Twenty Trusteeship members converged from differing locations at the IWF Rome conference hotel, the Hilton Cavalieri, to gather for a Trusteeship kickoff meet and greet, just prior to the opening reception of “Art Transforming the World”. We shared stories of pre-conference experiences, traveling sagas, and ended the high-octane cocktail gathering with a welcoming toast to first-time conference attendee, Millie Garcia, and a birthday toast to Deborah Sussman, who was celebrating a milestone birthday.
At the designated time, we joined 680 other IWF members and guests from around the globe to be shuttled to the Terrazzo Caffarelli directly overlooking the ancient Roman Forum, which for centuries had been the center of Roman public life. We climbed well-trodden stairs lined with waving Italian flags to band fanfare and entered the Capitoline Museums where we had the opportunity to stroll at a museum pace, enjoying some of the most prestigious and ancient collections in the world – marbles, bronzes, and a collection of imperial portraits and old master paintings of Caravaggio, Rubens, and Titian. We gradually found our way to the museum terrace for welcoming remarks by the mayor of Rome and enjoyed a Roman style meal with ample time to reconnect with IWF friends and to gaze at the stunning panoramic view of Vatican City, the Tiber River and Trastevere.
The first morning plenary session was a full house as the IWF Italy co-chairs, the President of IWF Italy, and IWF President, the Honorable Allyson Gibson said their opening remarks. Italian author/television host and panel moderator, Rosanna Lambertucci, set the theme for discussion: Trends that are transforming our prospects for social, economic, and human innovation on a global scale; what it means for our cities and culture; how will it impact decision-making to help solve problems, find answers, grow, prosper and thrive.
The panelists shared insight on the concept that creativity transcends all industry. For 3000 years, Rome has been in a continuum of development. Panelist and Italian architect, Fabio Novembre noted that it is hard to create in such historic beauty. His process is to match works of art and daily activity, so that art is brought into to the viewer’s life. He always considers sustainability issues and follows the motto, “Do less and do it better”. He passionately stated his belief that aesthetics must be folded into all levels of school curriculum.
Another panelist added that Rome has always produced innovation because it is challenged to constantly rediscover modernity and, especially, to link functionality to the aesthetic, to the cultural past. The panelists concurred that the human hand must always be the finishing touch for there to be beauty and harmony.
The panel discussion concluded with the statement that art is what draws us to feel, to express ourselves, and to create.
After a short break, we returned to the plenary session on “Design Thinking – Artfully Remaking Our World.” Design thinking is a methodology for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for an improved future result. Unlike analytical thinking, it is a creative process based around the “building up” of an idea. In design thinking, human factors must be considered before technology can be considered, and once analyzed and understood, technology can then be applied to social problems. Risk needs to be part of the process as there cannot be judgments early on. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and creativity. The goal is to see new things – to “Vu ja dai” instead of “Deja vu” (already seen). The human factor in design problem solving is crucial.. When you watch human behavior, you will question things, and when you question, there is often an opportunity for innovation. To the question of how design thinking can be used to finance ideas, the response was that design thinking is never a formula. Rather, business people should embrace it into their thinking by, for example, looking at user needs and sustainability. Also, open innovation needs to be folded into our culture. This concept starts with the belief that we do not have all the answers and must tap into global systems and combine technology with humanity to come up with solutions.
One of the panelists noted that we have become risk adverse and blame was placed on our education system. For design thinking to work, failure must be accepted as a step in the process to innovation. Business students need to learn and implement this concept if we really want innovation to happen. Design thinking is a cooperative effort, the panelist said, that could lead to social innovation.
The luncheon topic, “Women: Transforming the World with Art & Design Innovation”, was a big subject that was covered by the three panelists with sincerity and depth. They individually shared how they used their art as women to make change. The three agreed that a female narrative promotes peace and can create more understanding through the stories that are told.
