A group at a 2012 Central Texas BarCamp exchange ideas. Photo courtesy of Central Texas BarCamp.

Joey Lopez believes in honest, collaborative discussion, and the power it has to enact change.

The University of the Incarnate Word communication arts associate professor has been to his fair share of conferences with curated lineups of speakers and programming – attendance is very rarely free. So Lopez has been working with friends and colleagues to create more accessible events centered around collaborative community engagement to spark discussion about a range of topics.

At Central Texas BarCamp: Diversity, Inclusion & Equity in Art & Technology, a conference he helped organize, Lopez hopes to cultivate ideas from anyone interested in discussing proactive methods to build a more inclusive local art and tech community.

The free event is on Saturday, June 4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Café Commerce, and is open to the public. To register for the event, click here.

Educators, public workers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, programmers, entrepreneurs, activists, elected officials, and students – everyone is invited and welcome, Lopez said.

Conversations in public panels and private living rooms about diversity in the arts have increased in recent months after the controversial refusal of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center to host the Contemporary Arts Month Perennial exhibit due to a lack of Latina representation. The move sparked a smoldering city-wide debate about the underrepresentation of certain groups, especially Latinos, in the art world and the inequity in funding and resources for minority groups in different areas of work across the city.

(Read more: Guadalupe Backs Out of Art Month, Cites Lack of Latina Artists and ‘Diversity in the Arts’ Discussion Leads to More Questions Than Answers)

I’m really concerned about it and I know that I don’t have all the answers and I know that my friends don’t have all the answers,” Lopez told the Rivard Report on Thursday. That’s why the community needs to “meet, engage, and discuss” the issue, he said, to determine creative, effective ways to make a change.

The BarCamp conference format is perhaps the most ideal method for facilitating such a discussion, he said, becuase the attendees are also meant to be presenters. BarCamp started in the tech world in 2005, but its format has expanded and applied to conferences about a variety of disciplines. Every BarCamp attendee comes to the conference with an idea, writes it and their desired time slot to present it on a Post-It note, and places the note on a wall, making a giant schedule of events for the day.

A 2015 Central Texas BarCamp participant reviews the day's maliable schedule of events. Photo courtesy of Central Texas BarCamp.
A 2015 Central Texas BarCamp participant reviews the day’s maliable schedule of events. Photo courtesy of Central Texas BarCamp.

At the coming Central Texas BarCamp, everyone will vote on which ideas they’re interested in and the top choices – the total number depending on the amount of participants – will be presented throughout the day. Lopez has organized BarCamp events before, and saw the model as ideal for discussing inclusivity and diversity since it promotes fairness and transparency in choosing what topics will be explored.

“This is a positive event that is looking for people to share their voices,” Lopez said. “It’s not about people telling them things, it’s about sharing and learning about each other.”

Pre-conference discussion and exchange of ideas are encouraged, and have already begun on the event’s Facebook page. Collaboration before, during, and after presentations is also encouraged.

“We want people to just start asking questions so we can start discussing them and breaking them down, so that when we meet up it’s really that much more effective in terms of how to discuss things,” Lopez said. “The idea is for people to come with ideas already in mind and hopefully by then we’ll have laid out some pretty clear paths for people to present.”

The possibilities are endless as far as presentations go: workshops, demonstrations, roundtables, or forums are all fair game, but Lopez and event organizers are open to whatever creative paths people may take with their ideas.

Opportunities for “open-ended fun” will also be available throughout the day, he said. He and other organizers are hoping to have a space where people can teach different skills, experiment with objects like 3-D printers or laser cutters, and record oral histories of their experiences in San Antonio and central Texas.

If nothing else, Lopez hopes to shed light on the everyday “lived realities” that occur in our city. A recent Center for Public Policy Priorities reported that there are distinct disparities in access to resources like education among minority racial groups, and Lopez has seen that women in tech often fall prey to gender double-standards in the workplace.

“We have some people that have power here in San Antonio that really aren’t understanding the great divide (in resources),” he said. “They’ll say there’s discrepancies, but they won’t really swallow that” and see how to make a change.

Perhaps the intercultural, multigenerational, and interclass collaboration that Lopez is aiming for at the coming BarCamp event will bring a sense of understanding of each other, and an inspiration to determine how to effectively build a more inclusive community.


Top image: A group at a 2012 Central Texas BarCamp exchange ideas. Photo courtesy of Central Texas BarCamp.

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Camille Garcia

Camille Garcia is a journalist born and raised in San Antonio. She formerly worked at the San Antonio Report as assistant editor and reporter. Her email is camillenicgarcia@gmail.com