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DACC launches its first-ever innovation, creativity conference


“It was a great event,” Doña Ana Community College Arts Department Chair Matt Byrnes said about DACC’s 10 x 25 Conference.

The “regional networking opportunity” held Oct. 14-15 at the Las Cruces Convention Center achieved its goal of connecting creators, innovators, educators and entrepreneurs,” Byrnes said. “People made real commercial connections,” he said, “a lot of really great connections.”

Some attending the conference “were somewhat surprised at the sheer volume of talent in this area, the heavy hitters in art and music and business,” he said.

A driving theme for most conference presenters was “creativity, no matter what craft area you’re in,” Byrnes said.

From welding and construction to filmmaking and cannabis production, any business owner must “have that creative life,” he said, and know how to attract the people he or she needs, grow the business, move into new markets and commercialize without sacrificing integrity.

 “The speakers we chose were people already embodying that spirit,” Byrnes said.

Amer Jandali, for example, is a first-generation American whose parents came to the United States from Syria. They operated Casa Luna Restaurant for nearly 25 years, Jandali said, and he worked there as a child. Jandali earned a degree in international business from NMSU, including two semesters of study abroad in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Sevilla, Spain. He became “the number one DJ in the Las Cruces-El Paso region,” Byrnes said. Jandali now is an environmental futurist and social designer based in New York City. He has a patent for a product called Braceletote, a bag inside a bag (www.braceletote.co).

“I'm so happy Cruces finally has an innovation x creativity conference,” Jandali said. “There's so much talent and potential in our community and we’re ripe for a yearly event to bring us all together. I've been producing events in New York for seven years and know that these things only get better in time. I can't wait to see and support what's to come.”

Conference master of ceremonies Julian Alexander is a writer, director and filmmaker who is a lecturer in film production at the University of East London. He graduated from Las Cruces High School and from New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute, where he also taught.

“To be in a room with so many people influential to the City of Las Cruces was inspiring and reminded me why I consider Las Cruces my home,” Alexander said. “I was adopted by the city after moving to Las Cruces from Virginia during high school. The panels were awesome because on them were people who otherwise would not particularly be holding these conversations in a public forum; the following discussions were interesting due to the diverse voices involved. Las Cruces is a beautiful city full of dedicated and ambitious people on a mission to continue cultivating our culture and increase the city's economic impact. I learned a lot … and being able to close the conference with my presentation was the icing on the cake.”

“I was excited to be a part of the inaugural 10x25 Conference,” Las Cruces City Manager Ifo Pili said. “It is rewarding to be part of the partnership between NMSU, DACC and the city that made this happen. I can’t wait to see how this conference grows and what next year will bring.”

Another presenter was artist and entrepreneur A. Billi Free, who performed at the conference and talked about how to make a living as an artist and entrepreneur without sacrificing vision or passion, Byrnes said.

Even if they now live far away, the conference’s presenters “still consider this region their home,” Byrnes said. “They want to bring back the things they’ve learned and the successes they have and make sure the amazing people that are here have those same successes.”