Our mission is to create an internationally renowned Festival in New Haven of the highest quality with world-class artists, thinkers and leaders, attracting and engaging a broad and diverse audience, celebrating and building community and advancing economic development.
We envision a flourishing city and state in which a festival of arts and ideas plays a vital role in enriching lives and leading people to understand how their futures are intertwined.
The Festival’s staff and Board believe that the following values are central to its identity:
· excellence in performance and leadership
· embracing diversity
· inclusiveness – bringing people together
· openness to new ideas, new arts, new cultures, new individuals
· attract and present world-class artists
· provide a wide range of artistic experiences
· provoke the mind
· spur economic revitalization
· attract a diverse audience
· involve and integrate the community
· provide enriching experiences for the young
· aid in the development of new works
· support regional arts
· create a celebratory atmosphere with lasting memories
· showcase the riches of New Haven to visitors
· enhance the image of New Haven and of the State of Connecticut
The Festival was established in 1996. The Festival’s Founders laid the groundwork for a pre-eminent arts and ideas event that would make the city and state major arts destinations, stimulating the economy and building a sense of community identity and pride. They envisioned an event that would “bring together the people of Greater New Haven and the State of Connecticut with visitors from other cities, states and countries through an annual celebration of artists and thinkers from around the globe.” In its inaugural year, IFAI offered programming for a five day period, drawing 45,000 attendees. Today, the Festival spans 15 days and has posted attendance figures of more than 140,000.
The Festival has significant economic impact on greater New Haven and the State of Connecticut. Each year this impact is analyzed by Quinnipiac University, based on data from random surveys gathered at the Festival. In 2012, the overall economic impact was calculated at $25 million to the State of Connecticut
Throughout its first 17 years, the Festival has maintained its spirit of innovation and commitment to “firsts,” including both premieres and debuts by international artists as well as artistic projects created with our community. The list includes such things as the American premiere of the Tony-award winning Copenhagen; the Metropolitan Opera’s first concert in Connecticut; the U.S. debut of the renowned Trio Mediæval; the world premiere of Ardent Song Redux, the recreation of a significant work by Martha Graham; the world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s score for Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke; the creation of Dixwell, a dance theater piece created by the Urban Bush Women together with residents of the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven; the 2008 Festival Finale, created by the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange through intense community engagement in their project Radical Acts of Prayer; the world premiere of String Quartet No. 3 by Christopher Rouse; the Connecticut premiere of the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma; and the World Premiere of love fail by composer David Lang.
1. World-class Artists and Thinkers
In 2013, the Festival continued its tradition of presenting important local, national, and international premieres: Freewheelers from New Haven's own A Broken Umbrella Theatre; US Premiere of a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a collaboration from the team behind the Tony Award-winning Broadway and West End smash, War Horse; first performances of the first tour of Stuck Elevator by Byron Au Yong and New Haven's Aaron Jafferis. In addition, the Festival was privileged to present the first performance in the 40th Anniversary Tour of the celebrated Kronos Quartet.
2. Powerful Economic Impact
The 2013 Festival generated a $34 million economic impact to the State of Connecticut and our region.
3. Free Access to Performances
In 2013, 85% of the Festival’s events were free. Free programming attendance represented 89% of the 2013 Festival's audience, totaling 138,985. This included 5 headliner performances on the New Haven Green, Ideas Program, walking, bike and food tours, master classes, family-friendly programming and more.
4. Hosted the 2013 Governor's Arts Awards
Recognized by the Connecticut Office of the Arts and the Governor's Office as a premiere arts and culture organization, the Festival was invited to host the 2013 Governor's Arts Awards Ceremony. The Festival enhanced the awards ceremony by integrating it into its Ideas Program and Opening Night Performance.
5. Financial Stability
In spite of the recession, the Festival remains debt-free.
The Festival’s current, primary goals are to offer or undertake:
1. An Outstanding 2014 Festival program
Plans are underway for an excellent program for 2014, with pledges already in place from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and New England Foundation for the Arts, as well as from numerous individual supporters.
2. Continued Commitment to the Arts & Ideas Fellowship Program and Expansion of Opportunities in Life-Long Learning
Over the last four years, the Festival has offered the Arts & Ideas Fellowship Program, designed to give high school juniors and seniors exposure to careers in the arts. The program combines instruction in critical writing, nonprofit management and various performing arts disciplines, with opportunities for job shadowing and hands-on work experience. The program has grown to include internship and short-term employment opportunities for program alumni. We are building on this model to plan expanded learning opportunities for our community.
