Exploring Ideas and Connections

The Art of Practice was held late last month in Charlottesville. Thank you to Sonya Ravindranath Waddell (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond), Matt Laird (Atlantic Union Bank), and Joseph Cooch (Lee|Shoemaker) for the intriguing presentations. Thank you to Stephen Halsey (Moseley Architects), Jeanne LeFever (Glave & Holmes Architecture), and Charles Piper (Quinn Evans) for a thoughtful and candid panel discussion. Thank you to Maggie Schubert (Chestnut Knoll Studio), Andrew McKinley (VIA design), and Charles Piper (Quinn Evans) for moderating the firm-size roundtables. Thank you to our sponsors: Bamforth, Gropen, Keith Fabry, Lee|Shoemaker PLLC, McGriff Insurance, Moseley Architects, and O’Hagan Meyer PLLC. Thank you to Common House for providing an enjoyable and intimate venue. And thank you to those who attended and engaged. View a photo gallery here>>

As an organization, we continuously strive to provide rich experiences, programs, and events with relevant and engaging content, and opportunities to connect as peers and colleagues. To explore ideas, exchange perspectives, and (re)consider our positions.

We rely on your feedback and suggestions. If you have a suggestion for an event or a program, please reach out to me at pbattaglia@aiava.org. We welcome any and all comments, criticisms, and recommendations. And we look forward to seeing you soon.

Paul Battaglia, AIA
Executive Vice President
AIA Virginia

Art of Practice Photo Gallery

The 3rd biennial Art of Practice conference was held on June 23, 2023, in Charlottesville. Participants enjoyed economic discussions with Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, Vice President and Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Attorney Joseph Cooch of Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, and Matt Laird of Atlantic Union Bank. A peer panel of Charles Piper, AIA, Jeanne LeFever, AIA, and Stephen Halsey, AIA, discussed how their firms adjust to shifting economic conditions and finally, the firm size roundtables also met to discuss the topics of the day and other relevant issues to their firms.

The Art of Practice

Every other year, AIA Virginia convenes a diverse cadre of decision-makers, from firms of all sizes, for a one-day forum designed to cultivate strong leaders and advance business practices. With a focus on creating and fostering a healthy firm culture, both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together to share and learn best practices, be challenged, and be celebrated by their peers.

headshot of Sonya Ravindrath Waddell

The 2023 Art of Practice will take place on Friday, June 23, at Common House Charlottesville. This year the theme will revolve around the concept of stress. Of course, there are various forms and degrees of stress, and they’re not all “bad.” Maybe your firm is stressed by having more work that your staff can manage! Our focus will include assessing your readiness for and planning for times of economic stress, as well as considering the range of factors “stressing” our members. For example, some have observed that the private sector is being shepherded into a kind of recession, while those in the public sector are awash in unprecedented funding. 

Our keynote speaker is Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, vice president and economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She will provide a macroeconomic view of where the practice of architecture fits into the U.S. economy and how federal policies impact Virginia firms.  

headset of Joseph Cooch

Attorney Joseph Cooch of Lee/Shoemaker PLLC will dig into issues of liability and risk management. How can firms gain resiliency through flexibility? What safeguards can be built into contracts?  

Matt Laird from Atlantic Union Bank will address the specifics of readying a firm’s financial position, from securing lines of credit to paying down or eliminating existing debt. Attendees will learn how banks assess their businesses when considering making loans.  

Take a look at what the day holds on June 23:


  • Breakfast and welcome
  • Poll of participants regarding economic outlook
  • Macroeconomist keynote: the broad perspective
  • Banker keynote: how to prepare your financial posture
  • Lawyer keynote: what’s your liability?

Midday Lunch


  • Panel discussion: Battening down the hatches, featuring Charles Piper, AIAJeanne LeFever, AIA, and Stephen Halsey, AIA
  • Roundtable discussions by firm size, led by Maggie Schubert, AIA, (small); Andrew McKinley, AIA, (mid-size); and Charles Piper, AIA (large)
  • Reports back to the group

Register today for the fourth biennial Art of Practice business symposium!
Earn 6 elective LUs.

Art of Practice is generously sponsored by Bamforth, Gropen, Keith Fabry, Lee/Shoemaker PLLC, McGriff Insurance, Moseley Architects and O’Hagan Meyer PLLC

If you would like to sponsor the Art of Practice conference, contact Jody Cranford.

