David Roark, the communications and resources director for The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, was recently axed as a speaker at an annual design conference after the Dallas Fort Worth arm of the American Institute of Graphic Arts protested his religious views.
The annual Circles Conference, a three-day design and development conference that brings together designers and makers from around the globe is set to take place Sept. 18-20 in Richardson, Texas, this year, but the local AIGA announced it wouldn’t partner with the conference this year because of Roark’s inclusion as a speaker.
“The 2019 conference speaker roster includes the Communications Director of an organization that does not meet our standards of inclusion because of openly discriminatory policies and practices towards women and the LGBTQ+ community,” the organization’s board wrote in a recent statement.
“We have reached out to Circles’ organizers to voice our concerns; so far they have decided not to alter their programming. We feel it would be hypocritical of us to be involved in the conference and tacitly endorse the policies of any non-inclusive organization. This would be a misallocation of our membership resources and a disservice to all members of our community against whom the organization discriminates,” the group added.
After that announcement, Ismael Burciaga, a founder of the conference revealed in a statement that they were able to make the speaker change after “serious consideration.”
“Since the beginning, one goal of Circles Conference has been to bring people of different world views and creative backgrounds together. While cultivating a collaborative and creative culture is our top priority, we also respect the concerns of our fellow creatives and we will always be open to dialogue and transparency,” he wrote. “After serious consideration, we have made a speaker change. We respect the concerns of the design community and aim to create a safe space for everyone who attends Circles Conference, regardless of their individual world views or beliefs.”
While the Circles Conference did not state which speaker was removed from the conference, Roark confirmed on Twitter that he was the speaker who was removed.
“Yesterday, I was removed as a speaker at Circles Conference (https://bit.ly/320d4KW ). I have no hard feelings toward AIGA or Circles, only love. I understand this was a complex situation, and the last thing that I would want to do is cause a problem or be a distraction,” he announced on Jul 3 while noting his disappointment.
“I believe that to end division and pursue unity in our world, we must be willing to listen well, enter into dialogue and understand that we can show love, honor and dignity to one another while still disagreeing,” he continued. “I don’t think that happened here, but I have hope that it can happen. I want the creative community to be a place where individuals of all backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles can learn from one another, regardless of differences, not a place where we shut each other out.”
The Circles Conference promotes itself as a place that “provides a space where you’ll be challenged to push yourself in the creative process while drawing inspiration from those thriving in the industry.”