Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium

Gatherings carry immense power. They bring together people to share, celebrate, debate, rally, sing, dance, and more. Gatherings help communities thrive, and have taken on a very important role in our society – perhaps more now than ever. It is easier than ever before to identify, connect with, and nurture communities in all their shapes and sizes. And when groups come together, with authentic, non-digital, real life interactions, the results can be truly powerful.


However, with great power lies dormant vulnerability. Gatherings can be ecstatic, life-giving experiences but they can also be a forum for disaster. They can elevate a community’s sense of pride and identity, and they can also be a source of enormous waste and missed opportunities. 

Organizers of mass gatherings are not simply grappling with choosing a venue, selling tickets, or booking acts. They are considering the weather, power, security, and crowd control among a plethora of other concerns. 

To help support the health and sustainability of mass gatherings, emergency plans need to be in place. Having medical professionals, medical resources, and security personnel onsite are already requirements in many states. 


Making an emergency plan can be a daunting task. To make the creation of emergency plans easier, Mollie Quinlan-Hayes of South Arts has been developing an online planning tool. Matthew Ché Kowal, founder of Majestic Collaborations, Inc. and collaborator with Performing Arts Readiness and Denver Arts & Venues, was asked to provide some key data for this tool. What results should be an easy application where event producers can enter personal data, such as size of event, venue type, etc. to generate a safety plan. 

Streamlining the process seems like a great idea, but there are aspects of  emergency preparedness and response for events that are best learned from seeing it done well, in person. The Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium is unique in that it offers participants the chance to be a part of an experiential learning model, a learning style that offers users a transformative experience. 


There are four key sectors that, when integrated, lead to successful mass gatherings and expert event preparedness. These are Safety, Sustainability, Community Engagement, and Accessibility. 

Event Safety encompasses everything from planning for weather, fire, medical emergency, to plans for crowd control, water / food / waste, active threats, and plans for a contingency venue. 

At the heart of Sustainability is changing single-use models to multi-use models. This involves creating resilient and multi-use event systems complete with back-up plans in terms of water, food, and waste, as well as transportation optimizations for special events to make them more inclusive and equitable as well as safe. 

Community Engagement starts with transparency and honesty to create strong and lasting relationships. If time is taken to create these relationships, events can garner an authentic, organic reach. When the time comes to ask for volunteers from a community, they will respond quickly and positively, due to their loyalty and commitment to their neighborhoods. 

Our model also challenges event producers and staff to think about Accessibility – not just for disabilities. For starters, how would your project be changed to be accessible to other languages, cultures, genders, ages, extreme weather, or modes of transport?


The Symposium 

To become well versed at event preparedness, it’s necessary to connect with lots of different experts, each with their own expertise. Why not gather all the experts at once to spread knowledge more efficiently? We suggest that event producers hold an Art of Mass Gatherings symposium at the site of an event. This way, participants can have a direct, concrete experience as well as the chance to observe and reflect upon what they’ve seen and learned. Concrete experience coupled with reflection is important in conceptualizing plans for subsequent events. We believe that if event organizers and producers do this sort of exercise, then they’d be better at creating and producing events. 


In June, Denver PRIDE hosted an Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium in which festival organizers directly participated in mapping out comprehensive preparatory emergency plans. 

Experts from the field came together to host skill sharing workshops for aspiring event producers, venue managers, attendees, and even the public. The symposium was well received and we’ve already fielded queries about duplicating it in different contexts around the country. 


Overview of our Inaugural Symposium and General Expectations for the Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium

Experts Brooke Dilling, Ty Hubbard, Matt Eaton, Bill Germain, and Matthew Ché Kowal opened the inaugural event with a case study of the 5 Points Jazz Fest, a festival that has had a very successful run in Denver. While other festivals have come and gone, this one has doubled in size. They covered managing and marketing this event, along with adding sustainability options, attracting dedicated volunteers, and organizing everything from water, waste, stage/structure design and more. 

Kowal and Dilling followed up the case study with an intimate look at the importance of magnifying communication in order to increase safety and security through community involvement. 

Designing culturally-competent communications and fostering ethical, professional, fair and consistent relationships based on collective leadership is paramount to increasing safety at any large-scale event. The day of the show, symposium participants not only learned how to alert attendees about the safety plan, but they also learned the importance of having an evacuation plan and emergency script. The symposium also gave tips about ways to engage the audience and volunteers with elements such as music, humor, art, and design.


Prior to large gatherings, it’s important to set an example of mindfulness. Directing attendees attention to their immediate situation and context creates feelings of empathy: attendees begin to think of themselves not as individual people attending an event, but as people who are part of something bigger than themselves, making them more ready to assist in the event of an emergency. 

