Who Constructs the Future? Creativity, Participation, and Democracy in Our Communities

The outcomes of our present political system have resulted in apathy and disillusionment, leading many to feel that while they have a vote, it does not have the impact to truly make a difference. Where are there opportunities for citizens to play a role in making decisions? How can power be distributed in new ways? How can creativity imbue new modes of civic engagement? This conversation gathers a group of community organizers and artists working to rethink democracy and place residents at the center of deciding the future of their cities.


Matthew Slaats is an artist, designer, teacher, organizer, and activist, focusing on participatory modes of democracy that strengthen resident voices in defining the future of their neighborhoods. Matthew works at the University of Virginia’s Open Grounds, and serves as the Creative Director of PauseLab, a Charlottesville based non-profit focused on community engagement, placemaking, and design thinking.


Jess Solomon
Executive Director, Art in Praxis
Baltimore, USA
Jess Solomon is an organization development practitioner leveraging the power of the arts to build capacity and resiliency in the social justice ecosystem. Jess leads Art in Praxis, a consultancy and laboratory utilizing systems theory, lessons from the field, and creative methodologies to support changemakers in creatively adapting, prioritizing and scaling their work for greater impact.


Omar Hakeem
Design Director at BCworkshop
Washington DC, USA
Omar Hakeem, is working to bring greater social and environmental equality through thoughtful design and planning. From 2013-2015, Omar lead the Rio Grande Valley office focusing on a geographical, social cultural frontier by addressing the systemic poverty, health and resilience issue that plague the region.



Matthew Slaats

Artist; Creative Director PauseLab

Charlottesville, USA