Speaking Engagements

“We all suffer from the dreams we aren’t able to create, Ben shows us a way to hang on and get them to happen.”  - Anonymous, from student survey


“I love to speak with students about making art and how to thrive in the real world as a creative person. The approach is hands on, practical and philosophical.”

My personal ad for an audience might read: “I’m looking people who are a little bit lost and need a kick in the pants to release their inner chutzpah. If you want to learn about an NEA fellow who uses neon, anthropology and phenomenology as a medium and then gets you thinking about what you're going to do, then I’m your guy. Bumps on a log need not apply. Active listeners encouraged.”

I am an entertainer. It’s in my blood. I enjoy a well told story and I love telling a good one. I’ve created a life where experience is the main attraction. As a speaker, I try to make sure that every person in the audience can relate to me as an artist, as a human, as a creative person. I can speak about so many aspects of being artist from paying bills to filling up a museum but the main thing, for me as a speaker is to find that sweet spot between the listener and me. That’s the alchemy I’m going for.

Lecture at University of Kansas Arts & Architecture Department.

Lecture at University of Kansas Arts & Architecture Department.

I have no high-brow pedigree. My experiences are my higher education. I’ve talked with audiences of all sizes in museums, theaters, classrooms and university auditoriums. I’ve talked about everything from phosphorescent minerals to Spirit Houses and crematory ghats of Katmandu to George Plimpton’s experiential journalism to the phenomenology of consciousness as an artist. My audiences walk away looking at their own ideas with renewed confidence in their unique resourcefulness. Simple ideas like ways to keep expenses down.

That’s huge for artists. Early on, a mentor told me: “Just do your work.” It took me twenty years to figure out what that meant. Dreaming is essential to the creative process, but how do we keep our imagination and pursuits fertile and alive? If I can reinforce the importance of keeping the entanglement of comparison to others at bay, then I have done my job.

I’d love to design a talk for you. Hit the contact button.

Even though my field is in the performing arts, I have been captured by Mr. Livingston’s artistry, his productivity, his ability to communicate his artistic vision with others and his overwhelmingly inquisitive mind. It is important for artists to share the process of making art with rural and inner-city people, especially children. Mr. Livingston is curious about the world and what makes it tick. His art seizes that and transmits that energy to others. Involving people in the process opens up the world — and life—to all of us. He will have a lifetime influence on the vision, the perception and the lives that he touches.
— -Pebbles Wadsworth, Director, University of Texas Performing Arts Center, Austin, TX.
In a decade of journalism on art and architecture I have met no other artist with the charisma, determination, and buoyant delight in sharing knowledge and new perceptions of Ben Livingston. I believe many of his visitors will never be able to consider their communities just no-place ever again, but collections of strange yet explicable radiances worthy of study and respect.
— -Eve M. Kahn, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker
I first met Ben while judging an Illuminating Engineering Society regional awards event. He had entered a video of a neon movie. No one had ever seen anything like it before. Of course, he won and went on to win the International Lighting Design Award. Many years later, as a professor of masters level lighting students, it was imperative to introduce them to the vibrant early light source - neon. Who better to present than Ben. The students couldn’t get enough from him. Ben not only amazed our students and professors, but, infected all of us with a love of his art and his amazing light source, now fast falling away in our world.
— Janet Lennox Moyer, The Lighting Research Center. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute