The backbone of the TEDx experience is the series of concise talks distilled during the TEDx production process until clarified and concentrated to their essence. Approximately a dozen speakers wow attendants each year. This year’s line up was no exception. It included thought leaders in A.I. (“artificial intelligence” for the not-so-millinials), street art, infectious disease, jazz, engineering, environmentalism, media and anthropology.
A change from the usual format was a “fireside chat” of living legend Richard Lipsey, interviewed by political scientist Stacia Haynie. In a discussion of how history shapes life and life shapes history, Lipsey shared his story of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On November 22, 1963, Richard was a 24 year old Army 1st lieutenant assigned to Major General Philip Wehle commander of the D.C. military district and in in charge of diplomatic protocol and security. The minute the bullet hit President Kennedy, Lipsey was in charge of guarding the slain Presidents body, including the autopsy, preparation and lain in state. Because of provisions of the U.S. State Secrets Act, Richard could not talk about any of his experiences for 15 years thereafter.
I’m a serial TEDxLSU attendee, but this year’s was particularly special as my friend, orthodontist and name twin, Dr. Kevin Harris, DDS, was a speaker. Both Kevin Harrises are firm believers in the transformative power of design. While I concentrate my efforts on the built environment, Dr. Harris has focused his creative power on public art. Dr. Kevin Harris is widely known as the founder of The Museum of Public Art, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of community-inspired murals in the Old South Baton Rouge community. The museum has commissioned a series of vibrant murals from some of the most renowned street artists around the globe — and gained international notoriety in the process. Dr. Harris is a dynamic speaker who says that public art is good for both cultural awareness and economic empowerment.
“When communities bring art to the table, there is less talk about demolition and more talk about preservation.” – Dr. Kevin Harris, Orthodontist, Art Producer, Street Art Champion
A powerful example is Baton Rouge’s historic Lincoln Theater. What once was a building tagged (spray painted) as a memorial for slain drug dealers, transformed into a piece of public art highlighting the community’s history, music and art. Since it’s transformation, there’s been no graffiti on the art work. Kevin Harris, DDS, speculates that part of the reason is the respect in the community given to aerosol artist (a more appropriate name than graffiti artist). Another part is the is the increase in the visibility of property: the number of eyes on it from the neighborhood plus all the additional traffic of community members driving by to see the art. Transformed into a work of art, the building’s back facade is no longer a dark underbelly, but a shining light, bringing art, safety and community.
Dr. and Mrs. Kevin Harris have a son, Kevin Harris, who is majoring in architecture at the Pratt Institute in New York City. What’s the chance of Kevin Harris3 in Baton Rouge? Leave your prediction or other TEDx thoughts in the comments.
P.S.- Hats off to the “Experience Curators” of TEDxLSU on another successful conference: Rebecca Burdette, Magician; Melissa Thompson, Talk Engineer; Annemarie Galeucia, All-Knowing Sage; Kevin DiBenedetto, Tech Kingpin.