The Art of Practice

The biennial “Art of Practice” conference will be held Friday 23 June 2023 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This year’s event will focus on preparing for economic stress and maintaining resilience.

We will situate professional services within the context of various economic sectors and the forces and trends in the broader economy. A lawyer, an insurer, and a banker will offer advice on ways to improve financial posture and mitigate risk. A panel of colleagues will share the successes and failures of their attempts to anticipate/remediate the effects of trying times. And small, medium, and large firms will engage in roundtable discussions.

This event will be limited to fifty attendees. Registration information will be available soon. Save the date and stay tuned!

Thank you to our sponsors

Lee/Shoemaker PLLC
McGriff Insurance
Moseley Architects

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

Practice Conference Takes Place on March 22

Registration is now open for AIA Virginia’s second biennial Art of Practice. The day-long event, which takes place on March 22, is intended to cultivate connections between peers in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Both seasoned and emerging leaders will come together at the Winery at Bull Run in Northern Virginia to share and learn best practices, advance their business skills, and form a lasting network of peers.

Participants in the program will consider the following questions:

  • In the face of a changing economy, what are smart firms doing to prepare for the future?
  • What are the leading trends that will impact practice?
  • What role should the AIA play in supporting firm leaders?

As the Board of Directors developed the current Strategic Plan, it was clear from member feedback that there was a desire for programming, tools, and resources to help elevate the business skills of AIA Virginia members. In response to that need, the Art of Practice was launched in 2017 with the explicit purpose of providing current and aspiring firm leaders and with timely, relevant, actionable advice on how to grow and sustain their businesses.

Registration is open to AIA members only.

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

Sponsored by:

Pella Windows of Virginia
Hinge Marketing
VMDO Architects
MEB General Contractors

Maggie Schubert, AIA

A native of a small town in the Virginia Piedmont, S. Maggie Schubert, AIA, received her Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech in 2008. During her collegiate studies, Maggie received the Lucy and Olivia Ferrari scholarship and was awarded the opportunity to study at the Center for European Studies in Architecture in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. Also while at Virginia Tech, Maggie studied for and successfully completed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) exam. Virginia Tech’s missions of learning, discovery, and engagement through its motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) guides Maggie to strive to serve others to promote positive change and to build a better community through the work of the profession. She’s a graduate of AIA Virginia’s Emerging Leaders in Architecture program, the recipient of AIA Richmond’s Richard L. Ford Award and the AIA Virginia Emerging Professional Award.

In 2014, as AIA Virginia celebrated 100 years at it’s Centennial Luncheon at the Jefferson Hotel,  Maggie was asked to Toast the Future of the profession which she used as a call to action:

“We must redefine architecture’s place in the community and continue
to evolve in the way we present ourselves to the public. We must have
courage to face vulnerability and imbalance, and strive for diversity in our profession to better reflect the demographics of our society.

I ask that each one of us continue to be the visionary, so that we may
create a common language and a common goal … may we as leaders
and emerging professionals continue to have the passion and courage to create design that inspires to make our vision for resiliency a reality.”

Maggie has championed the evolution of the architecture profession through leadership, education, mentorship, and her service as the voice of emerging professionals in the Commonwealth. Her work will help to define the trajectory of the profession for years to come.

She has served on the AIA Richmond Board of Directors, as co-chair of the Young Architects and Interns Forum, and as chair for Richmond Women in Design. Schubert’s leadership and passion for the profession continue beyond her local chapter as well. She has served as Associate Director on the AIA Virginia Board and chaired AIA Virginia’s inaugural Art of Practice conference.

Reflecting on Firm Culture

“We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance, and truly begin to live our dreams.” ~ Les Brown

Friday, March 31 brought the first Art of Practice Conference to AIA Virginia firm principals.  It was a pleasure to welcome so many of the profession’s leaders to the inaugural experience.  I especially want to again thank Maggie Schubert, AIA.  Maggie graciously accepted her appointment as the chair of this first-ever event and has been dedicated to its success since that moment.  We all have her to thank for envisioning and executing such a special member-focused conference.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA

The day centered, as the title suggested, on matters of import to architectural practice, particularly firm culture.  It was (and will be) intended to complement the focus on design that is afforded by the ever-popular Virginia Design Forum.  Art of Practice will take place on alternating years (odd years) with the Forum (even years).  This program promises to be transformational for our profession within the Commonwealth, particularly as it grows and develops in the coming years.

In anticipation of the session, I recalled the inspiring words of noted African-American speaker Les Brown, quoted above.  If we apply Mr. Brown’s admonition to ourselves, it reminds us that WE ALONE have the capacity to be the architects, the designers, of an enriched firm culture … of a transformed culture for the profession … and of an enhanced, “big-C” Culture for the public we serve.  The Art of Practice Conference is our chance to design that future as it relates specifically to our practices.  It offers the perfect opportunity for us to work collectively and collaboratively to chart a course toward a preferred future for this profession.  As our firms grow stronger, the profession at-large in our state will be elevated as well.

Some 14 years ago, the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) rightly shown a spotlight on “studio culture” through their Studio Culture Task Force Report.  We have all become sensitized to “studio culture” as a result of their great research and reporting.  Schools now have stated expectations for the way students will be treated in the studio and in the classroom.  The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) has included the requirement for a policy on studio culture in their Conditions and Procedures, and schools are ‘dinged’ if they don’t have a policy in place.

But what have WE, as a profession, done to transfigure firm culture?  That is OUR part to determine and be dedicated to.  Aspects of firm culture certainly impact our emerging professionals, yes.  But, firm culture that is constructive, positive, and supportive inures to the benefit of all office team members, not only those just entering practice.

For this year, our conference focused on the aspects of firm culture that get at the heart of how individuals in this profession are engaged within their respective practice settings.  I hope that beginning with Art of Practice, we’ll have a new and different conversation that leads to a new and different place.  Better firm culture for ALL firms.  Better experiences for all employees.  Better outcomes for all clients.  We can especially anticipate a more amazing future as a result of our efforts on behalf of our practices … and the profession.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA | EVP, AIA Virginia