3. New Engagement in the New Haven Neighborhoods
In 2013, in collaboration with neighborhood steering committees, the Festival seeded two neighborhood Festivals, fondly referred to as pop-up arts villages. These took place in the Fair Haven and Dixwell neighborhoods. The collaboration was exciting and we are planning for a return to those neighborhoods in 2014, with possible expansion to the Hill neighborhood.
4. A Regional Marketing and Development Expansion Initiative
As the Festival’s reputation grows nationally and internationally, we are undertaking new efforts to make our programs better known regionally and to identify regional funding support.
The Festival needs:
1. …investment from outside Greater New Haven.
The Festival relies on the philanthropy of the Greater New Haven region, but even the most generous local and regional philanthropy can only go so far to support the important work of the many non-profits in the region. Because the Festival has developed a national and international profile and is recognized as a premiere cultural event between New York City and Boston, we are expanding our development effort to seek support from donors outside Greater New Haven who understand the impact of the Festival’s unique mix of programming.
2. …an increase its working capital reserve.
Building on the important work of the Greater New Haven Arts Stabilization Project, the Festival has built a working capital reserve, which has allowed us to self-finance operations and, on occasion, on a short-term basis, to fund operating deficits. In order to maintain the flexibility allowed by such a reserve, as well as to make financial commitments to secure exciting, innovative programs for the future, the Festival needs to increase the size of this reserve to $2.5 million.
3. …advocacy by our stakeholders.
Because state and municipal officials have recognized the impact of the Festival on our region’s cultural and economic vitality, they have continued to authorize significant public funding. If the current recession continues, and even more difficult decisions must be made about public budgets, it will be extremely important for Festival supporters to communicate their convictions about the Festival’s importance to their legislators.
The impact of the Festival’s programming is found in its unity and integration. The spirit of the Festival is very well described in an article by Jan Ellen Spiegel in The New York Times on June 3, 2011. Please read the beginning of the article here and go to the Times on-line to read the rest!
Arts and Ideas Festival Extends Reach Across Borders
BRINGING Yo-Yo Ma to the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, which begins its annual two-week run here next weekend, has been one of Mary Lou Aleskie’s goals since she became the festival’s executive director in 2005.
“Every year I would call and say, ‘Gee, is there any chance blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?’ “ she recalled. “So this year I didn’t call — and they called us!”
The timing was not only right for Mr. Ma and a dozen members of his Silk Road Project — a cross-cultural melding of musicians, contemporary compositions, musical traditions and instruments — it was also perfect for the festival’s opening night.
But Ms. Aleskie took it one more step. She persuaded the festival board to raise the extra $300,000 needed to move the performance to the New Haven Green and present it at no charge.
Mr. Ma’s reaction? “Very cool,” he said... “I think there’s tremendous value to have things be free or at such low cost you’re not preventing people from coming. That would be my favorite way to make music.”
Equally important, he added, was being able to dovetail Silk Road’s mission — using music to unite disparate cultures, build community and provide education that is “entertaining but not preachy” — with the festival’s similar cornerstone.
“It speaks to our ideals,” he said. “It challenges our performance chops, and it’s something we all believe in.”
With Mr. Ma as the headliner, the festival, now in its 16th year, has emerged as a “must stop” for far-flung artists, performers and thinkers who embrace its mission to make global arts and ideas accessible in a format that is far more than a string of dozens of performances. The events — some free, some ticketed — include music, dance and theater performances; bike and food tours; and exhibitions and panel discussions, all united, however loosely, under this year’s theme, “Across Borders, Beyond Time.”
“We try to let the most interesting opportunities and projects take the lead,” saidCathy Edwards, the festival’s director of performance programs, who, along with Ms. Aleskie, literally scours the planet for participants. “There’s always a thematic zeitgeist that unites those works. It’s not too hard to find.”
Funding for the Festival is an investment that yields tremendous value. Our record of success has been fueled by a dynamic private and public partnership that now leverages more than $2.00 from private sources for every $1 of public funding. Increasingly, the Festival attracts direct investments from foreign ministries of culture who send dollars into Connecticut with their artists.
Statistical Overview: Since the Festival’s 1996 inaugural year, more 1.6 million audience members have enjoyed 3,853 events by 10,330 artists from the region, the nation and 78 foreign countries.
