BMC’s Other Side: A Busy Schedule of Spring and Fall Conferences

BMC's Other Side: A Busy Schedule of Spring and Fall Conferences

Participants at the Unlock the Box conference about ending solitary confinement in US prisons, May 2018

New Advisory Committee helps forge connections to activists & movements

During the fall and spring, we invite groups who address pressing social issues—ranging from civil liberties and economic justice to environ­mental health and world peace—to use BMC as a resource, sanctuary, and gathering space. The BMC staff works to cultivate and maintain the same welcoming, responsive setting over the course of a few days that residents enjoy throughout longer stays over the summer months.

It’s a chance for activists to build richer connections with colleagues and allies, and to think and strategize creatively about the work ahead.  The gatherings offer the space—literal and mental—for an organization or alliance to probe deeply about their next steps, or to bring together folks who have never met but share a passionate interest in the same issue or ideas. (See the recap of 2018 conferences below).

Our alumni community plays a crucial role in forging connections that help us find groups and  movements that can make the most of some time away from the usual demands of their busy lives. To better integrate the expertise, wisdom, and con­nections of both residency and conference alums into our planning process, we formed an Advisory Committee. These people will help our staff on planning the conference schedule, participate in the produc­tion of specific gatherings at BMC, and serve as ambassadors to greater networks of organizers to guide us in widening our base.

The committee is comprised of 10 friends of BMC who have already been instrumental in helping us think about priori­ties and parameters for the program. This past August, com­mittee members convened onsite for an introductory open house. Over the course of a long weekend advisors spent time getting to know one another around the dinner table and on the lake while exchanging ideas. The advisors include:


May Boeve: co-founder and Executive Director of;

John Cavanagh: Director of the Institute for Policy Studies and seasoned BMC conference organiz­er;

Stuart Clarke: BMC Board Member and Executive Director of the Town Creek Foundation;

•Tomás Garduño: reproductive and social justice organizer and coach;

•Robin Wall Kimmerer: writer, botanist and Pro­fessor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry;

•Josh MacPhee: designer, artist, archivist and founding member of Justseeds Art­ists’ Cooperative and Interference Archive;

•Juliette Majot: Executive Director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and artist;

•Jonathan Matthew Smucker: writer, director, and co-founder of Beyond the Choir;

•Opal Tometi: writer, strategist, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Executive Director at Black Alliance for Just Immigration;

•Aditi Vaidya: Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

We are grateful to each of them.


2018  Convenings at Blue Mountain Center


Upstate New York Regional Alliance Forum

BMC welcomed leaders and administrators from 12 New York residency programs to discuss the challenges and op­portunities of their work. The forum was a regional offshoot of the Alliance of Artists Communities and an effort to build a creative support network for residential arts organizations. The BMC staff was excited to participate in the gathering and learn from the expertise of other like-minded organiza­tions.


Feminism and the Media

This convening brought together women-identified writers, journalists, and cultural workers to examine the role of fem­inist media in a moment of growing feminist activism. The goal of the gathering was to foster more thoughtful conver­sation about feminism in the midst of a #me too media storm while grappling with questions around how we might take advantage of this mo­ment to further a feminist agenda.


“Unlock the Box”: The National Campaign to End Solitary Confinement

In May, the Langeloth Foundation coordinated a gathering of leaders of the “Unlock the Box” campaign. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a 10-year strategic plan for end­ing solitary confinement in all U.S. prisons, jails, and deten­tion facilities. The retreat provided the cam­paign’s steering committee with an opportunity to finalize strategies, review the development of tools and resources for their state and local campaigns, and define collective goals.


Adirondack Nonprofit Network

From informal collaborations to legal contracts, organiza­tions across the North Country are expanding the ways in which they work together. This year’s regional Adirondack Nonprofit Network (ANN) gathering focused on strength­ening collaboration for greater impact.


Voterize the Movement

Movement Voter Project, an organization that works to strengthen progressive power by helping donors support promising community-based organizations in key states, or­ganized this conference at BMC with plans to impact the 2018 election. To do this, they convened 20 local, state, and national organization/movement leaders to share core elec­toral and field organizing tools and develop strategic plans.


Gender and White Supremacy

This fall, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and Political Research Associates joined forces to assemble a group of mostly women researchers, authors, and activists with extensive experience analyzing the white su­premacist movement. The conference examined how gender has animated the virulence of Trump’s voters—as demon­strated through anti-abortion violence, the Men’s Rights Movement, Neo-Nazis, homophobia and transphobia, do­mestic violence, mass murders, and many others.


Movement Leader Series: Internationalism

This year’s gathering convened organizers from multiple national and international NGOs to assess cross-issue capacity and power with a focus on including an internationalist framework in their thinking. They examined the ways in which U.S.-based groups are developing agendas that will build a new globalism defined by peace and diplomacy.


Translucent Borders

Translucent Borders, a working group of New York Uni­versity’s Global Institute for Advanced Study, is a project exploring ways that dancers and musicians can act as cata­lysts for creative engagement across geographic and cultural borders. Beginning in refugee camps in Lesbos in 2016, this group has facilitated global conversations between perform­ing artists in the middle east, Greece, Cuba, and Ghana. The group convened at BMC to share practices (including music, dance and art),  and dis­cuss the scope and principle obstacles of their work.

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