REFLECTIONS: THE 2018 BIDN CONFERENCE

Keia McSwain (center) is still on a high following this July's Black Interior Designer Network Conference in Atlanta. And the attendees I spoke to are right up there with her. The 3 day symposium took place at ADAC and at a few key locales in Atlanta. It drew a crowd of about 200 and was shared widely and joyously on social media. Leading with heart and community-mindedness, McSwain is carrying forth an important 7 year legacy created by friend, mentor, and boss lady Kimberly Ward who passed away last summer.  

Keia McSwain (right) with Jasmine Thompson, a colleague from the kitchen and stone industry days. Photo: Orlando Whigham Phototography.

Keia McSwain (right) with Jasmine Thompson, a colleague from the kitchen and stone industry days. Photo: Orlando Whigham Phototography.

Ward was an accomplished interior designer who discovered a lack of representation and visibility among African American interior designers and made it her mission to bring light to this powerful and burgeoning part of the industry, The Black Interior Designer Network was launched as a resource hub for business development and growth in that community.  It celebrates diversity within the interior design industry by highlighting designers of color. McSwain explains, "It is a home for black designers, however we exclude no one and any race can join."

Amy Flurry signs a book for Gabriella White, aspiring architect/designer and the youngest attendee. (photo nabbed from @archycreator Instagram)

Amy Flurry signs a book for Gabriella White, aspiring architect/designer and the youngest attendee. (photo nabbed from @archycreator Instagram)

This was the first BIDN conference since Ward's passing. Communications consultant and Recipe for Press author Amy Flurry presented for the first time. "I know pulling this off wasn't easy as the grieving is still very real," says Flurry, "but they pushed ahead with Kimberly's mission of organizing and sharing and teaching processes that will get black designers more exposure, and it was a whopping success. This was my first time speaking, and it was very meaningful to me." 

It is McSwain's goal to now provide enough knowledge and resources that, she says, "There shouldn't be one member lacking what they need to run an amazing business." Additionally with a data base of over 125 African American designers, the new "Find a Designer" tab on the BIDN website includes a way for consumers to connect with designers of color. It is a vetting process of sorts.  

Group shot following a closing brunch at 5 Church Atlanta hosted by Michel Boyd  (front row, 4th from left). Photo:  Orlando Whigham Photography.

Group shot following a closing brunch at 5 Church Atlanta hosted by Michel Boyd (front row, 4th from left). Photo: Orlando Whigham Photography.

With events spread throughout the year, and a roster of CEUs planned around maximizing buying power, the annual conference is still the pinnacle gathering for the BIDN community. While the ATL has been the host city since inception, McSwain's thinking about changing things up in 2020 and spreading the good vibes to another locale. Her method is to review all of the post-conference surveys, and use that feedback to move the mission forward. Atlanta-based interior designer and conference presenter Michel Boyd says, "It's always good and it gets better every year." Countdown to the next conference has already begun.

Below attendees -- Cheryl Luckett, Amy Flurry, Tiffany Brooks, Darcy Harris, Christina S., and Kevin Fuller --  share some thoughts on the 2018 conference. 

Top Lead Blog Photo: Left to right: Student Volunteers, Tayla Thompson and Ashley Esprit, Keia McSwain, BIDN CEO Tony Ward, and volunteer Giselle JacksonPhoto: Orlando Whigham Photography.

Pencil these dates in for BIDN @ High Point Market: October 13th, from 5 - 7 pm, at The Point and October 14th @ Mitchell Black for the Sunday Soiree. Stay tuned to the BIDN for details.