The New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas is a remarkable and transformative organization. It started during a very difficult time in New Haven, and I believe it contributed greatly to the city's recovery and current position as a great environment for both arts and creative ideas. I have attended the festival every year but one (I was in the hospital in 2007, and could not attend) and each year has been different. There is such a variety of events: dance, music, theatre - even the written word and visual arts are represented. We have enjoyed Jazz, classical and modern dance, Asian puppetry, Shakespeare, Opera, contemporary world theatre, And street performances. We have seen things outdoors and in. There is a whole weekend devoted to children's events on the city green. But the most remarkable thing about the festival is the Unifying Ideas theme for each year. Events of all kinds are selected to tie in with or complement this theme. The year after hurricane Katrina was devoted to New Orleans' artists, solutions to poverty, and other related topics. These themes have brought us everything from quantum physics to food. I thought the food events would be predictable, cooking show presentations, and was not looking forward to much. I should have known better! They talked about global hunger, how farming in the US impacts our environment and our health, the pros and cons of everything from local food movements to fertilizer use. And they fed us wonderful foods, in a festive environment:food for the soul as well as the body and mind. The festival is always stimulating and mind- expanding, always world-wide in scope, always surprising. Any flaws? Of course. There are too many things happening at the same time, all of which I want to see; and I can't afford all the events. The calendar/brochure put out by the festival is sometimes hard to follow, and the website is even worse. Both are beautiful, but not always logical and clear. I can't imagine New Haven, or my summer, without this festival. It has enriched my life and my city enormously. It's a wonderful way to spend two weeks!
For me, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas has provided some of the most memorable performances I have ever seen and the variety of indoor and outdoor venues has been terrific as has been the variety of the performances themselves. I've been going to this event evry year since it started and enjoy it immensely. Of equal impact is the transformative nature of those two weeks in June when the City of New Haven is at its absolute best - brimming with visitors, artists, along with the local community and people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying this cornucopia of aural and visual delights. And it truly is not just Arts, but also Ideas, and last year I attended several remarkable Ideas events, most notably perhaps was the Community Poetry Project with Frank McCort, in conversation w/ Rose Styron - McCort simply entranced us and we would have gladly stayed for hours if he allowed us to do so (this Ideas event was SRO, as were others), and a dozen community members aged 14 to 80 were all remarkable reading their favorite poems and capturing us all in their varying expressive ways. New Haven truly felt like a community where the notion of ideas and openly sharing ideas was encouraged and embraced. I look forward to what the Fesival will offer up for 2010. They have set the bar high!