The Festival: Generates a Significant Annual Economic Impact
Promotes Connecticut as a Tourist Destination
Provides Free Family Programming
Each year the Festival gathers people from all over the region to hear headline concerts free on the New Haven Green. Headline performers are chosen to reflect the great variety of cultures and individuals in our region. In 2011 headline performances included the Connecticut premiere of the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma; José Condé and his nu Latin groove, playing pan-Latin, world fusion; Natalie MacMaster, a fiery Cape Breton fiddler; the Ebony Hillbillies, a premier black string band with the Deedle Deedle Dees, a folk group using multiple styles to teach kids about American history, the natural world and social action; and, finally, Freshlyground, the band from southern Africa known as the featured band in Shakira’sWaka Waka (This Time for Africa), the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Excerpt from an article in the New Haven Register, June 12, 2011
NEW HAVEN — Graysen Byrnes just turned five, but she’s already such a fan of cellist Yo-Yo Ma that her excitement over seeing him perform Saturday night wasn’t curtailed at all by a soggy Green and intermittent downpours.Actually, it was all heightened by the prospect of post-concert puddle jumping, her mom, Katie Byrnes, said. ...We knew, as long as we could, we’d be here,” dad said. “It’s important to bring her here because it’s important she gets culture rather than just Disney princesses.” …
Excerpt from an article in the New Haven Independent…
by Paul Bass, 6/22/09
The gospel-turned-R&B singer didn’t give up. That was the point.
It took two summers and three tries to get Mavis Staples headlining an Arts & Ideas Festival concert on the Green. Mother Nature kept getting in the way.
When Staples finally made it onstage … Sunday night, it was a triumph. A triumph of song, of course. And a triumph of perseverance.…
Perseverance was the text as well as the context of the evening. Mavis Staples took the audience back through her five decade-long career, from the family’s beginnings as a gospel-circuit group, through its alliance with Martin Luther King, Jr. … In Staples’ telling, it was all about setting a goal and never looking back. “Keep your eyes on the prize,” she sang. “Hold on.”…
Comment posted by Steve: A wonderful, emotional, living lesson in history for all the young people on the Green! Awesome!
The Festival offers unparalleled opportunity for our audiences to see the finest in performing arts from around the nation and the world. In 2011, nearly 8,000 people attended 40 ticketed events in 15 days! The art forms included theater (both solo storytelling and profound ensemble theater), music (contemporary concert music, chamber opera, world music, jazz, folk and new musicals in workshop performances), dance (by two contemporary American masters, Susan Marshall and Bill T. Jones) and food! These marvelous experiences took place in 19 different venues around the city: 5 traditional theater spaces at Yale and 14 downtown restaurants. Our audiences saw the only New York area performance of the US Tour of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” and attended workshop performances of musical theater destined for future success. All of these experiences were world-class art, all with modest ticket prices.
Mark Morris’s…“Dido and Aeneas” — a staging excellent as dance and phenomenal as dramatic poetry — had its premiere in Brussels 20 years ago. This week the Mark Morris Dance Group performed it … at the Shubert Theater as part of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas with a cast entirely composed of artists who have joined the company since then. Mr. Morris has made some works that are superior in their wealth of dance invention but nothing so abundant in meanings, suggestions and imagination. … I hope New York and other cities can see the production soon.
7/7/2008 – New Haven Register: In a study by the Urban Institute entitled “Cultural Vitality in Communities,” New Haven … ranked in the top ten communities in the country in the number of arts organizations, community celebrations, festivals and arts-related jobs. The study points to the incredible contribution the arts make to a rich quality of life and to the success of businesses…
In keeping with our commitment to build community through engagement with Festival programs, the Ideas program often includes panels about contemporary political and social issues. In 2011, for example, we presented the panels “Bridging the U.S.-China Cultural Divide: the Role of Chinese-Americans in U.S.-China Relations,” “Haiti: Models for Rebirth,” and “Music, Warfare, and the Soldier’s Story.”
Frequently, Ideas programs introduce the audience to performances scheduled for future festivals, such as the 2010 conversation between choreographer Bill T. Jones and poet Elizabeth Alexander, anticipating the appearance of Jones’s company in 2011. Panels often highlight the cultural diversity of our community, such as the 2011 “Freedom’s Journey: Poetic Reflections on African American Legacies.”
"I was greatly moved by this panel and have written about it on my blog. On the internet there are many stories about experiences in the military, but it is harder to find the success stories of those that have returned. I hope Col. Hoge’s book will encourage warriors to write about both sides of their experiences, as therapy and as role models for others. I received a comment from the child of a German WWII veteran on my blog, which reminds me that this isn’t only an American issue. Keep the dialog open and I look forward to more programs honoring our veterans in future festivals."
Each year the Festival offers extensive free programming beyond the headline concerts on the Green. In 2011, for example, we offered the following: 42 walking and bike tours around greater New Haven, led by knowledgeable guides; 4 Master Classes offered by the visiting professional artists in their fields of expertise (Haitian dance accompanied by conga drumming; modern/contemporary dance; and Indian classical dance); 24 family-friendly lunchtime and evening concerts on weekdays; an 8-part film-and-conversation series co-presented with Yale Summer Session and the Yale Summer Film Institute; and “Box City,” a two-day family activity focused on building a dream city.
