Thursday, June 12, 2014

SATE '14 Experience Design conference: Q&A with TEA president Christine Kerr

SATE '14 is a professional, international dialog on Experience Design, Oct 2&3, hosted by Florida State University at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

Organizer: Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). SATE '14 presenting sponsors are Christie and Electrosonic.

SATE (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) brings together creatives, producers, owners and operators in the visitor attractions industry. SATE explores issues, opportunities and possibilities relating to the creation of compelling guest experiences for entertainment, education, retail and branding.

Media inquiries: Judith Rubin, judy@teaconnect.org
Hashtag: #TEAsate

Interview with TEA President Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions 

TEA president Christine Kerr
This will be the second year in a row that SATE has been held in conjunction with a university. Tell us about this approach. Why Sarasota and Ringling in particular this year?
On the academic side, partnering with an educational institution - in this case Florida State University - gives our conference a level of validation and sets a benchmark for quality of the presentations. It also reinforces TEA's NextGen initiative and dialog with academics and students. TEA is indebted to Peter Weishar, Dean of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance at Florida State University, for helping to bring SATE to this location.

As TEA serves the makers of compelling experiences and places, the location for SATE needs to be interesting and inspiring in its own right. The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and its location on Sarasota Bay certainly have this, with an estimable art collection and a circus museum, and splendid grounds and facilities. The historical connections between circus, live entertainment and themed entertainment make it all the more appropriate.

What in your view is most unique and valuable about the SATE approach to defining the creation of visitor attractions?
One of the key reasons SATE is unique and valuable is that what we are talking about is “applied art” from a variety of perspectives. SATE goes beyond case studies - although it is filled with real-world examples - to take creative ideas and connect them to practical applications. And while the conference is organized around the four defining pillars of themed entertainment projects (Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience) they are so interconnected that many of the presentations could fit in more than one - sometimes even all - of the segments.
SATE co-chairs Aram Ebben and Stefan Lawrence
Ultimately, SATE inspires its participants to new levels of creativity and new approaches to their work. The SATE dialog continues beyond the formal sessions. We're building a new kind of thought leadership that will enrich the TEA community and extend into all global leisure markets.

Adam Bezark (Storytelling)
Who should be paying more attention to SATE and planning to attend this year?
SATE would be extremely beneficial to anyone working in a creative industry. This year in particular, however, I would like to see our themed entertainment companies send more mid-level managers to attend alongside the senior executives. The money invested to send a second person from any company would be well worth it. I did this last year for my own company, BaAM and feel that we benefited significantly from the broader understanding of the industry that was gained. I also think we should all invite our clients. Imagine the positive ways a shared understanding of the principles of SATE could impact the projects we are working on right now.

Al Cross (Architecture)
What distinguishes SATE from TEA's other conference, the TEA Summit?
Both are facets of the dialog that TEA works to facilitate all year long and around the world. SATE looks at what’s going on in our world from the creative side of things. It is about facilitating a way of thinking that leads to breakthroughs in Experience Design. The 2-day TEA Summit, held earlier in the year, is more about the business of the business, and, through case studies with project owners, a celebration of breakthrough projects that have been realized, and are being honored with Thea Awards.

Mk Haley (Technology)
You've called publicly for more themed entertainment curricula from institutions of higher learning, and your TEA presidency has strongly supported the association's NextGen initiative. Are we at a generational crossroads?
TEA and the industry are both maturing and taking deliberate steps for succession planning. That is a special challenge for the TEA community, which is made up largely of entrepreneurs - but entertainment operators, who have evolved a similar focus, look to our talent pool and give us support. Our NextGen initiative reaches out to students and recent grads, and to academic institutions that want to help formalize training for the field. We've seen a real desire from the academic community to develop these new programs, and our members have welcomed the energy and enthusiasm that NextGen has brought to TEA. Our NextGen members are making real connections and finding internships and jobs in the industry. SATE is a natural meeting place for all these interests.

Phil Hettema (Experience)
Tell us something about the SATE brain trust of organizers and segment chairs – the team putting it together this year.
We're very pleased to welcome back the same winning team that made SATE a great success last year, led by co-chairs Aram Ebben (TEA International Board member and principal at exp) and Stefan Lawrence (Rethink Leisure Entertainment). Aram and Stefan oversee four segment chairs, each an industry leader and each focused on one of the four pillars of SATE: Storytelling - Phil Hettema (The Hettema Group), , Architecture - Al Cross (PGAV), Technology - Mk Haley (Walt Disney Imagineering), Experience - Adam Bezark (The Bezark Company).