Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York

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By Aileen Kwun / Published by Dwell
A band of creatives reimagine summer camp with Likeminds, a conference retreat taking place August 26-28 in Beacon, New York.

Didn't get a chance to get away this summer? Now's your moment: This weekend in upstate New York, you can get your nature fix and get creatively productive, too. Likeminds, an art retreat–cum–tech conference, launches its first edition of events with inspiring talks, seminars, and even a few performances by Brooklyn-based psych-dance bands Prince Rama, Cut Worms, Sullen Prospector, and more.

The best part? All of it will take place at Beacon's University Settlement Camp, complete with a tent village, gymnasium, classroom, theater, and Mess Hall (just like the good ol' days).

If it all sounds a bit too fun and childlike for an art and technology conference, well, that's precisely what the cofounders—music producer Zach Pollakoff (who also co-owns Twosyllable Records) and Rachael Yaeger, who runs creative agency Human NYC—had in mind. We chatted with the ever-enterprising duo for a preview of what's to come with Likeminds, this weekend and beyond (hint: a Spring 2017 redux may or may not already be in the works).

Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York - Photo 1 of 5 - Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

How did the idea for Likeminds first begin?

Zach Pollakoff: It's a great story. I met Rachael through friends when I was looking for a gallery to host my first art show for One Month One Week One Day [a monthly event in Brooklyn that supports local artists]. Several months later, Rachael tweeted about An Interesting Day and I responded that we should do it in New York. She immediately emailed me that she was serious, and that's how it began!

Rachael Yaeger: I love bringing people together and was intrigued by the idea of hosting a conference. When Zach tweeted at me I knew we had to make it happen. An Interesting Day is a conference in Oslo which I have been keeping as our "North Star." We met about putting on a creative conference in March of this year, and got sponsorship from Reaction Commerce in early July, which pushed us from ideation and planning to production mode.

Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York - Photo 2 of 5 - Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Sounds like Internet kismet. What informed your approach to curating the overall program, which includes the standard conference fare—seminars and talks—in addition to music performances, and in such a unique and playful, nature-based venue?

Zach: Aside from our similar aesthetic tastes, Rachael and I really share the common goal of connecting and collaborating with anyone who's open to it! The objective for us was to bring together likeminded people from our own communities that are pushing the boundaries of their craft by integrating various disciplines. There are no longer music and art and tech and fashion communities.... we're all one community.

Rachael: Zach is immersed in the music and art world, and I've surrounded myself with designers and technologists—merging those creative fields has brought Likeminds together. We collaborated with our friends Leta Sobierajski and Wade Jeffree on the process for naming and they established the Likeminds identity, followed by a shoot which they art directed, photographed by another dear friend, Meredith Jenks. There are five main elements that represent Likeminds: Night, Day, Air, Earth, and Nature. These visuals have helped personify and bring together Likeminds!

It was tough to choose the lineup of speakers; I look up to so many people in our shared creative fields. Development and technology is the future, and a big part of what I do, so I knew I wanted that mix to be represented. Sara Hicks being a female entrepreneur and tech CEO is an inspiration.

Who has signed up for the 100 available attendee slots so far, and what kind of sparks are you hoping will fly when they all get together?

Zach: So far we have developers, designers, editors, and non-profit organizers, artists and art enthusiasts, friends and strangers alike. It's going to be a great mix of folks!

Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York - Photo 3 of 5 - Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

"There are no longer music and art and tech and fashion communities.... we're all one community."
—Zach Pollakoff, cofounder, Likeminds

Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York - Photo 4 of 5 - Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

What's next—will there be a Likeminds redux next summer?

Zach: As our first venture of this nature, Likeminds is certainly an ambitious one. We're confident the weekend will be a success, but the future of Likeminds will be determined when the dust has settled on the back end.

Rachael: We'd like to continue producing Likeminds as a conference! It came together so quickly that people have asked me if there will be a spring edition of Likeminds in 2017.

Art and Technology Convene at This Three-Day Retreat in Upstate New York - Photo 5 of 5 - Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

Art Direction by Leta Sobierajski + Wade Jeffree, photography by Meredith Jenks.

For late birds looking to register for the conference before festivities kick-off this Friday, August 26, at 5pm EST, visit Likeminds.camp for more info. Tickets start at $150 for a one-day pass and scale up to $500 for the full three days (with a take-home tent included).