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Posted in Categories:Theme Park Design

By Mason Schmitz, Director P+A Projects

Over 300 people attended the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) SATE Conference in Seattle September 26-27, 2019.  SATE is an acronym for Story + Architecture + Technology = Experience.  This year the conference was further focused by the theme “Embracing Diversity – Experiences That Bring People Together”.

Maybe my experience living and working outside the US for the last decade led me to think this was going to be a “feel-good pep rally” type of event.  However, the presentations were powerful, and I left the conference thinking about ways to incorporate lessons learned on many levels.  The speakers and sessions challenged all of us to figure out ways to be more inclusive, and by doing so, our businesses will see the positive effects. 

TEA kicked off the event with a welcome mixer at FareStart Restaurant. The restaurant’s mission is to alleviate poverty, hunger and homelessness in their Adult Culinary Program, by providing real-world job experience.  It was inspiring to see how adults willing to do what it takes to turn their lives around after hardship, are provided the tools, training and support needed for a long-term good paying job.  A tour of the facility was provided by a previous student that has stayed on to mentor and guide the program.

The first day started with the First Nations Land Acknowledgement by The Honorable Cecile Hansen of the Duwamish tribe, reminding us of the history of the land where present day Seattle sits.  She described the struggles the tribe has undergone to gain US Federal Government recognition over the years and her involvement in doing so.  An expert panel discussion helped us to understand how their culture prior to European contact flourished in the area, and how we can be more respectful of their heritage today.

The day continued with many examples for how to better embrace diversity and ended with the history and renovation of the Space Needle.  The city’s landmark lookout tower was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair.  All attendees of the conference were treated to a tour of the Needle and explore the many outstanding views of the city.

Day two included a session entitled “Come to Your Senses: Improving Access for Guests with Vision or Hearing Disabilities”.  A panel discussion led by Clara Rice brought to light many uncomfortable conversations we need to confront in order to provide our guests more access to our experiences.  These conversations tied back to the several coaching topics addressed by Arielle Rassel.  We were pushed to “lean in” and open ourselves to learning more about those topics we aren’t completely comfortable with, to allow us to be better designers and experience providers.

Overall, attendees of the conference really learned how to be mindful of diversity and inclusion.  We were reminded of our own personal flaws, and learned how to become an accomplice, not just an ally to those outside the “normal” guest persona.  I left feeling not only inspired, but also knowing that I can do better daily to consider other people’s challenges.  It’s a great lesson to be learned by everyone in society. 

A big thank you the TEA and the event Co-Chairs Shannon Martin, Ian Klein and Nathan Jones.  The event was well organized and appreciated by all.