EDIT: Skip to the end to see the answer revealed!
If you’ve asked what’s on my mind recently, you probably already know what this post is about. And if you are, in fact, one of those people who has been recently treated to my longwinded ramble about my theories related to the 2020 Urban Sketchers Symposium… I’m very sorry. You can probably move along now since you’ve likely heard it all.
For those who haven’t: I’m pushing it a little close here at this point. The USk symposium ends TOMORROW (which feels crazy) and USk organizers will announce next year’s symposium location at the end. I will be among the first to know, which feels very exciting. I would also like to document my guesses and logic, since now is the last time I’ll be able to do so.
Without further ado: (and in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, this is something of a #longread)
I’ll break this down into a couple key categories so it makes sense when I reference them later with my guesses. They aren’t in any super particular order, and Ill note which ones seem most relevant to me as I list them:
The Date Change
In case you haven’t heard, The 2020 Symposium will be in April instead of July. This is probably the factor I’m weighing the most. The moment I saw the instagram post announcing this difference, I started thinking about where it might be. It’s a key difference that begs the question: What areas of the world are more hospitable to Urban Sketching in April than they would be in July?
Areas this brings to mind:
- South and southeast Asia – My familly takes our trips to the Philippines in April because it’s the Philippine ‘summer’ that lies after the summer heat has died down somewhat and before the monsoon season hits full swing.
- Areas with rainy/dry seasons like those in southeast Asia would obviously benefit from the date change, and it’s a fairly key factor for making them a good venue choice, thus justifying the change to tradition.
The Continental Circle of Life
The Symposium section of the USk website has an extensive handbook (linked to from this link) that goes over selection criteria, which I referenced fairly heavily during my Sherlock Holmes-ing. One of the factors mentioned is that organizers try not to overprivilege any given continent and try not to do one continent twice in a row and seem disinclined to repeat cities who have previously hosted.
What I’ve heard since coming to the Symposium is that many people were surprised when they announced Amsterdam last year in Porto because of the repeat factor.
What this means:
- No Europe — No way. Not three years in a row.
- Unlikely to be North America (or at least not the United States) – Because before Porto, the Symposium was in Chicago.
- No repeats: Urban Sketchers is big enough now that I doubt they’re hurting for hosting applications. It seems unlikely that they’d choose a past host.
- More likely: Asia, South America, Africa, or Australia.
General selection criteria
So, the criteria powerpoint hits a LOT of areas and I won’t recap everything. But some key ones are as follows:
- International airport access – in 2014, when the Symposium was in Paraty, Brazil, people had to take a 6hr bus ride from the airport. It was apparently absolutely gorgeous and incredible, but as the event has grown I am skeptical now that they’d choose a venue without a solid international airport a little closer.
- Visa access – Some of the most beautiful places on earth are small island nations that it’s nearly impossible to get a visa for. I don’t think we’re heading to any of those places—much more likely we’re heading somewhere where much of the world can travel visa-free, or where it’s not too hard to get a tourist visa.
- Existing USk chapter – This isn’t a given, since the 2012 Santo Domingo Symposium happened without a big existing chapter, but again: as the event has grown, so too have the requirements. Dozens of volunteers, local vendor partners, and (what I’ve heard) is now a seriously robust volunteer role for the local coordinator who is the primary contact for an event serving hundreds of attendees, foreign and domestic? Helps to have support. Also, this application needed to have been in by late 2017/early 2018, if I’m estimating the selection timeline about right. So we’re probably looking at a slightly older, more established chapter.
- General requirements – NBD but the Symposium requires a fairly dense urban core that can support something like 700 odd people walking around drawing. Also, a venue (or multiple venues) to support opening and closing ceremonies. It helps to have functional public transit, but most of the workshops are intended to be within a 5-20 minute walk of the venue. Some of my favorite cities are champions of that urban/suburban sprawl, but that’s not necessarily what’s needed.
- Something of an addendum but: It also helps to generally have infrastructural support for an event this size. A hotel near the venue for the instructors. A variety of nearby hotels/hostels at multiple price-points for sketchers of all budgetary means. A tourism industry/board that would like to help out/offer discounts/etc.
What’s in the air?
Which chapters have been featured in the USk zine, Drawing Attention, recently? What about prominent featured sketchers, where are they from, or where were they traveling?
