As if working with a blank canvas, local artists and art organizations will gather at the UCF Art Gallery on March 16 to discuss ideas toward the goal of uniting and promoting the Orlando cultural scene to rival other artistic meccas.

In the past couple of years there has been a notable increase of arts events in Orlando, and it is time to begin a public conversation about the future of the arts in the area, said Yulia Tikhonova, gallery director and host of the event.

The new Orlando Symposium, a think tank initiative of the Henao Contemporary Center in Orlando’s College Park, will be an opportunity for the arts community to brainstorm and develop strategies to boost cultural activities in the region.

“I believe that the city of Orlando needs to bring attention to its thriving artist’s community,” Tikhonova said. “Doing so will make a substantial contribution to Orlando’s goal of establishing itself as a unique destination. We need to promote a vibrant cultural scene that unites all the communities that make Orlando their home. Orlando needs to claim its public space and populate it with the artists and their creative contributions.”

The meeting will include a panel discussion and Q&A of some of the area’s key arts supporters: Barbara Hartley, director of Orlando’s Downtown Arts District; Josh Garrick, curator of Henao Contemporary Center; Patrick Green, curator of Gallery at Avalon Island; Terry Olson, Orange County director of arts and cultural affairs; Jennifer Collidge, director of development of University of Florida’s College of Arts; and Benoit Glazer, musical director of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba in Orlando and founder of the Timucua Arts Foundation.

Moderator for the meeting will be Richard Munster, a graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts student who is active in the local art scene and curator of his own exhibition space at Faith Arts Village Orlando.

“The UCF Art Gallery is hosting this event because in my curatorial practice I am guided by my profound belief that artists are like the canaries in a coal mine: Their vision and imagination teach us how to understand the past, confront the present and anticipate the future,” Tikhonova said.

“Artists contribute to the process of political transformation and have helped create an expanded and more nuanced understanding of human rights and social justice over many decades. It is my responsibility to nurture artist-visionaries through exhibitions, writings and friendships. I want to provide the best possible context for making their work public.”

Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. for the 3 p.m. panel discussion in UCF’s Visual Arts Building Room 132. Participants will later move next door to the art gallery to mingle and share ideas.

The event will end in time for the 5 p.m. opening reception of the MFA Thesis exhibition by candidates Taylor Battle, Reina Castellanos and Alesha Hassard. The exhibition, titled “black box honey,” will include painting, drawing, installation, mixed media, printmaking and video art.

“I anticipate a lot of very fresh energy from the city’s cultural leaders during the symposium,” Tikhonova said. “It will take both parties–the artists and the institutions–to make a difference in the city. These are baby steps that can grow into giant steps.”