Idea Swap 2018: A Few Highlights & More Opportunities to Connect

Program Director, New England Presenting & Touring, Center Stage

The 17th annual Idea Swap was a record-breaking event with over 180 participants. Presenters, cultural organizers, and artists from all over New England gathered at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA, for an energizing day of knowledge sharing and networking.

Photo description: artist Toby MacNutt speaks to a group of people at the 2018 Idea Swap New to NEFA session. Toby is smiling and seated in their wheelchair next to other participants who watch them speak. Sunshine streams through tall glass windows behind the participants into the meeting room. Photo by Jeffrey Filiault/NEFA.

The day began with a musical performance by the group Kurbasy from Ukraine. They are currently on tour in the U.S. as part of NEFA’s Center Stage program, produced in partnership with the U.S. Department of State. The program supports contemporary international artists to engage directly through art and conversation with a wide range of American communities. Kurbasy is the last of the five groups from Egypt and Ukraine that have each spent a month in the U.S. this fall as part of Center Stage Season 4. It was a happy coincidence that Kurbasy was doing a short residency at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester during the same week as Idea Swap.

Here's a quick glance at the day:

  • 98 first time attendees!
  • 22 project presentations
  • 69 mini swap projects shared in break out sessions for dance, music, and theater work
  • 20 CreativeGround profile consultations

There were memorable live performances in the beautiful Great Hall. Thank you to all the artists that shared their work and enlivened the day.

Sara Juli at Idea Swap 2018
Photo description: artist Sara Juli performs an excerpt of her new work (in development) titled "Burnt Out Wife" at the 2018 Idea Swap on the Great Hall stage at Mechanics Hall. She wears a wedding dress over her clothes. A wedding veil covers her face and a lanyard with a name tag hangs around her neck. Sara is slightly bent forward, holding the top of her head with her right hand and holding her left hand under her chin. She appears to cry with her eyes closed and mouth open. Blue stage lighting is seen behind her on stage. Photo by Jeffrey Filiault/NEFA.
Samite Mulondo at Idea Swap 2018
Photo description: artist Samite Mulondo plays a litungu, a seven stringed instrument, and sings into a standing mic at the 2018 Idea Swap on the Great Hall stage at Mechanics Hall. Samite's eyes are closed as he performs. Blue lighting on the stage and a blank projector screen are seen in the background. Photo by Jeffrey Filiault/NEFA.

We also shared time to reflect, move, and breathe together as a community. We hope you are inspired to continue conversations that started at the Idea Swap!

Participants reflect at Idea Swap 2018
Photo description: Seen from behind, Peter DiMuro leads Idea Swap participants in a moment of reflection, where everyone is linked in a circle by touching back of hand to back of hand. Photo by Jeffrey Filiault/NEFA.

As one of our attendees shared, “The Idea Swap is a wonderful aid in opening conversation about performing arts and allows this community to connect, meet new individuals and organizations, and further impact collaboration.” Tell us what you thought by taking our survey.


Contact details for all Idea Swap participants is available in the participant list. And don't forget to update your organization or artist ensemble in CreativeGround. Search the directory to find presenting organizations, artists, and nonprofit partners.

Other opportunities to connect:

  • In late December we’ll post a form online where you can share updates on the status of your project and tour.
  • New England organizations that present performing arts events are welcome to join Arts Presenters of Northern New England (APNNE) and New England Presenters (NEP) to network throughout the year. Membership meetings include topics such as block booking, current issues in the arts, contract negotiation, marketing strategies, and more.
  • NEFA staff is attending the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) Conference in New York City in January. Stop by booth #122 Rhinelander to meet and talk with staff.
  • Also, during APAP, all New England presenting organizations are invited to attend a meeting on Saturday, January 5, at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. This meeting will focus on tours being formed for the upcoming Expeditions deadline on February 15, 2019. APAP registration is not required to attend.
  • Are you an artist showcasing during APAP? Let us know so we can share details with New England presenters attending the conference. Contact Daniela Jacobson, Program Manager, New England Presenting & Touring at
  • And finally, NEFA staff will host a webinar in January for all potential applicants to provide insight and tips about applying and putting your best application foot forward.