At our inaugural event, Matt Eaton, Aaron Molander, and Eliote Durham collaborated on security and crowd management, demonstrating how to deescalate and negate any potential crowd conflicts by designing effective crowd-flow. They also provided tips for monitoring and managing crowds and stressed the importance of coordinating with local police agencies, being trauma-informed, and well versed mental health emergencies. 


Managing water and waste are paramount to setting up a successful event. At the Art of Mass Gatherings symposium, experts Megan Lane and Janet Burgesser discussed and shared best practices in 3-stream waste management, including reducing waste from food vendors and reducing generators on food trucks with shore power. In addition, they explained the pros and cons of plastic composting, and emphasized the utility of tap water distribution trees for reducing plastics as well as providing resilience against the summer heat. Setting up good relationships with service providers for collection and disposal was also emphasized. 

The Arts of Mass Gatherings Symposium included two lunchtime Keynotes. Event marketing professional Eliote Durham of BD+2 inspired us with “Why we do what we do?,” and Steven Adelman of Adelman Law Group followed with an engaging bout of “Risk Management Jeopardy.” 



Following the Keynotes, Kowal presented an overview and an inside look at stages and structures at the June symposium. There is a lot of planning behind setting up the stages and structures of a mass gathering. Kowal reviewed certification options, action plans for striking during emergencies, including weather, techniques for anchoring and anticipating wind loads, and how to coordinate with structure/stage providers.

Additionally, AOMG teaches the basics of both entertainment power and temporary power. At the June event, Stephen Collum of Sunbelt Rentals spoke on AV systems, food vendors, and more – all systems that can be quite daunting. He addressed all the details for setting up power, including outlining appropriate distribution systems and different systems used for food vendors Vs. main stages. Participants learned the difference between “Single-phase power” and “Three-phase power” alongside options in temporary HVAC and cooling stations. Systems will have to overlap for basic festival power and disaster response. Participants also learned basic strategies for reducing fuel, emissions, and were introduced to emerging technologies and techniques such as cardioid arrays to reduce sound pollution.


The City of Denver Special Event Liaison Nathaniel Hayden, Denver Lieutenant Scott Buccieri, and Assistant Chief Planning, Preparedness and Logistics James Robinson spoke on the topic of Unified Command Center. Since there will be new national safety requirements in the upcoming years, our agenda included testing and implementing the new 2020 Denver Emergency Medical Plans requirements. The new approach included modified FEMA incident command system protocol, explanation of interagency roles and responsibilities, as well as a review of coordinated response to emergencies. 


For our Denver symposium, and for all AOMG symposiums, the focus is on harm reduction. Stacey Forrester presented on this topic, highlighting the challenge that event producers face, as they must first see and then understand the culture of a community before educating this culture on ideas of “harm.” Then, a commitment must be made to creating a culture of health in a venue. Event producers can do this by using simple language for safety plans and staff trainings. For example, clearing drinks from tables in a timely way and including appealing non-alcoholic options can both increase the health-consciousness of an environment. 

The Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium also addressed several accommodations event producers can implement to address neurodiversity, and how to apply optimizations for deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees. Catherine Beeson of the Colorado Symphony and Steven Hardy Braz, psychologist and ASL interpreter outlined how event programming should be considerate and dynamic for all patrons; through coordination with networks and communities, the AOMG introduces participants to  universal design tools, resources, and strategies that can enhance stage programming. One example of this would be including sign language interpreters for musical and spoken segments of the event. 


Finally, the Arts of Mass Gatherings Symposium addresses the role of supporting community resilience. Arts professionals and arts organizations play a large role in maintaining and boosting community resilience, since they possess many of the skills and connections necessary to locate, communicate with, and host people. Tom Clareson of Lyrasis expanded upon the role of performing arts in community resilience, showing how arts organizations and professionals innately possess the skills required for advanced preparation – skills which, when implemented well, can really enhance a community’s ability to bounce back from adversity. People have always sought out the arts as methods of recovery, forms of therapy, or brick-and-mortar places of refuge: arts venues have often opened their doors to people in search of shelter during emergencies. 


You like what you see, and you want to host your very own Art of Mass Gatherings Symposium. What can participants expect, in a nutshell, from the symposium? 

