Grab your NPR tote bag, the Arts & Ideas Festival is back in town!

It’s June! The annual moment all twenty-something students leave town and considerably increase the average age of residents and the moment the Arts and Ideas Festival decides it’s not old enough and puts in place a program to attract 80-somethings to go wild on the green.

The festival is brought to you by AARP. Seniors don’t really like it either.

The official name is actually “The International Festival of Arts & Ideas” because once, 19 years ago, they had a hippy performer who lived in Vermont but his property line bordered Canada so it is technically an international festival.

Initially the festival started with two types of events:

  • The Ideas: soporific panels primarily used by Yale to place its professors who were too boring to be invited at their own conferences to talk about their work.
  • The Arts: Yale’s price to pay for the panels: giving money (they don’t like that very much) to the festival to have the local Mexican restaurant mariachi band on a stage on the green.

However, in its 27 years of existence, the Festival has grown to a loud and unavoidable celebration all over town. Following the predatory example of Yale buying all possible real-estate in town, the festival decided to indiscriminately stamp their & on every single thing happening in New Haven County: food, tours, music, neighborhoods celebrations, sewer plant… They even have a day-time drag show!

Daytime drag-show presented by Home Depot x Maybelline New York Plaster Foundation

Your water tastes like pee? It’s actually A&I offering a VIP tour of the water supply treatment plant. You got mugged on Hamilton St? Well it’s not crime, it’s actually an A&I walking tour of the Industrial Heritage of New Haven. Want to eat local oysters? Join A&I to eat imported west coast Canadian oysters as you watch oyster boats harvest New Haven oysters that they’ll ship to Canada. What are these lights on the green? Oh don’t mind them, it’s just A&I and Florian miss-using National Science Foundation grant money to make inaccessible and derivative quantum art.

All this diversity of topics cannot come close to the demographic diversity the festival is bringing to the city. If your job volunteered you to be on their diversity equity and inclusion committee, point them toward the A&I for inspiration! The Green Concerts bring people together: a very diverse group on stage catering to a monolithic white audience trying really hard to ignore a very diverse group of panhandlers, explaining they cannot give them a dollar because the lobster food truck was cash only and raised their lobster roll price to $50 because &.

I used to joke that the Festival audience was a “NPR audience”: old, highly educated, wealthy, and white! But this year, they are hosting a literal “New York Times Bike Ride“. The joke is on me, it was actually an “NYT audience”…

Quick! Time to change that tote bag!!

All these jokes are obviously a sign of my affection for the festival! This year will be my 4th year producing quantum science & art events for them, and it is always a pleasure to work with the production team of the Festival.

I really do love the Festival. It brings life to the city for the first month of summer, welcomes artists and shows from all over the world and makes them accessible (and free for most events) to everyone, reducing the barrier of entry to the point of offering them on New Haven’s biggest public space. I’ve joined and enjoyed many of their concerts, tours, plays, panels, events…

But now that I think about it, I am old, highly educated, wealthy, and white…

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