2023 International Festival of Arts & Ideas – Karen Isaacs

The 2023 International Festival of Arts & Ideas returns to pre-pandemic levels of talks, concerts, theater, dance, and family activities emphasizing connections, creativity, exploration, and involvement.

The majority of the festival runs from Friday, June 9 to Sunday, June 25. Exceptions include the neighborhood days that began in early May and will conclude with West Hills/West Rock Festival (Sunday, May 28) and the Dixwell Festival (Saturday, June 3). Also, the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica will perform Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at the Shubert Theatre.

There will be events geared towards adults, teens, and kids; talks by leading authorities to pure entertainment. This year as in past years, there is something for everyone. Most events are free, though some require pre-registration due to space limitations.

The theme this year is RISE. Festival Director Shelley Quiala said, “We’re inviting people not to get stuck on problems but to rise to the challenges, to inspire creativity and action. Only you can create the world you want to see.”

The festival brochure describes it best: “We face challenges from all directions in life; this is when we choose to RISE above all, with ART being our superpower! The 2023 Festival celebrates self-determination and transformational creativity, powered by the ART we share in the community.”

Redesigning Ideas

The Ideas portion of the festival has been redesigned. Rather than talks scattered throughout the festival, each Saturday during the festival will focus on a specific topic. Five events related to the topic are scheduled, culminating in a keynote presentation. The talks and workshops are led by global thinkers and doers.

The summit topics are Climate and Transportation (Saturday, June 10), Technology and Democracy (Saturday, June 17), and Social Equity and Activism (Saturday, June 24).

As part of the June 10 summit, the topics include a discussion of the future of automobiles; a workshop on the New Haven Clean Cities Coalition which explores options for alternative and renewable fuels; and climate change experts Bruni Pizarro and James O’Donnell discussing the impact of climate change on the effects on sea levels and stormwater across Connecticut’s cities and towns. Also included is a workshop led by researchers, artists, and AI experts that encourages conversations about the global water crisis in a meaningful and playful way. The summit ends with a keynote presentation by Amelia Winter-Bearskin, a MacArthur fellow and associate professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Arts at the University of Florida. She will discuss how new technologies and science can preserve ancestral knowledge and enhance the arts.

Some events related to the summits are on other days.

You can tour an innovative water treatment plant and learn how water from Lake Whitney is treated and delivered to New Haven (Wednesday, June 14 or 21). Or visit the Outer Island off Branford, where the Friends of the Outer Island help measure and monitor water quality, collect microplastics, and share data globally (Tuesday, June 13). Explore the grounds and visit the bio-lab of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in Hamden, the nation’s oldest (Friday, June 16 and 23).

The kids can be part of it through the presentation by the Grumbling Gryphons on the New Haven Green (Saturday, June 10). The show, The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of the Sea, promotes awareness of our depleting oceans and endangered marine life. The workshop before the performance will provide kids with the opportunity to be part of the show.

The New Haven Green is the focus of many free events. “We try to have as many free events as possible,” Quiala said.

Kid Friendly

Many events geared to families and children under 12 are on the Green. Kidz Kook (Saturday, June 10) is a four-hour kids’ cooking class centered around environmentalism and sampling plant-based cooking. Artfarm (Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11) lets kids, ages 6 to 16, try some of the basic elements of circus arts, including juggling, balancing, partner acrobatics, circrobatics, hula hooping and other simple forms of movement.

What happens when we go to sleep? Spellbound Theatre’s Wink (Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18) is ideal for kids up to 7. It blends shadow puppetry, physical theater, and animation to explore dreams from the perspective of a young child and her bear. Wednesday, June 21 is International Make Music Day, and members of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra will be on the Green to let children experience the joy of making music. This super interactive event gives children a chance to conduct, direct the volume of the music, or affect the speed of the professional musicians.

It’s all about the play when Polyglot Theatre: Bees is on the Green on Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25. Three human-sized Bees busy themselves in the creation of a community alongside children who transform into bees as they play. Children and families choose how they engage with the performers and the space, moving around as they like.

Teen Activities

Quiala, the festival director, encourages teens to explore some workshops, tours, and storytelling events.

“Teens are finding a pathway to themselves. The storytelling events will inspire them,” Quiala says. On Tuesday, June 13, professional storyteller Laconia Therrio leads a workshop on what stories can do and how they affect the teller, the listener, and society. Also, on Tuesday, June 13, Stir the Style is a storytelling mash-up featuring different styles of storytelling. The formats range from folk telling, to personal narrative and rap. Tellers have just 10 minutes to share their stories.

