TEDxPeachtree 2013: It’s a Wrap!

On November 8, 2013, TEDxPeachtree successfully catalyzed a capacity crowd of more than 500 attendees at the historic Buckhead Theatre with 17 informative talks categorized into four sessions. All speaker videos can be found here.

Catalyze, the 2013 conference theme, sought to capture and share the ingenuity of the human spirit and shine a light on works that could have a positive impact on the human condition.

Here are the highlights:

Session 1: Cities

four TEDxPeachtree speakers took the stage to share ideas for shaping the way we think about our urban environment.

In a society of materialistic excess, social entrepreneur, author and founder of GiftCardGiver.com and Plywood People Jeff Shinabarger challenged us all to lead a life of excessive generosity without desiring anything in return. He emphasized that “excessive generosity” isn’t only about money.

Architect and urban designer David Green put forth the importance of street plans as the building blocks of a community. He reminded us we are more likely to walk on streets if they’re well-designed and that, in turn, makes people feel more connected.

Jim Hackler

Appearing on stage with his bike and helmet, journalist Jim Hackler garnered laughs and let his enthusiasm for the benefits of cycling speak for itself. He enlightened us with the facts that more Americans are thinking of alternative forms of transportation, and 4 million more bikes were sold than cars in 2012.

Urban agriculturalist Rashid Nuri pushed us to think about where our food is grown and urged us to explore our locally grown options, which create healthier, higher quality food, more jobs and a diverse community.


The session on CREATIVITY also included four speakers – each an accomplished artist in his or her own right, and each with a message about how art can change the world.

Internationally renowned artist Rossin took to the stage surrounded by large portraits of Nelson Mandela, Jackie Kennedy and Morgan Freeman that looked more like photographs than paintings. Using his artistic philosophy, he revealed the surprising, touching and inspirational connection between artistic creation and the art of living.

Against a backdrop of commissioned sculptures, beautiful conceptual pieces and reimagined art history masterpieces, Lego brick artist and recovering lawyer Nathan Sawaya enlightened us on the ways art can be used to combat limits imposed by everyday life and how he shakes the boundaries of traditional art forms block by block.

Georgia Tech Professor Mark Riedl further shattered our views of artistic tradition with his presentation on how intelligent computational systems can help reduce the fear of learning  and engage future artists and storytellers by providing accessible, interactive ways of starting out in the world of creativity.

Grammy nominee Michelle Malone closed us out with an incredible musical performance that left the audience silent, reflective and longing for more.


The session titled CLASSROOMS challenged and inspired us to think about the connectivity between our roles as responsible citizens, leaders, professionals, creators and, ultimately, catalysts.

Entrepreneur Marshall Seese, Jr. startled attendees out of their collective post lunch daze with his demo of technology that allows anyone to mix beats like a professional DJ. As founder and CEO of Mowgli and creator of MashupDJ, he also had a message – everyone is an artist, and it’s our responsibility to enable creativity in ourselves and others.

Aurora Robson’s breathtaking sculptures made from plastic trash shifted our perception of waste. Both Aurora and Marshall turn traditional process on its head – that becoming a DJ can inspire you to learn a traditional instrument or that instead of making an art project that will eventually be thrown away we can let the trash become the art and keep a little bit of waste out of landfills.

Daphne Greenberg, Wanda Hopkins-McClure and George Yu all have the desire and motivation to dig beneath the surface and examine our world.

Daphne Greenberg illuminated the problem of adult illiteracy and the difficulty not only in solving it but in recognizing it. Adult sufferers of illiteracy have excellent coping strategies that allow them to tell time, order from a menu and even run a company. By alerting us to the problem, she opened our eyes to a solution.

Wanda Hopkins-McClure’s dedication to collaboration between educators, business leaders and parents, as well as her willingness to take risks and fail, will lead our children to be innovative entrepreneurs with the ability to co-create their futures.

George Yu’s insatiable curiosity led him to develop the NODE, wireless sensors to measure our environment and report back through our smartphones. An immediate understanding of our surroundings has limitless possibilities and is sure to awaken the inquisitive child in all of us.

Session 4: CROWDS

Session 4: CROWDS rounded out the day with a series of talks designed to awaken our collective sense of what it means to be a good global citizen.

Dr. Amy Baxter brought our attention to what better and proper pain management can do to reduce and eliminate needle phobia in children and adults. Healthcare providers and the public can overcome this barrier with a better understanding of pain.

Wellspring Living founder Mary Frances Bowley’s emotionally charged talked brought to light the serious issue of sex trafficking in the U.S. According to Bowley, 100 teenage girls at an average age of 14 are sexually exploited every night in Atlanta alone. Bowley believes these girls and women deserve a second chance and can build a better future with our help.

Lisa Earle McLeod, author of The Triangle of Truth, introduced the idea that comprise isn’t a solution but, in fact, a problem using an analogy built around John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These founding fathers weren’t always united and didn’t always compromise; instead they fought to arrive at the bigger picture. There often are truths in opposing views, and the best solutions stem from this dichotomy.

Neale Martin wrapped up TEDxPeachtree 2013 with Why TED Talks Don’t Change Your Life Much. Although many thought Martin may burst the bubble of inspiring, sometimes emotional talks and fireworks on our cerebellum, he instead explained how to make a change in one’s life by training the unconscious mind. At the end of the day, both literally and proverbially, it takes more than just inspiration to make a true behavioral change.

TEDxPeachtree 2013 would not have been complete without the immersive on-site experiences supplied through the generosity of Thrive CoffeeFrozen PintsFresh HarvestDashboard Co-OpJaxx Seating, Business RadioX and SocialBox.