By Imagining America | May 23, 2019



Imagining America National Gathering


Attended a past IA national gathering and interested in having one in your home city? Looking for a new way to build deeper connections across the IA national consortium and within your home community? Then consider applying to serve as a host partner for a future national gathering. Contact IA staff to learn more.


IA is currently identifying host cities and partners for its 2020 and 2021 national gatherings.


Hosting an IA national gathering provides an excellent opportunity to:

  • Showcase publicly engaged work taking place in your institution and home city to local, regional, national, and international publics
  • Learn about the many ways arts, humanities, and design are being leveraged across the country towards transformative action
  • Forge and strengthen partnerships within your home community
  • Strengthen your work and the work of your peers by connecting it with national work and dialogue


For information about serving as a gathering host institution, please review the frequently asked questions and linked material below, which includes a link to the application form. To speak with IA staff regarding your interest, please contact IA Managing Director Mina Matlon at

Begin Application


Frequently Asked Questions

What Does IA Look For in a Host Partner and City?

IA’s primary consideration when identifying a host partner and city is what’s happening in this place that opens a provocative entry point to addressing a pressing public issue through the methodologies of arts, design, and the humanities? For example, mindful of the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential elections, national conversations on immigration, and demographic shifts across the country, New Mexico’s history and current cultural landscape provides a powerful setting from which the IA 20th Anniversary Gathering will explore the ways in which we imagine, design, and foster belonging in our home communities and as a nation state.

In addition, IA looks for ways in which the gathering organizing process may itself serve as a vehicle to forge and strengthen partnerships within the host city. The IA staff works closely – in person and virtually – with its host partner(s) to identify and support local and regional leaders as they organize around one or more issues of particular concern to their communities. It is our hope that this work extends the gathering’s impact by building capacity to democratically transform civic life.

To this end, IA seeks a host partner that is able to convene a robust core of stakeholders (students, faculty, administration, staff/volunteers of community based groups, and other community members and leaders including artists and activists) committed to thinking and working together over a year-long period to achieve shared goals.


What Types of Support Are Expected of a Host Partner?

A successful gathering requires human and financial support from one or more host partners / institutions. The most helpful and productive human support generally comes in the form of a small team that includes a faculty member, center director, or other senior representative from an IA member or partner institution, and, perhaps most importantly, a staff member or graduate student affiliated with the host partner.

In addition, Imagining America expects the host institution to act as partners in providing in-kind support and in contributing and/or seeking funds to offset the overall gathering costs, which run between $150,000 to $200,000 depending on the city.

When the gathering is primarily convened on a host institution campus, and using campus services, examples of past in-kind support have included the following:

  • Time release for faculty and/or staff;
  • Cost of venue spaces, including A/V, security, and maintenance personnel;
  • Transportation if campus transportation is being used;
  • Catering;
  • Design and printing of publicity materials.

In addition to in-kind support, higher education host partners will take the lead in researching and applying for any campus funds that may be available for academic conferences. These resource pools are generally used to support and increase faculty, staff, and student participation in the gathering by subsidizing or fully covering the registration fees for these participants.

Beyond the contributions from a host campus and local/regional institutions, IA solicits advertising revenue, corporate and foundation sponsorship, and contributed income in order to cover the costs of producing its national gatherings. The bulk of income, however, comes from registration fees, which have been kept at a reasonably inexpensive rate – comparatively speaking – to encourage broad participation and to align with IA’s mission and values.

Additional information on the roles and responsibilities of host institution partners is available here.

When Does the Gathering Typically Take Place?

Gatherings are usually held in the month of October, with the specific date determined in consultation with the host partner. We generally look for dates with preceding/subsequent cultural events in the host city while avoiding the Jewish High Holidays and any major competing events occurring at the host institution. With the proliferation of both academic and community arts conferences, it has become increasingly difficult to find dates with no competing events. Therefore, beyond the considerations mentioned above, the most important factors are dates that work for the host partner(s) and dates during which hotel/venue space is available.

In recent years, the gathering has taken place Friday to Sunday, with IA’s National Advisory Board and Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Summit occurring on Thursday. IA also occasionally programs a pre-gathering event, which typically takes place the day before the official gathering start date.

‣ What Is This About a Local Planning Committee?

One of the first priorities when beginning to plan the national gathering is naming the local planning committee. Working closely with IA staff and the host partner team, the local planning/steering committee have played different roles over the years, from co-developing with IA staff the gathering theme and call for participation to reviewing session proposals and curating major gathering programming. The local planning committee is crucial to IA’s organizing approach as it ensures that community voices and perspectives are embedded in the gathering planning process.

Additional information on the roles and responsibilities of host institution partners and local planning/steering committee is available here.


Application Timeline

Ready to apply to host a future IA national gathering? Click here to start the application process. The application and review period for the 2020 gathering is set forth below. IA is collecting interest in hosting the 2021 gathering on a rolling basis and will be in touch with these potential host partners as applications arrive.


  • Application opens: May 24
  • Application close: July 19
  • IA staff reviews applications: July 22 – July 26
  • IA staff meets with potential host partners / conducts site visits: July 29 – August 16
  • IA staff selects 2020 host partner(s) and notifies applicants of decision: Week of August 26

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