Back in March, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were keynote speakers at the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Inspired by the event, SXSW and the White House announced it’s collaboration for the first ever South by South Lawn: A White House Festival of Ideas, Art, and Action. The one-day festival will take place at the White House on Monday, Oct. 3.
Story by Emily Nash
Like SXSW, SXSL will feature music, films and interactive events, as well as exhibitions. Admission to the festival is by nomination only. People could nominate themselves or other individuals who were making a “big or small” change in their community (the nomination process is now closed).
Obama discussed technology in regards to facing world-wide problems at SXSW earlier this year, and the discussion will continue at SXSL. SXSW interactive director Hugh Forrest wrote in Austin Startups that because technology is so prominent in our lives today, it’s almost impossible for the president to not be completely in tune with it. “There is little question that Obama has been the most tech-focused president ever,” Forrest says. On Monday, the White House will be “celebrating that spirit of innovation” by hosting panels discussing how technology, as well as art, food, innovation and social change are part of progressive movements in the U.S.
One of the main interactive events at SXSL will be a live conversation with Obama, actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe about climate change. DiCaprio will be screening his new film “Before the Flood” for the first time on Monday. Other speakers include artist James Turrell, congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis and CEOs of technological and agricultural businesses.
The Lumineers, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and DJ Beverly Bond are headlining the music portion of the festival, and additional performers will be announced. The day before the event, the American Film Institute will premiere more than 700 short films by K-12 students, and three will be selected for the White House Student Film Fest on Monday. There will be special appearances by the creators of “Stranger Things,” Matt and Ross Duffer and by members of the cast.
Aside from discussion panels, music and films, there will also be several interactive exhibits, ranging from food to entrepreneurship. One exhibit, “6’x9’,” is a virtual reality booth that gives viewers the experience of living in solitary confinement, and the physical and psychological effects that come with it.
For those who are not able to attend the festival in person, SXSL will be live-streamed at WhiteHouse.gov, Facebook.com/WhiteHouse and sxsw.com/live from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Use #sxsl to join conversations about the events on social media.