KEYNOTE Speakers

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Shawn Dunwoody is the 2019 Regional Neighborhood Network Conference keynote luncheon speaker. A multi-disciplinary creative force for change, Dunwoody uses art to promote urban development and offer residents a new perspective about not only their neighborhoods but also their lives. Dunwoody is perhaps most famous for the Fruit Belt project, in which five teens worked with the artist to install murals throughout their urban Rochester neighborhoods. Dunwoody also helped launch Rochester’s first multi-venue, city-wide pop culture event, called Super City, which took place in August 2019. The mission of Super City is to break out of the classic convention-style event and flood the streets with pop culture, enthusiasts, and activities that highlight Rochester.

Dunwoody’s hometown of Rochester is filled with his murals and art, and recently a crosswalk on Main Street he designed was featured on National Public Radio. The crosswalk looks like three-dimensional piano keys and was painted with help from local volunteers. It welcomes visitors to a yearly jazz festival and sits just outside the Eastman School of Music. While in Fort Wayne, Dunwoody will take part in the local Art This Way Art Crawl and paint a bright, floral mural that incorporates black flower silhouettes. The black flowers are meant to look like unpainted areas on the surface of the cement wall, but thanks to special water-activated paint technology, these flowers will show up in the rain. RNNC attendees are invited to help Dunwoody create his mural. More information about Shawn Dunwoody is available at:

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Iric S. Headley Jr. was born and raised in Trinnidad and Tobago, where his father Iric Sr. was a devoted Pastor of a small church. The Headley family moved to Fort Wayne in 1989 to lead a church, but within three years they were separated by divorce, forcing Iric Jr. and his mother to quickly find housing in the inner city while Iric’s older sister went away to college. At age 14, Iric found his niche after being exposed to a private downtown Fort Wayne recording studio where he spent countless days and nights after high school learning recording, engineering and producing. By the age of 19, Iric was a nationally known “gangsta” rapper, and was referred to by many as one of the future “voices” of the Hip Hop industry. But, at 20, Iric decided the hip-hop lifestyle was not for him, and transitioned into songwriting and producing behind the scenes. Iric was also passionate about helping African American youth and was successful at securing a contract with the City of Fort Wayne teaching life skills at a youth center. In 2013, the Cities United initiative was launched by National League of Cities, and President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper was launched from the White House. Mayor Tom Henry chose Iric to lead both national initiatives locally and on June 20, 2016, the Fort Wayne UNITED Mayoral initiative was launched, placing both the My Brother’s Keeper and Cities United initiatives under one umbrella. The initiative focuses on helping youth reach their full potential, with an emphasis on improving the life outcomes of black men and boys. Iric and his wife are the proud parents of two young boys.


Kevin Wright Kevin’s work as Executive Director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF) from 2011-2018 received local honors and was featured in national publications such as The Huffington Post. It was there where he used his diverse background in storytelling and community planning to help a struggling organization develop a new brand and mission and grow from a staff of one contracted employee to seven full-time employees and several interns. Additionally, he grew the foundation’s budget ten-fold and developed a more sustainable and diverse revenue stream. Kevin has led teams in the creation and implementation of dozens of projects ranging from small creative placemaking activities to multi-million dollar real estate deals. These projects have included several public and private partners and a diverse set of public financing tools such as Tax Increment Financing, public loans/grants, and Historic Tax Credits.


Joe Nickol, AICP Joe grew up in a small, western resort town. The first city he lived in was not until after high school in Rome, Italy, where he learned the power of walkable neighborhoods, active streets and public spaces, and smartly adapted buildings and neighborhoods. He later settled with his wife in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for ten years, experiencing first-hand how a deindustrializing city went from down and out to up and coming through bottom-up resourcefulness, smart leadership, technology, and an unshakable commitment to neighborhood livability. During that time he led the urban design studio at Urban Design Associates, designing districts, neighborhoods, and cities in North America and beyond. In 2015 he moved to Cincinnati, joining MKSK as a Senior Urban Design and Development strategist, wholly focused in cities from Detroit to Nashville. He co-authored with Kevin Wright the Neighborhood Playbook in 2016 based on their collective experiences before launching together YARD & Company in 2018.