Who doesn't cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Who doesn’t cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Have you heard the phrase unconference?

It’s been applied—or maybe misapplied—to almost any gathering organized by participants rather than by hosts. It’s a way to have a professional conference without all the trappings that often get in the way of true communication.

We’ve all been to an unconference, of course. When you emerge, haggard and exhausted from a hotel conference room seminar and sink with happiness into a comfortable lobby chair, and engage in the best conversation of the day with a fellow wanderer, you’re at an unconference.

When you follow up with a speaker and get her to engage on the issues facing you and your practice (unaddressed in the formal presentation), you’ve created your own unconference. You have grasped the sinews of the conference, which had been organized to the tiniest detail, and bent them to be responsive to you. When you do that, and when you and your conversant both come away richer, you’ve become an unconference aficionado.

I recall hearing about the concept at—of course—a conference a few years ago, where a Tennessee bar leader urged attendees to think creatively. And I’ve been intrigued ever since by how we all learn, really learn, what we need to learn. And that learning happens only occasionally in a seminar room.

1st Amendment Gallery SF logo

A modern logo for a traditional concept

A few weeks ago, I participated in an unconference in the back of a cab. As I shared a ride from the airport into the San Francisco NABE conference, I had a great conversation with a Bar colleague whom I only sometimes get to converse with. We work close by, but the day-to-day always takes precedence over the leisurely chat. In the cab’s enforced lethargy, I was able to gain valuable insight into his thoughts and vision for the organization.

The ensuing conference itself was great, but its high points were almost all marked by conversations like that—brief, shining moments of genuineness and clarity. Who could wish for better?

As it is Change of Venue Friday, I must share one odd view I got during that cab ride (but it’s related, I promise). As we spoke, I looked out the taxi window and was surprised to see a sign bearing a legal term. “First Amendment,” it proclaimed. But was it a dive bar, a political office, a nostalgic cry? (Its retro font immediately put me in mind of the TV show Cheers. Young readers, ask someone old what that means.)

I snapped this bad photo:

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

But it wasn’t until later that I discovered the meaning on the organization’s website:

“1AM, short for First Amendment, is a gallery dedicated to street and urban art. Monthly themed exhibitions will feature artists from San Francisco to around the world. Seeing is believing, so come witness the 1AM movement.”

Read more about them here.

And they’re on Facebook and Twitter too.

So on this Friday, when I consider conferences and the people who transform them, enjoy looking at some art of people wholly dedicated to all the enumerated rights, including that to peaceably assemble.

When I’m next in San Francisco, I know I will return to 1AM (despite the font choice).

Have a communicative weekend.

Quick, easy and arty today. That’s what Change of Venue Friday should be about every week!

(In case you don’t recall, Change of Venue Friday is when we cast our eye farther afield than the staid and reasonable world of law and law practice. You know, get jiggy with it.)

If you are looking to enjoy what may be one of the last in our dwindling supply of fantastic-weathered weekends, try Art Detour in Phoenix.

The 23rd annual version of this artastic event occurs both days this weekend. Here is how Artlink describes itself and the event:

“Artlink, Inc. is one of the oldest, all-volunteer run, non-profit 501C3 arts organizations in downtown Phoenix. Our mission is to continue to facilitate and enhance our current regular events, including the monthly First Fridays art walk, the annual Art Detour self-guided tour that features several open studios and Mystery Galleries in addition to the galleries and businesses that participate in the monthly event, a Juried Exhibition and an art-related fundraiser. Our monthly newsletter is subscribable on line and keeps readers up-to-date on our efforts, community activities and opportunities and information for and about artists. In the spring of 2009, we will begin offering a series of classes and informational sessions that will help strengthen community growth through education.

“Since 1989, we have organized Phoenix’s biggest annual art walk, Art Detour, a two-day, self-guided tour of galleries, studios and businesses in various neighborhoods in and around downtown Phoenix, giving Valley residents and visitors an opportunity to see an array of local, national and international talent. In 1994, we began the monthly First Fridays art walk, which has grown to become the largest monthly art walk in the United States. With 100 arts venues open free to the public each month, Artlink’s First Fridays has succeeded in bringing people back to downtown Phoenix. The event sees anywhere from 14-20,000 visitors monthly and grows exponentially each year.”

More information (a lot more) is here.

And to see a cool and growing roster of participating art spaces, go here (and below).

Enjoy the art and the weather.