What’s going on at the Symposium?
My evidence on this front is fairly thin, but members of the Urban Sketchers Hong Kong have been passing out USk HK branded red bracelets at the Symposium this year—I have one. It’s a bit more than the usual stickers, stamps, and pins, and I’m super suspicious.
PHEW THAT WAS A LOT
Thanks for sticking with me, if you are.
Time for actual guesses.
Okay, here’s the part where I could just be very incorrect and THAT IS OKAY because this is for fun and it’s a guess. I don’t have any money riding on it, though I’ve been talking about it enough/intensely enough that at least two people have asked if I’ve placed a bet.
Key Regional Guess: South/Southeast Asia
At my most general, my guess (and hope) is somewhere in the Southeast or South Asia region of the world. There are TONS of big dense urban cities with healthy tourism infrastructures, public transit, and beautiful places in walking distance.
There’s been a ton of coverage of various SE Asian sketchers/chapters in Drawing Attention recently, and there’s a good number of existing high-profile Symposium instructors who hail from this region as well.
Most importantly: It fits the date change. Places that have wet/dry seasons in S/SE Asia will (generally) be more hospitable to urban sketching in April than they will be in July.
Disconfirming factors: the Singapore Symposium in 2015 was only a couple years ago, but might be ‘too close’? However, since they just picked Europe twice in a row I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. Plus, Singapore has been the only Asian Symposium so far.
Regional Runner-Up Guess: Australia
Home of Liz Steel! No but really, Australia has several high-profile Symposium instructors, and a good selection of well-known and less-known tourism-friendly coastal cities with good infrastructure.
Australia’s summer is roughly November-February, which makes April basically autumn. Warmed up a bit, but not as hot as summer. The normal July time would be in the middle of Australia’s winter.
Disconfirming factors: Australia is really far away from everyone not in Australia or SE Asia. I mean, Singapore was far, but there’s a difference between 12 hour flights and 22 hour flights and that difference may matter. I also just haven’t seen as much hype/attention about Australian chapters recently.
Specific Guess: Hong Kong
I could be super wrong, but those bracelets they’re passing out have me incredibly suspicious. It’s just way more than literally any other chapter is doing, and I’ve seen matching t-shirts, pins, and stamps, for context.
Hong Kong has a ton going for it, including being a center of international trade (with the tourism infrastructure to match) and an internationally reknowned ‘destination’ kinda location.
Hong Kong fits the weather patterns that would make sense for a July-to-April date shift, and it would be a relatively central location, globally speaking.
There’s been a decent amount of attention on Hong Kong and HK sketchers recently, and I can see it as part of building some hype for the 2020 Symposium.
Disconfirming factors: The current political unrest has been covered in Drawin Attention, but it may also be the Wrong kind of attention. People need to feel relatively safe and secure attending the symposium, and that may not be the case under present circumstances. I can see that being a point against Hong Kong, potentially.
Specific Runner-Up Guesses: Taiwan, Indonesia, India
Mostly these come from similar logic. Decent tourism infrastructure. Established sketcher communities. Beautiful places. Several high-profile sketchers and recent coverage. Fits the April timeframe.. Honestly, it had been a toss-up until the bracelet thing with USk Hong Kong.. I’ll be honest I may also be biased because all these locations would be very convenient for me to leapfrog and add this to my probable Philippines Trip in mid April.
And if I had my way? Bangkok, Thailand. Not because it fits the criteria super great, but just because I want to go to Thailand.
So In Conclusion:
I’m tired. We’ll find out tomorrow. My bluetooth keyboard for my tablet is acting up, and I need to sleep so I’m ready for my last Symposium day tomorrow.
I may be right. I may be wrong. But I have registered my guess for posterity.
We will see. I briefly started researching cities with interesting Easter Egg decorating traditions and ended up dropping that line of research. Maybe it was relevant all along!
Note: I’ll come back and update this with the real location once I know it.
EDIT: We’re going to HONG KONG next year! I was right! (Along with a number of other sketchers at the symposium. The bracelets were not subtle, and the Hong Kong sketchers all knew, so there was some variety on exactly how secret some sketchers kept their secret.) Read more on the official announcement here.
- On 25 July, 2019
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