The Art of Mass Gatherings uses an experiential learning model to help event producers understand how to plan and run events from the inside out. Matt Kowal, co-founder of Majestic Collaborations, Inc, and host of the inaugural AOMG, pledges that after experiencing the symposium, “you too can take an event, and hold a symposium inside of the event. Use some outside experts and local resources – build a network and follow up with more in-depth workshops in content areas”

Mass gatherings are a ripe training ground for skill sharing between creatives, event producers, and the agencies and businesses that serve our communities. Performers, organizers, promoters, vendors, audiences, and even the public can be leveraged with proper planning and communication. Providing clear understanding of the myriad of systems involved, including water, waste, electricity, communications, and shelter will allow everyone to collaborate in better times of celebration and crisis. Through collaborations like these, we empower ourselves to collectively advance and enhance the power of gatherings.

The Show Must Go On! Zabiti Relief Effort

Zabiti: An Immersive Circus Adventure had to cancel their test audience show since their space – a 100 year old building – leaked water and flooded during severe thunderstorms that occurred last week.
Having heard the sad news, Matthew Ché Kowal and Majestic Collaborations, Inc reached out. Per our contract with Performing Arts Readiness to “assist in regional response efforts as appropriate,” we pooled our resources to help this community theater.
A relief effort was coordinated, providing fans and extension cords so that Zabiti’s show could go on!

Denver’s Amazing Mobility Race



Hosted by the Denver Streets Partnership, the Amazing Mobility Race got politicians to stop talking about transportation and actually go into the city and experience public transit.

..The Denver Mobility Race “was about instilling a sense of transportation urgency in people interested in leading the city.” Kevin Beaty, Denverite 

Beginning in the scantily served and sometimes inaccessible outskirts of Denver, candidates for City Council and Mayor raced to The Alliance Center  in Downtown Denver using any mode other than a car. Teams get points for social posts and number of modes used and speed.




WalkDenver board member and Majestic Collaborations, Inc. VP Molly North volunteered as a scorekeeper along with Allison Conwell, consumer advocate at CoPirg. They were able to experience the thrills of the race from behind the scenes.




When the first team comprised of candidates for City Council District 1 arrived at The Alliance Center, Molly was ready and waiting to hear how it went and gather their thoughts about navigating the city. Scott Durrah said “we should have free transit for kids until age 18.” David Sabados reported that “it would have been difficult in a wheelchair” and Sabrina D’Agosta noted various “issues with infrastructure and wayfinding.”




When Team 2 arrived, Molly was able to get their impressions as well. Candidate at-large Lynne Langdon “hadn’t traveled with a wheelchair and dog before, learned a lot.” Patrick Thibault, candidate for City Council District 8, regularly uses multi-modal [transportation], but noted the lack of connected bike lanes. After arriving at The Alliance Center, Chris Hinds, candidate for City Council District 10, said “people should have freedom to get from A to B safely”




Kayln Rose Heffernan, who is leading Denver’s first disabled artist / activist campaign for Mayor, arrived with Team 3. She reported that the race was “just like every other day” for her. Penfield Tate III, also on the Mayoral Team 3 realized that “the sidewalks are in bad shape.” Additional teammate and candidate for City Council District 9 Jonathan P. Woodley reported being very comfortable with the transportation race, saying “I use these transportation options often,” but he also acknowledged that using alternative transportation options “could be uncomfortable for people who are not used to them.”




Aaaand here are the results!

  • In 3rd place with 24 points: Chris Hinds, Patrick Thibault, and Lynne Langdon
  • In 2nd place with 31 points: Penfield Tate III, Kayln Rose Heffernan, and Jonathon P Woodley.
  • In 1st place with 41 points: David Sabados, Scott Durrah, and Sabrina D’Agosta




After the race was over, teams convened to discuss what they learned during the process of navigating the city without a car.

All-in-all, the Amazing Mobility Race was a fun way to get candidates to experience public transit, and to start important conversations about the issues facing Denver residents and the state of public transportation in Denver. It’s imperative that all citizens to be able to travel safely and effectively in their cities on a daily basis.

Regardless if they gain the privilege to represent Denver’s residents, we know these candidates will continue to be leaders in our community. And we are grateful that they took campaign time to learn more about the transportation system – a system that touches all of our daily lives. We look forward to seeing how they use these lessons learned!

Chicano Power 1969: Fire in the Streets & War of the Flowers


Last month, Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center fed hearts, souls, and minds with an incredible show Chicano Power 1969: Fire in the Streets & War of the Flowers. Created and produced by Anthony J. Garcia and Daniel Valdez, this world premiere was Su Teatro’s highest grossing show in history.

Many who experienced Chicano Power 1969 say that this production is Denver’s Selma, and after seeing the show ourselves, we were struck by how very true that statement is.

