Pre Con

CAA’s Artful Conference

This annual meeting draws college and university professors in art history or studio art, museum and curatorial professors, and graduate art students.


The College Art Association (CAA) will hold its 103rd Annual Conference at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City on Feb. 11–14, 2015. Focused on higher education and the study of art, the conference is expected to draw about 5,000 attendees, including college and university professors in art history or studio art, museum and curatorial professors, and graduate art students. More than 130 exhibitors — many of them publishers — are also expected. Attendees will have an opportunity to visit city museums and galleries and view public art and architecture.


New developments in the profession have prompted a shift in the content offered at the conference, according to Paul Skiff, assistant director of the Annual Conference. Over the last decade or so, the biggest change has been in regard to the employment status of CAA’s 12,000 members. With colleges and universities moving away from hiring full-time, tenured professors in art instruction and toward part-time or adjunct faculty, CAA has made sure to offer professional-development and practical sessions that meet the needs of this new audience segment. Workshops at the upcoming conference include “Driving From Adjunct to Full-Time Teacher: Making Your Part-Time Experience Work for Your Search” and “Advice for Beginning/Inexperienced Instructors.”


After a full-day staff retreat on planning the Annual Conference earlier this year, Emmanuel Lemakis, CAA’s director of programs, said CAA is looking to change the traditional conference format. Plans include making an effort to be more responsive to attendee interest in digital humanities, and experimenting with new presentation formats — such as an expanded version of the traditional 20-minute talk that presenters give. CAA is also considering “lightning” presentations, during which sessions are as brief as five minutes so that attendees get to hear from more experts on a variety of topics.

CAA is in its third year of holding an unconference just before the start of the traditional program, Lemakis said. Called THATCamp, the event will take place at the Hilton on Feb. 9–10 and focus on the teaching of the humanities through digital means, with organizers encouraging the participation of digital- and new-media artists to make sure their work is known to art historians and other CAA members. That said, the content of the unconference won’t be determined until the day itself, when the expected 75 or so attendees gather to hash out specific topic areas. “There is some discussion that precedes the meeting, but on that day nothing is predetermined,” Lemakis said. “As conference planners we’re used to planning everything to the last second, but this seems to work very well.”

Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.

Michelle R. Davis

Contributing Editor Michelle R. Davis is a writer and editor based in Silver Spring, Maryland.