Last month, the Lighting & Decor team attended the second annual ART + IDS Conference in Savannah, GA, where we basked in southern allure (and Spanish moss!), networked and learned, and donated our time to complete some impactful community service.
The partnership between the Accessories Resource Team and the Interior Design Society is still a new one, but it’s something that I think has reenergized both organizations and will help bolster business the deeper it becomes. Manufacturers who attended for the first time commented that they’ll be coming back, not only to continue to meet new contacts and participate in the community service project, but because they’re still trying to crack the code of working with interior designers in the most effective way.
Many of the sessions spoke to both audiences, like the State of the Industry panel and the Education of Design Today panel, which I moderated. I’ve sat in on many “state of the industry”-type talks over the years, but this one was pretty enlightening for a few reasons. For one, not only was brick-and-mortar represented by Sarah Paxton from LaDIFF in Richmond, VA, e-commerce shared its side as well, represented by Breanna Frerichs from Hayneedle. In a time when a surprisingly shocking number of brick-and-mortars and other industry organizations are still not tackling the reality of e-commerce head on, I commend ART and IDS on this decision.
I may be biased, but I also enjoyed the insights that came from the panel I moderated on the Education of Design Today. I’m well aware of a gripe that many designers have about up-and-coming talent not being prepared for the “practical” side of the jobs they want — purchase order writing, client etiquette, running meetings, etc. — and the two respected institutions represented — FIT and High Point University — did their best to address this concern.
At FIT, instead of internships, students get part-time industry jobs, where not only are they paid, but also they’re taught these valuable skills in a real-life environment. As I also heard stated a few times during the conference: This is an aging industry. Finding and retaining qualified people in their 20s and 30s has never been more important, so it was great to hear about the fresh approaches design schools are taking.
Another highlight was, of course, the community service aspect of the conference. Attendees were split into four groups and tackled projects including: building bunk beds meeting current safety standards, plus installing wall decor and other home accents, at Grace House/Union Mission men’s shelter; assembling and painting picnic tables for the Tiny House Project for the homeless developed by the Chatham-Savannah Housing Authority; sprucing up the children’s recreation area at the Savannah Baptist Center; and refreshing 12 apartments with new decor at the Tom D. Austin House for homeless families.
I was in charge of documenting the whole afternoon via social media and photography, and it was a privilege to be able to watch everyone work together for others who need it. High fives all around for another great event in the books.