Powerful stories were brought to life on stage through seamless collaboration among talented performers, musicians, behind the scenes technicians, producers, and event staff. Congratulations to everyone who came together to expose these heart-wrenching, but important historical events to our modern consciousness. 




Synopsis from Su Teatro’s Website:

  • Fire in the Streets: 9th Avenue from Elati to Galapago was covered in smoke so thick you couldn’t see in front of you. On March 19,1969, the students at West High School walked out to protest racism and marginalization in the schools, they were met with tear gas, arrests and police batons.
  • War of the Flowers: On February 15, 1969, Lupe Briseño and four striking women chained themselves to the gates of the Kitayama Carnation plant in a non-violent protest. Immediately, Weld County sheriffs arrived. Deputy D.B. Ruiz flanked by two deputies turned on a tear gas machine and sprayed a snow-white layer of gas over the women who instantly fell to the ground; coughing and weeping. 50 years later, the War of the Flowers: “Lupe’s story” will be told.



The history behind the events recreated in the production really struck a personal chord with Kowal, who was honored to write This is My West Side for Su Teatro’s Chicano Power 1969: Fire in the Streets & War of the Flowers.

During the his pre-writing research, he noted a clear similarity between this Civil Rights story and the Selma Bus Boycotts; both events are such strong and important pieces of history and should never be overlooked or forgotten. The clip below shows Kowal at his home studio, strumming through the creative process with a rough cut of This is My West Side



Kowal also wrote Meet Me At The Arches (lyrics and chords) 

and The Hammer Came Down (lyrics and chords) 

for Su Teatro’s record-breaking production Chicano Power 1969 (lyrics and chords) 




Kowal’s soulful contribution for Su Teatro wasn’t his first song-writing rodeo. His music has been commissioned by several organizations, including New Belgium Brewing Co, and The Moth story hour. Additionally, Kowal performs regularly with his band, The Reals. Check out the links below for some of his past work.

If you’d like to collaborate with Kowal, send us an email!

Music Cities Convention Lafayette 2018

From Oct 11-12, Matthew Ché Kowal ventured to Lafayette LA for Music Cities Convention Lafayette.

At Music Cities Lafayette, Kowal noticed a high interest in the utility of emergency preparedness cross-training at festivals to help build resilience in cities.

Majestic Collaborations thinks that training for emergencies could go a long way in helping people respond with more finesse to emergency situations, while at the same time giving agency to city arts and culture institutions by allowing them to plan ahead instead of having authorities make top-down decisions in the event of an emergency.

Emergency preparedness cross-training could provide an answer to the question – How do we build resilience in cities facing climate-induced migration? Sharon Yazowski, the Director of the Levitt Foundation, delivered an excellent presentation about building programming themed towards inclusion and welcoming immigrants. She drew upon the great example that Dayton, OH is providing for the nation: Dayton was the first city in the US to earn the status of Certified Welcoming due to its inclusiveness and integration of immigrants.

In general, many at Music Cities Lafayette agreed that prescribed training would be very applicable to residents of the southern states; pre-planning for emergencies being naturally very important to people who live near the Gulf of Mexico. There was a consensus among convention delegates that we should be looking at long term, big picture goals of boosting the authority and agency of arts and culture institutions so that they can be prepared to make emergency decisions.

All of us at Majestic Collaborations can’t wait to see how this idea grows into practice as more and more artistic and cultural institutions are endowed with the training and knowledge to protect their artists and patrons.


Music Cities Lafayette

October 11-12, 2018

Majestic Collaborations will be heading to Lafayette this October for the Music Cities Convention, the largest and most extensive global gathering on the topic of Music Cities. This conference brings together leaders from governments, cities and regions, academics, organizations, and the music scene to discuss, debate, and introduce new thinking regarding best practices for improving urban planning, quality of life, city policy and development strategies through music. Majestic Collaborations will provide marketing, media relations and community liaising for this conference.


Majestic Collaborations to work as Emergency Preparedness Consultant for Denver Arts & Venues

July 12, 2018 

Majestic Collaborations will be Emergency Preparedness Consultant for Performing Arts Readiness hosted by Denver Arts & Venues

We are very excited to share that Performing Arts Readiness has employed Majestic Collaborations in the role of Emergency Preparedness Consultant to develop emergency preparedness in Colorado’s creative and Performing Arts community. This position, also known as “Circuit Rider”, is hosted by Denver Arts & Venues. We will work to define the scope of the Emergency Preparedness Program, develop emergency preparedness plans, and build networks and partnerships with performance art entities in the Colorado Region.

Funding was was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Melon Foundation, a foundation that provides advocacy and support for the humanities and the arts.