GCDN Barcelona Convening 2017
Speaker Bios

Thursday, May 11


What’s Next for Public Spaces?

Rami Bebawi
Partner and Co-Founder, KANVA

Rami Bebawi (OAQ MRAIC RBQ) is the cofounding partner of KANVA, a renowned architecture practice established in collaboration with Tudor Radulescu (OAQ LEED PA MRAIC) in Montreal, Quebec.

Leading KANVA into its 14th year, Rami has established himself as a dynamic leader who is continually pushing the creative potential of every project. He believes in the promotion of cross-cultural and cross-discipline sharing of experiences and knowledge, to create rich narratives and sensitive approaches for every project.

KANVA’s work elicits an experience, a memory, a reaction. The firm is made up of passionate architects, artists, and scenographers whose work is at the forefront of thinking, imagining, drawing and constructing. KANVA demonstrates architecture’s transformative power through a range of disciplines and scales, from the ephemeral to the institutional, including student housing, large-scale public art installations, mixed-use buildings, corporate headquarters, public spaces, and museums.

The firm has won many prestigious awards and competitions including the 2015 RAIC Emerging Architectural Practice Award, several RAIC Awards of Excellence, Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence, three-time finalists at the World Architecture Festival, Ordre des Architectes du Quebec Awards of Excellence and multiple Grands Prix du Design Awards.

Rami regularly travel across Canada and abroad, participating and lecturing at Professional Festivals, Academic Symposiums and Urban design events, sharing the work of the multidisciplinary collective, KANVA.

Debra Simon, Director, Public Art, Times Square Alliance, New York

Currently Director of Public Art for the Times Square Alliance, Debra Simon oversees Times Square Arts, the public art program which is the largest public platform for innovative contemporary performance and visual arts.
Formerly, as VP and Artistic Director of Brookfield, Debra oversaw public programming at over 30 venues in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington DC. She curated and presented over 400 free cultural events annually.

Tim Tompkins, President, Times Square Alliance, New York

Tim Tompkins has been the President of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. He is a board member of the NYC BID Association and the current Chair of the International Downtown Association. Prior to joining the Alliance, he was the Founder and Director of Partnerships for Parks, which works to support New York City’s neighborhood parks and which won an Innovations in Government Award from the JFK School of Government at Harvard for its work to restore the Bronx River. He has also worked at New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, The New York City Charter Revision Commission, and was briefly the Nationals Editor at the Mexico City News, an English language newspaper in Mexico. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and an M.B.A. from Wharton, and currently teaches “Transforming Cities” and “The Arts and Artist in Urban Revitalization” at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. When not in the most urban and unnatural place on the planet, he enjoys being in New York’s natural areas, ideally sailing or practicing yoga.


Afternoon Keynote (followed by discussion and debate): Balancing Act of Tourism: Residents and Visitors

Elizabeth Becker
Author, Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism

Elizabeth Becker is an award-winning author and journalist who has covered international affairs for over four decades as a New York Times correspondent, Senior Foreign Editor at National Public Radio and the Washington Post’s war correspondent in Cambodia. She is the author of “OVERBOOKED: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism,” which was an Amazon book of the year and was hailed by Arthur Former as “required reading” about the future of global tourism. She was a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, holds a degree from the University of Washington and is the author of three books on Southeast Asia. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of the Oxfam America Advocacy Fund.

Nicola T.A. Schiess Schmitz
President, Teatro del Lago

Nicola T.A. Schiess Schmitz is the president of Foundation Teatro del Lago, a private corporation founded on the vision of her father Guillermo Schiess. Together with Uli Bader (and based on the family support of the 4 siblings), they have finished the construction and created the concept of hosting international artistic and educational projects in Chile’s Patagonia.

Today, Teatro del Lago is a cultural, social-educational and economic motor for the macro-region of Chile, as well as an artistic-educational model for the region of South America. Additionally, Teatro del Lago has initiated the public-private foundation PLADES (Plan de Desarrollo Sustentable) which seeks to provide an exemplary model of sustainable development and city planning.

Nicola has studied business administration, hotel and tourism, and various types of music (including musicology and 20th century Latin-American music) at the University Sorbonne, the University of Cape Town and the University of Cuyo.

Nicola is a member of several company boards, including her family business company Empresas Transoceánica, the ONG Canales on technical education and the patrimonial Association. As an entrepreneur, Nicola has founded the biodynamic native berries project Sauco, as well as the innovative school Kopernikus, in Frutillar.opernikus in Frutillar.

In 2007, 2008, and 2010, Nicola was named as one of the top 100 Leading Women in Business and Society by Mujeres Empresarias and, besides other prizes, in 2015 as Women with Impact.


Friday, May 12

Illuminating Cities: Lighting and Urban Design

Patricia Brown
Founder/Director, Central

Patricia Brown imagines, directs and influences change in cities, working across sectors and disciplines, advising and connecting business and civic leaders. She has over 25 years of direct influence in improving London, ensuring it is fit for the future and a great place for people. She now works across the UK as well as in New York.