Art of Practice: What’s Next

Registration is now open for the third biennial Art of Practice event from 1-5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Held virtually, the half-day program, kicked off by a keynote address from Carole Wedge, FAIA, is intended to cultivate leadership skills, identify solutions to common business problems, and fuel collaboration across the profession. With a focus on “what’s next” for the industry, current and aspiring firm leaders will hear timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

About the Keynote Speaker

Carole Wedge, FAIA

Carole Wedge, FAIA | CEO, Shepley Bulfinch
2020 AIA Edward C. Kemper Award winner
Immediate Past
Chair, AIA Large Firm Roundtable

Carole Wedge, FAIA, LEED AP, is CEO of Shepley Bulfinch, a national design firm with offices in Boston, Hartford, Houston, and Phoenix. Since 2014, she has led the firm’s evolution and growth into an innovative organization with an open and diverse culture.

Throughout her career in architecture and advocacy in the wider community, Carole has sought to challenge conventions and incite organizations to become more transparent and diverse. Her dynamic and collaborative leadership has powerfully impacted cornerstone institutions — from higher education and civic organizations to the architectural industry. In 2009, she was one of seven women from the Boston Women Principals Group to pilot the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit. She has also been recognized with the Boston Society of Architects’ Women in Design Award. Carole is a member of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission, a member of the board of trustees for Boston Architectural College and a board member of Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Following Carole’s talk, she’ll be joined by Rasheda Tripp, AIA, an Architect at GuernseyTingle; Simone Saidel, AIA, a Project Architect at HGA Architects and Engineers; and Michael Spory, Assoc. AIA a Designer at VMDO Architects, for a conversation about the future of the profession and a Q&A with the audience.

Other program highlights:

Economic Forecast

Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA
The AIA’s Chief Economist will share the latest economic forecast along with insights on infrastructure spending and supply chain issues.

What’s Next: Ignite
Experts in tech, employment law, and risk management share rapid-fire insights about what’s on the horizon for the profession.


Nathan King, DDes
Nathan King is Co-Director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research (CDR) and teaches courses in Architecture, Industrial Design, Construction, and Engineering-related disciplines. Prior to Virginia Tech, Nathan taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the Rhode Island school of Design, and the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Architecture. He is also the Senior Industry Engagement Manager for the Autodesk Technology Centers focusing on Architecture, Engineering and Construction, where he develops applied research collaborations relating to industrialized construction and automation technologies.

Yvonne Castillo, Esq. | Decarbonization Trends and Impacts on the Design Industry
Yvonne Castillo is Vice President & Director, Risk Management with Victor US. She is an architecture-degreed lawyer with 22 years of experience. She began her law practice as a judicial law clerk and then a trial lawyer and later became the Chief In-House Lobbyist and General Counsel for the American Institute of Architects, Texas Chapter. After almost 10 years, she worked at AIA National Headquarters and supported all state government affairs programs with research, analysis, and programming that connected state components with common issues and strategies.

Karen Elliott | Labor and Employment
Karen Elliott focuses her practice at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott on labor and employment law and commercial litigation matters. She strives to provide practical legal advice to help employers craft reasonable business solutions for their human resource challenges. Her clients span all sizes, from start-ups to the Fortune 500. As a labor and employment lawyer, Karen helps clients navigate the alphabet soup of the 40 or more employment laws from the ADA, FMLA, GINA, OSHA to USERRA, and the myriad federal agencies such as DOL, EEOC, and NLRB.

Kathy Blanchard, CIC, RPLU | Risk Management
A familiar name to many in Virginia, Kathy Blanchard is a Professional Liability Consultant and Senior Vice President with McGriff. She leads McGriff’s design professional liability practice group for the mid-Atlantic.

Firm Roundtable Discussions

Following these info-packed talks, attendees will join breakout sessions moderated by our Small, Mid-sized, and Large Firm Roundtable chairs. With a focus on peer-to-peer sharing, discuss common challenge and share solutions.

AIA members: $60
Assoc. AIA member: $25
Non-members: $100

Aug. 4, 2021 from 1-5:30 p.m. Earn 4.25 AIA LU|Elective

Art of Practice: What’s Next

The third biennial Art of Practice event is intended to cultivate leadership skills, identify solutions to common business problems, and fuel collaboration across the profession. With a focus on “what’s next” for the profession, current and aspiring firm leaders will hear timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

Featured Speakers:

Carole Wedge, FAIA
CEO of Shepley Bulfinch | Immediate Past Chair of AIA National Large Firm Roundtable
2020 National AIA Edward C. Kemper Award winner

Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA
Chief Economist, The American Institute of Architects

Nathan King, DDes
Co-Director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research | Technology Centers Senior Strategic Relationships Manager at Autodesk

Yvonne Castillo, Esq.
Vice President and Director of Risk Management at Victor US

Karen Elliott
Labor and Employment Law expert at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott

Kathy Blanchard, CIC, RPLU
Professional Liability Consultant and Senior Vice President with McGriff

With keynote conversation moderators

Rasheda Tripp, AIA
Architect at GuernseyTingle

Simone Saidel, AIA
Project Architect, HGA Architects and Engineers

Michael Spory, Assoc. AIA
Designer, VMDO Architects

And, Firm Roundtable Moderators

Tim Colley, AIA – Small Firm Roundtable
President, Colley Architects, PC

Andrew McKinley, AIA – Mid-Sized Firm Roundtable
Principal, Via Design

Paul Battaglia, AIA – Large Firm Roundtable
Principal, Clark Nexsen

Learn more.

