artist talks and programming that's just totally new, like Current, which is a collaborative performance of electronic musicians. It's probably the best example of working across genres for this conference. At the very least, it helps people become more aware of the things and people that are in St. Louis that might not be incredibly obvious.

Which event are you most excited about?

Can I pick two?


I'm first and foremost excited about the electronic artists in Current and their collaborative discussion. No opportunity like that exists in St. Louis. We'll have Black Spade, Adult Fur and Syna So Pro play together for the first time ever, and that will be fascinating. There's also going to be a community discussion on Sunday where people will reflect on what they've learned from the conference and talk about how you apply what you've learned in your community through engagement.

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