Can you tell a story by sharing 20 slides for just 20 seconds each? On Wednesday, June 21, anyone can explore PechaKucha, a presentational format that began in Tokyo in 2003.

Five hours of dance is on the Green on Wednesday, June 15, with five choreographers of different styles teaching all levels dance classes—salsa, contemporary, hip hop groove, street jazz, and vogue.

Many teens have studied Shakespeare’s Hamlet. On Tuesday, June 20, Ice the Beef (a student-driven anti-gun violence organization) and Elm City Shakespeare is using the play to explore questions such as what is the difference between seeking revenge and seeking justice? Is the cost of getting one’s revenge too high? What innocent parties get caught in the crossfire? After the play, the ensemble will share a trio of contemporary scenes inspired by real-life experiences that offer tactics for violence de-escalation. Ticket prices are $5 for those 18 and under.

Tours: Bike and Guided Excursions

Each year it seems the list of bike tours expands. That’s due to the active cycling community in the greater New Haven area and the partnerships with groups such as Elm City Cycling. This year, rides are offered along the East Coast Greenway to Silver Sands State Park (Saturday, June 10) and the Farmington Canal North (Saturday, June 17).

You can explore the historic districts of New Haven (Wednesday, June 21) or the reasons The New York Times put New Haven on its list of places to visit in 2023 (Sunday, June 18). Visit some of New Haven’s social justice sights (past and present) with a tour led by Southern Connecticut State University professors Amy Smoyer and Joe Milone (Sunday, June 18) or explore the relationships between New Haven and its eight sister cities with music, art, food and presentations (Saturday, June 17).

Don’t ride a bike? Guided tours will introduce you to contemporary art at the Ely Center in the Historic John Slade Ely House (Thursday, June 22 and Sunday, June 25), the shops and restaurants of Westville (Thursday, June 22), Backyard Beekeeping (Wednesday, June 21 and Friday, June 23), the New Haven Museum show of Linda Linroth’s Polaroid portraits (Thursday, June 15), the past and present of Fair Haven (Saturday, June 10) or the newly renovated Humanities Center at Yale (Friday, June 16 and Tuesday, June 20).


The Juneteenth Celebration begins on Saturday, June 17, with events curated by Hanan Hameen and the Official Juneteenth Coalition of Greater New Haven. There’s a parade from the Stetson Library to the Green, a Juneteenth Market, including interactive exhibits and performances. In the evening, A Divine Homecoming & O’Sound performs on the Green. The group is described as an intergenerational production that honors Historically Black College and University history through story-telling and step. Sunday, June 18, has Stefon Hawkins, a New Haven resident, perform with the New Hope Fellowship Choir. It includes a community singalong led by Jarron Taylor. He is also giving a masterclass on gospel techniques.

Music And A Premier Diva

On Saturday, June 10, the festival’s opening night concert features Angelique Kidjo, a four-time Grammy winner with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. Kidjo has been named Africa’s Premier Diva; her music reflects her West African roots but incorporates funk, jazz, R&B, as well as European and Latin American Influences.

New Haven native Shout performs on Friday, June 16, with her blend of New Era Rock. Matthew Whitaker performs gospel-inflected jazz at Lyman Auditorium on the Southern Connecticut State University campus on Sunday, June 18. He’s joined by Jarron Taylor & The Cross Bearing Nation, as well as Kerygma.

Cuban-born Jon Secada, a three-time Grammy winner, and his band perform on the Green Thursday, June 22. The concert includes his megahits “Angel,” “Just Another Day,” and “Do You Believe in Us,” interlaced with Spanish-language melodies.

Closing the Festival on Sunday, June 25, is Sacred Land: Music and Poems of Resilience from Ukraine, which features Marika Kuzma of Madison, sacred and secular choral music by Ensemble Cherubin, and poetry. Accompanying the music are project images of the landscape.

How to Approach the Festival

Look for the big moments, including the concerts and performances, but also the small moments, Quiala said.

“I urge people to look for something really familiar and something very unfamiliar,” Quiala said. “Try something different. Go to a concert or dance performance that you know nothing about.”

The goal, according to Quiala, is to have things that appeal to a wide variety of people. It usually attracts not only New Haven residents and those from the region but also people from throughout the state and the region.

“We want a mix of people hanging out together who might never do so,” Quiala said.

For a complete schedule and calendar of events, visit artsideas.org

This content courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com

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