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Arts & Idea Concludes 25th Anniversary Season

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which officially concluded its 25th Anniversary season on June 27, welcomed more than 120,000 virtual audience members from around the world in the last three months. The Festival hosted international visitors from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Guyana, Hungary, India, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

All programming was presented free of charge, with the exception of the KeyBank Food Series and Arts on Call, which raised more than $35,000 and $10,000 respectively, all of which went directly to the participating local businesses and artists.

"Back in April, we said that this year's Festival was going to be very different from any we've done before, but that it would be a Festival we can all take part in-and love," said Co-Directors Liz Fisher and Tom Griggs. "We set out to deliver all the things audiences know and love about the Festival, and the results exceeded our wildest dreams. We are so proud of the work that the entire Festival staff produced, and we are thrilled that we were able to share it with so many friends and neighbors, near and far."

The 2020 Festival featured more than a dozen virtual Ideas events centered on the theme "Democracy: We the People," with vital thinkers, including 2012 Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, award-winning scholar Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, NEA Big Read Author Stephanie Burt, renowned writer Anand Giridharadas, and 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The Ideas programming was presented in partnership with Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional leadership support of The Whitney Center and media sponsor CT Public. Jason Mancini, Executive Director of Connecticut Humanities, said, "In the midst of a global pandemic, Festival organizers thoughtfully and effectively shifted all programming to online portals and expanded access to new audiences. 'Democracy: We the People' brought together ideas and experiences from diverse voices and was responsive to long-term trends as much as real-time events that affect all of our citizens and communities."

The virtual artistic offerings included the episodic video series, More or Less I Am, inspired by Walt Whitman's poem"Song of Myself," created by Compagnia de' Colombari (which was also streamed for inmates on Rikers Island); the Activist Songbook project, created by Aaron Jafferis and Byron Au Young; Keigwin + Company's Let's Make a Dance; and presentations by the Yale-China Fellowship program.

The KeyBank Food Series, which brought New Haven chefs and mixologists into participants' homes via Zoom; a virtual Box City; a new Dinner Stories series; NEA Big Read and Juneteenth programs; as well as self-guided and virtual bike and walking tours rounded out the Festival's nearly 200 events and 265 performances. The majority of the 2020 virtual programming, including all Ideas events, is archived on the Festival's website (, where content from many previous years' of Festival programming is available.

In addition, nearly 1,500 New Haven residents enjoyed live, socially distant outdoor performances by local performing artists through the Arts on Call program, presented with support from the Elizabethan Club of Yale University and modeled after Sidewalk Serenades, a program created in March 2020 by Creative Alliance in Baltimore. In partnership with Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and with funding from the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Office of the Arts, the Festival also sponsored a series of Arts on Call performances for health care, emergency services, and other frontline workers as a show of appreciation for their efforts to support and protect the New Haven community.

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas celebrates and builds community, engages with vital issues, and promotes the arts. Each year, we highlight the City's diverse and culturally rich community with events featuring world-class artists, thinkers, and leaders. The Festival's additional programs include the annual Visionary Leadership Award and educational opportunities like the High School Fellowship Program. The Festival was established in 1996 by Anne Calabresi, Jean M. Handley, and Roslyn Meyer, who envisioned an annual celebration in New Haven-a city steeped in a rich array of cultural and educational traditions-distinguished from other arts festivals by its fusion of the arts with events centered on sharing ideas.

The Festival is presented with major support from Yale University, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Connecticut Office of the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from The City of New Haven, KeyBank, The Whitney Center, Yale New Haven Health, the Avangrid Foundation in partnership with United Illuminating and Southern CT Gas, Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and our generous community of individual supporters.

Activist Songbook was funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

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