Mark Burton-Page
General Director, LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International)

Mark Burton-Page is General Director of LUCI, the international network of cities on urban lighting based in Lyon, France. LUCI brings together 70 cities and 50 associate members engaged in using sustainable urban lighting to enhance quality of life. He is in charge of the strategy and development of LUCI in liaison with the Executive Committee. He focuses his work on strengthening the exchange of knowledge and know-how on lighting between cities worldwide. This is mainly made possible through LUCI mutual learning and sharing events, projects, and thematic publications. Previously, he worked as Programme Manager at the European Forum for Urban Security. Mark holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Paris University.

Sarah Gaventa
Director, Illuminated River 

Sarah Gaventa MA (RCA) is a curator and public realm expert who was the UK government’s advisor on public space from 2006 -20011 as director of Cabe Space, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. She recently curated Historic England’s critically acclaimed exhibition Out There: Our Post War Public Art which was held at Somerset House. She is currently Director of the Illuminated River Foundation which is creating the longest public light art project in the world across 15 of central London’s key bridges.

Cultural Infrastructure

Adrian Ellis
Co-Founder and Director, Global Cultural Districts Network
Founder and Director, AEA Consulting

Adrian is the founder of AEA Consulting (1990) and the Global Cultural Districts Network (2013).

Adrian is a noted speaker and writer who has been profiled in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Crain’s New York Business. In addition to consulting globally with clients across the cultural, public, and business sectors, Adrian lectures and writes widely, and he has been featured in numerous distinguished forums including The International New York Times Art for Tomorrow Conference, London Essays, The Art Newspaper, Fortune, the Lord Mayor of Sydney’s Annual Design Excellence Forum, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Canadian Arts Summit, REMIX Summit and many others.

Adrian is a board member of Poets House in New York, and a past board member of the Getty Leadership Institute, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, The Kaufman Center and Pathé Pictures. He currently serves on the International Advisory Committee of the master’s program in International Arts Management, a joint program of Southern Methodist University, HEC Montreal, and Bocconi University. Adrian is a past member of the Governing Council of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, and the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Architecture Centre Committee. He has been a Scholar in Residence at Columbia University and has taught arts administration for Boston University, New York University, National Arts Strategies, and the Clore Fellows Programme.

A lifelong jazz fanatic, Adrian served as Executive Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center from 2007 to 2011. Prior to founding AEA, he served as Executive Director of The Conran Foundation in London, where he planned and managed the creation of the Design Museum. He began his career as a civil servant in the UK Treasury and the Cabinet Office, where he worked on service-wide efficiency reviews and privatisation, and ran the office of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. Adrian received his B.A. (first class) and M.A. degrees at University College, Oxford, where he served as a College Lecturer in Politics; and completed additional graduate work at London School of Economics.

Adrian is a graduate of National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program. In 2012, the Jazz Journalists Association named him Jazz Hero of the Year.

Erin Flaherty
Executive Director, Infrastructure NSW

Erin’s career has spanned 30 years in both the private and Government sectors. She commenced practice as a lawyer in Western Australia, specialising in resources and finance, and after moving to Sydney in 1985, joined the Finance and Commercial Property group at international law firm Baker & McKenzie. She took on the role of Corporate Counsel and subsequently Australian Director for Parker & Parsley Petroleum (previously Bridge Oil Limited) in 1992 and continued in that role until her appointment as Commercial Manager for Reliance Rail in 2008.

In 2012 Erin joined Infrastructure NSW as an Executive Director with responsibility for the transport, social and cultural sectors, advising on strategic directions and key objectives for the NSW Government in these sectors. In 2012 she was appointed by the NSW Minister for Transport to the Advisory Board for the North West Rail Link. In 2013 she was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Sydney Light Rail project. In 2015 she was appointed to the Advisory Board for the Sydney Metro Rail project, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure program. Included in the project are 29 metro railway stations, including 3 new CBD stations and a second harbour crossing.

In 2016 Erin was appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for Finance as a Guardian of the Future Fund, Australia’s sovereign wealth fund. She is the National Chair of the Professional Scholarship Selection Committee for the Australian American Fulbright Commission, and a past Board Member. Erin is also a board member of the Australian Youth Orchestra and chairs the Orchestra’s Development Committee. The Australian Youth Orchestra is Australia’s flagship youth orchestra.

Closing Conversation: Globalization and what it means for the cultural sector

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai
Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, and Senior Research Scholar at its School of International and Public Affairs

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University, and Senior Research Scholar at its School of International and Public Affairs. In 2012, in recognition of Dr. Desai’s leadership in the museum field, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board. From 1990 through 2012, Dr. Desai served in various capacities at the Asia Society, including serving as President and CEO of the organization from 2004. A noted scholar of Asian Art, and frequent contributor to several news and arts publications, Dr. Desai is well known for her innovative approaches to developing the relationship between culture and foreign policy in Asia. A recipient of five honorary degrees, Dr. Desai holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bombay University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Asian Art History from the University of Michigan.