The Arts & Ideas Fellowship Program is designed to give high school juniors and seniors exposure to careers in the arts, as they prepare to pursue college and/or enter the workforce. The program combines instruction in critical writing with an introduction to arts management and various performing arts disciplines, as well as opportunities for job shadowing and hands-on work experience around Festival events. We believe that the arts contribute to the overall vitality and connectedness of our community and that exposure to the arts by our young people is especially critical to their future success.
Ed is attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia this fall.
Explaining the Festival to a newcomer is a challenging and interesting task. Each annual event is a complex web of interconnected artistic performances and programs relating to the arts, culture, humanities, and social and political questions. Program planning begins by taking a look at the work of outstanding artists of international stature. In the early stages, one of the most important questions we must answer for ourselves is this: Could a performance of this work by this artist form the core of an extraordinary experience for our region? To determine the answer to that question, we ask many more, such as:
1. Has the artist been seen in our region before?
2. Can we deepen the understanding of this particular work of art and help reveal its meaning by the other programs we can offer around it?
3. Might this work highlight the cultural assets already present in our community?
4. Will this work deepen the everyday experiences of people in our community?
5. Will this work help celebrate the diversity of our community and help us to know one another better?
6. Is there a way in which the specific assets of our community can enrich the experience of the artists?
7. Does the program as a whole provide numerous points of entry (whether artistic genres, cultural traditions, or themes) so that diverse audiences can find their connection to it? Will people come?
8. Does this work complement other programs being planned? Is there a connective tissue among and between the programs?
And then there are the practical questions: Is there a good enough mix of artistic disciplines? Do the dates line up? Can we afford these works?
In the end, all the interlocking pieces—including all the interest and knowledge and experience that the audiences and participants bring—come together to create the experience that is the Festival, definitely a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Executive Director at IFAI since September 2005, Ms. Aleskie has provided leadership at the helm of numerous international organizations and projects as an executive, producer and presenter, in the support of landmark premieres as well as masterworks of the performing arts.
Prior to the Festival, Ms. Aleskie served as President/CEO of La Jolla Music Society,San Diego's premier presenter of world-renowned orchestras, dance companies, and soloists, as well as the producer of the award-winning chamber music festival La Jolla Summer Fest. Her decade-long tenure as Executive Director of Da Camera of Houston resulted in the company's first major international tours to include the world's most prestigious venues, from the Barbican Centre to the Kennedy Center.
Liz Fisher has worked for the Festival for the past fifteen years. Before moving to New Haven, she spent two years in Atlanta,Georgia, where she contracted the Cultural Olympiad for the 1996 Olympic Games. Prior to that, she toured with the circus for twenty years, the last three as the Associate General Manager for the Big Apple Circus. She is married to John Fisher, Executive Director of the Shubert Theater.
Art Priromprintr has previously worked in marketing for Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, one of the nation’s largest theater companies (managing the Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre) and was interim marketing director for the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at California State University, Los Angeles. He has also worked in various capacities for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and the Music Center of Los Angeles County. He holds an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama and a BA in English Literature from the University of Southern California.
Melissa Huber holds an AB in History from Princeton University and an MFA in Theater Management from the Yale School of Drama where she received The Morris J. Kaplan Award. Melissa has previously worked at the Guthrie Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Magic Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, and Ensemble Theatre Company. A member of the League of Professional Theatre Women, she is also founding member and the Managing Director of Prospect Theater Company in New York City.
Collaboration is essential to the Festival's commitment to create an event that all citizens in the region will point to with pride and claim as their own. In an average year, we work with more than 150 arts and community groups. For example:
· Arts presenters, museums & galleries: Shubert Theater, Long Wharf Theatre, Yale museums, New Haven Museum, and Young Audiences of Connecticut
· Arts agencies & membership organizations: NH Office of Cultural Affairs, Arts Council of Greater NH, and Connecticut DECD/Office of the Arts
· Professional and amateur arts organizations: New Haven Symphony, Music Haven, and Bregamos Community Theater,
· Educational institutions: NH Public Schools, New Haven’s six colleges and universities, Neighborhood Music School, and ACES
· Social Service, Neighborhood, and Faith-based Organizations: Junta for Progressive Action, Christian Community Action, and Community Management Teams
· All branches of the NH Free Public Library
We share or rent venues; coordinate plans; offer performance opportunities; advertise each others' programs; provide resident artists with technical assistance; co-present & co-produce events; and engage in dialogue about program ideas.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Greater New Haven is home to a thriving arts community that includes theatre, music, dance and the visual arts. It is invested in its museums, historic preservation and the celebration of its members’ ethnic and cultural diversity.
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