By Suzanne Hall
Riveting remarks by remarkable people. That’s what you can expect from Richmond’s inaugural TEDxRVA, an independently organized TEDx event on March 22.
In the spirit of TED’s motto “ideas worth spreading,” TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED videos and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. Andy Stefanovich, Chief Provocateur at Prophet, has attended the TED conference in Long Beach for six years, along with leading thinkers and doers in what is described as “a four-day journey into the future, in the company of those creating it.” Stefanovich has also spoken at more than ten TEDx events in the US and UK, so it’s only natural that he would want to bring this experience home.
“Several friends approached me about bringing a TEDx to Richmond and the momentum of the idea caught on quickly,” says Stefanovich. “We quickly built a dynamic team of volunteers that’s moving full throttle to make this happen. And before I knew it, complete strangers were approaching me in coffee shops to discuss TEDxRVA.”
The event is a call to action for Richmond around the theme CREATE. The recent proliferation of the RVA brand – and all that it stands for – shows that our community is entering an unprecedented phase of creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
In capturing the essence of TED, this event will challenge the audience to explore new perspectives and expand thinking. The approximately thirty-person list of speakers is comprised of half Richmond-based speakers and half from outside the community. Some you will know and some will be on stage for the first time.
Stefanovich and the team of volunteers have an ambitious vision. In addition to the traditional talks and presentations offered during TEDx events, participants will engage in creative experiences throughout the day, a new twist – and very RVA. “TEDxRVA will capture the thoughts, the emotions and the magical interactions of the day. As a community we will co-author the experience in real time. As conversations, interactions and connections occur, we will add another chapter to RVA’s creative movement,” said Stefanovich.
We have evidence that TEDxRVA will be well received. Over 600 Richmonders attended an Open Mic event at the Hippodrome in lead up to the event to preview presentations by some of the area’s visionary thinkers. The Open Mic event featured 31 passionate contenders speaking on topics ranging from healthcare, running, resilience, self-acceptance, cross-discipline collaboration, music, and environmental issues. Each was allocated two minutes and the audience respectfully listened and voted by texting for their top selection.
At the end of the night two speakers were selected to share their story on the big stage in March. John Blake was an addict on the brink of overdose when a poem saved his life. A National Poetry Slam finalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, Blake has published a full collection of poetry and now teaches writing. Noah Kim, the youngest contestant at the event, is a sophomore at Maggie Walker Governor’s School and captured the audience with his passion for education reform and the importance of teachers.
TEDxRVA will take place in the Power Plant – located adjacent to the Troutman Saunders building – that once housed the massive turbines that powered the first street cars in the nation. This venue acts as a tether between Richmond’s rich history and its future potential. The building also served as the canvas for the Richmond street art festival that took place there last spring. To date, sponsors for TEDxRVA include Altria Group, The Greater Richmond Chamber Foundation, Luck Stone, and Snagajob. The Richmond Times-Dispatch is a media sponsor of TEDxRVA.