AIA members: $60
Assoc. AIA member: $25
Non-members: $100

Earn 4.24 AIA LU.

Register Below


It’s a Wrap: Art of Practice 2019

Nearly 60 firm leaders came together in Northern Virginia on March 22 to exchange ideas, enjoy fellowship, and learn at the second biennial Art of Practice.

The program kicked off with Message Book training presented by the AIA’s Caitlin Reagan and Frank Scanlan. The group learned the basics of communication philosophy and how to design effective messages. After hearing some excellent tips and watching good (and truly awful!) examples of public speaking, attendees took part in an interactive exercise on crafting message headlines. After that, the group dug into how to use these tools in business development and advocacy environments. Several brave souls volunteered to put what they learned into practice. Short mock interviews were conducted and played back for the group to critique.

Following robust conversations (and wine) over lunch, Michele Russo, the Managing Director of Research and Practice at the AIA, offered an economic forecast. After sharing current conditions and the top four business concerns in architecture firms, she offered a 2019/2020 outlook for the profession.  Predictions indicate that firms can expect growth in 2019 – but at a slower rate than last year. She shared several indicators that hint at slower economic growth in 2020.

Karl Feldman from Hinge offered emerging research and best practices for employee recruitment and retention. He shared generational differences in how candidates approach a job search as well as how they evaluate opportunities. Following a lively Q&A session, Karl moderated a Leadership Transition Panel Discussion featuring Donna Phaneuf, FAIA; Mark Orling, AIA; Bob Moje, FAIA; Tom Kerns, FAIA; and Rob Comet, AIA. Each of the panelists shared their approach to leadership cultivation and transition within their firms.

Art of Practice Video

Special thanks to Philip Moo for creating a video of highlights from the day.

Art of Practice Photo Gallery

Art of Practice Agenda Announced

Current and future firm leaders from across the Commonwealth will converge on March 22, 2019, at the Winery at Bull Run for the second biennial Art of Practice summit. The program is intended to cultivate leadership skills, identify solutions to common business problems, and fuel collaboration across the profession.

Registration is now open for the day-long event in Northern Virginia. The venue was selected to nurture a retreat-like atmosphere and to encourage relationship building among peers. In keeping with this notion, space is extremely limited, so early registration is strongly encouraged. Tickets are available to members only and are $125 (lunch is included). Participants can earn 6 learning units.

Art of Practice is sponsored by:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors

About the Program

Advanced Communications Training
Effective communication skills are critical the success of any business leader. Take part in an intensive leadership communications program — developed specifically for architects — that was designed to improve your public speaking and storytelling skills. Learn advanced presentation techniques and discover more about your personal style and delivery. Come away with an understanding of how facial expression, eye contact, hand and body movement, and voice impact your message.

Lunchtime Roundtable Discussions
The learning doesn’t stop when we break for lunch. Taking a cue from the most popular part of AIA Virginia’s Firm Roundtable meetings, we’ve reserved time for peer-to-peer learning. Discover best practices and share your experiences with colleagues while you enjoy a catered lunch (carefully paired with sparkling water or a glass of Bull Run’s finest).

Employee Recruitment and Retention
Firm leaders are telling us that their biggest challenge right now is finding and hiring the right talent. Hear emerging research from the AEC industry and discover best practices for employee recruitment and retention.

Moderated Leadership Transition Panel Discussion
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Whether your firm is facing the retirement of a key leader, a merger, or simply considering how to nurture the next generation of principals, leadership transitions can often take years — even with advance planning and management. Hear how your colleagues faced a host of issues and positioned their firms for success in the face of change.


A limited room block is held nearby at the Hyatt Place Chantilly. Make reservations online or call the Reservations Center at 1-888-591-1234 using the group code G-AIAE. Complimentary shuttle service is available for those who wish to stay afterward and a enjoy tasting.

About the Art of Practice

The biennial Art of Practice was launched in 2017 with the purpose of providing current and aspiring firm leaders and with timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

Read the key takeaways from the 2017 event and see the photo gallery.

Art of Practice

The second biennial Art of Practice is intended to elevate the business skills of firm leaders and cultivate connections between peers in a comfortable, retreat-like atmosphere. The day-long program takes place at the Winery at Bull in Northern Virginia.

Both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together to share and learn best practices, advance their business skills, and form a lasting network of peers.

Please join us in thanking our generous sponsors:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors