In 25 years we have been lucky to work with so many great performers and through all of those years there have been so many people working together behind the scenes to make it all happen and we want to share some of their stories and memories with you now.

Anne Calabresi, Jean Handley, and Roslyn Meyer founded the Festival 25 years ago, in 1996, gathering world-class artists and thinkers from around the globe. They 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.

Since its founding, the Festival has become one of New England’s most significant cultural undertakings, attracting audiences of more than 100,000 people each June. In 2008, the New York Times called the Festival “a happening hard to top for sheer scale and variety,” and in 2020 in an arts season marked by cancellations due to Covid-19, the Festival distinguished itself by pivoting to the digital space and highlighting local artists, thinkers, and doers.

“From GoPro biking tours to performances broadcast in assisted living homes to Zoom cooking classes with food kits from local restaurants replacing the food bazaars and tastings of past festivals, Arts & Ideas is finding alternate ways to bring people together,” said American Theatre.

Our founders believed, as we do today, that presenting authors, scientists, and leading innovators alongside outstanding artists heightens our ability to understand our world and each other. The Festival’s additional programming includes the annual Visionary Leadership Award, celebrating a leader whose trailblazing work impacts the world, and the High School Fellowship Program, a fully funded, college-level course that immerses New Haven public school sophomores and juniors in all aspects of the Festival.

Silver Celebration Series of Performances

Stay tuned as we release a Silver Celebration Series performance on Wednesdays through mid-October!

Brooklyn-based composer and guitarist Kaki King—a Festival favorite—performed this world-premiere performance, "Final State," in honor of the Festival's Silver Anniversary. Considered one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, King has released 10 critically acclaimed albums, including “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body,” a groundbreaking multimedia performance during which she used her guitar as a projection screen to explore the genesis of the instrument and her own origin story. She has toured extensively all over the world, as well as created music for film and TV soundtracks, including Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. King’s 10th album, Modern Yesterdays, was released in Fall 2020.

You may remember Acrobuffos from their magical piece "Air Play" at University Theater in 2016. The dynamic comedic duo is back with this special world-premiere piece, "William Tell's Turmoil," in honor of the Festival's Silver Anniversary! Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone met at a circus in Afghanistan, became engaged while street performing in Scotland, married in China, and occasionally go home to New York City. Since 2005, they have created seven shows together, competed in international circus festivals, performed in over 25 countries, headlined at the Big Apple Circus, and were even featured on a postage stamp.

Co-Choreographers Hanan Hameen and Baidy Ba created this original piece for the Silver Anniversary Gala. Hanan Hameen is the Founder of the Artsucation™ Academy Network, Ms. Hanan’s Dance and Beyond, New Haven Hip-Hop Conference, Keepers of the Culture Performing Arts Company, and the Premiere Dance Company at Neighborhood Music School. She is also Artistic Director of the BAM DanceAfrica Candle Bearers founded by Baba Dr. Chuck Davis, and an adjunct professor. Ms. Hameen’s awards include three honors societies and Arts Council of Greater New Haven 2018 Phenomenal Woman and Artist Commission Awards. Baidy Ba is a Senagalese dancer, choreographer, and performer who trained in contemporary, classical dance, Afro contemporary dance, and popping and locking with several major artists and pioneers of dance in Senegal. Baidy Ba has toured internationally several companies and founded the Mbosse Dance Company. Baidy Ba is also the Founder/Director of the first 100% international Dance Festival in Kaolack and created cultural training and exchange projects for local dancers.

Silver Anniversary Gala