Immediately following lunch, we dispersed to our chosen behind the scenes tours that covered the spectrum of Italian art and design innovation: the paintings and sculptures of the masters, contemporary and modern art; the culinary arts; architecture; faith, form and function, and; fashion. With a love of the culinary arts, I chose “The Art of Food & Wine” at Rome’s world renowned Citta’ del Gusto, a six-story shrine to gastronomy run by Italy’s gastronomic organization, Gambero Rosso, where a range of cooking courses are offered to elevate food and wine to an art form. Seated comfortably in the demonstration room of this airy, state-of-art cooking facility, we were given an oversight on the origins and secrets of Italian cooking and a more thorough historical review of the humble origins of pasta as Neapolitan street food and its move onto the royal tables. A Teatro del Gusto chef gave us a master demonstration on reinterpreting Italian recipes. As demonstration examples, he prepared red pepper stuffed chicken breast with yellow pepper sauce gently spooned atop; tagliatelle with an aromatic asparagus sauce, and; Sicilian stuffed cannelloni. There were many surprises. The first was that making fresh pasta is not as complicated or time-consuming as one might imagine. Second, we were able to muster enough self-control that we did not rush the demonstration table. Third, we did not get to sample the delectable dishes but had to satisfy our cravings with generously supplied round breadsticks and a light white wine. Really!
After a quick turnaround to ready ourselves for the dine-around program scheduled for that evening, we grouped in assigned sections to await our departures to the homes or venues of our designated hosts. The dine-arounds are always a favorite, even if the bus driver loses his way to the host’s home, which does happen, as they allow attendees the opportunity of a more intimate setting to get to know other IWF members. Fortunately, my assigned driver knew his way. The dine-around was a flawless experience at a lovely condo of a highly regarded Italian doctor who graciously catered a “typical” gourmet Roman meal that concluded with homemade gelato topped with fresh berries and a dollop of the finest regional balsamic vinegar. My dine-around attendees came from Minnesota, New Mexico, Connecticut, Florida, Israel, Portugal, Southern California, and, of course, Italy. We shared information and thoughts about our governments and politics, culture, economics, our fields and industries, and our conference experiences. It was a true dine-around experience of sharing.
The last morning session had as its topic “Cinema: The Art of Entertainment Transforming the World”. The was The Trusteeship attendees’ collective favorite because our own Gale Ann Hurd was one of the panelists. We learned that – while women hold only seventeen percent of all film jobs – their impact is significant. India has become a powerhouse for cinema, but independents are struggling for funding, a sad fact, as independents more often impact social change. It was noted that no film has created a revolution, but films do impact thought. Cinema has a way to get into our subconscious. Nandita Das, Indian actress and film director, used as an example her film, “Firaaq”, which focuses on what happens when things and situations do not exist any more. Gale Ann said that film taps into what people are feeling. In her “Terminator” movie, we learn what can happen when we place too much faith in machines. Gale Ann’s “Walking Dead” hit drama is about life on the brink, when we sense there no longer is safety. It is meant to instigate thinking around survival; how will we survive and what skills do we need to have. It also taps into what kind of values we have now and what actions might we take to survive. Often times, there are societal applications as a result of these independent social change films. For example, “Walking Dead” zombies were used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their public awareness preparedness campaign. All panelists agreed that piracy has been a double-edged sword. While women directors need revenue from their films and acknowledge that piracy has a negative revenue impact, Nandita believes that piracy gives her films a greater reach in a way that is democratizing. I think many listeners thought that was a bit of a stretch.
The closing luncheon had as its topic “Connecting the Arts and Sciences and Economic Development” with a focus on how the arts, science, and economic development are connected as well as the extent to which contemporary art is inspired and influenced by science and the latest technologies. The panelists exchanged thoughts on how this creative and technical convergence help society and solve problems and find answers to improve and secure the world’s sustainable economic, social and environmental future. The 21st century will be a new renaissance based on interdisciplinary innovation. The panelists agreed that boundaries between disciplines should be broken down, particularly between art and science. A successful example of this concept is the advances that have been made in video and internet art. Art can play an important role in sparking creativity, but the obstacle will be how it all gets funded. We need to understand that it is shortsighted to only fund applied science. There needs to be real commitment.
With a 4-hour downtime break, attendees scattered to take in Rome city sights, tastes and smells and allowed enough time to return for the closing dinner celebration at the stunningly beautiful Palazzo Ferrajoli, a historical building of the XVI century situated just opposite the Prime Minister’s palace in Piazza Colonna. Even though a bountiful Roman buffet feast was artfully presented to attendees, a majority of Trusteeship members chose to quietly exit to a nearby ristorante just step away from the evening lights of The Pantheon. As we enjoyed our seemingly endless dishes of Italian fine food and rich local wines, we exchanged stories and laughter until it was time to say our goodbyes, each of us headed to different destinations for new experiences. Que bello!