About the International Festival of Arts & Ideas


Virtual Festival 2020

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas celebrates its 25th anniversary with a variety of online artistic experiences, virtual food experiences, cell phone-guided walking tours, and various NEA Big Read activities. The virtual Ideas programming centered on the theme “Democracy: We the People” features interactive events and conversations with vital thinkers, including 2012 Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, award-winning scholar Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, NEA Big Read Author Stephanie Burt, and renowned writer Anand Giridharadas. All programming is free.

This year’s Festival is very different from any we’ve done before. This isn’t the 25th Anniversary we imagined, but it’s a Festival we can all take part in—and love.


Our Mission

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.


Our History

When Anne Calabresi, Jean Handley and Roslyn Meyer founded the Festival in 1996, their aim was to gather world-class artists and thinkers from around the globe, showcasing the city and the state as a major arts destination. Our Mission, as set by our founders, 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.

There is a powerful synergy that happens when authors, scientists, and leading innovators are presented alongside outstanding artists. Our founders believed, as we do today, that when great ART and big IDEAS come together, we heighten our ability to understand and imagine. Our Festival was modeled after the great European arts festivals including Edinburgh Festival, which was founded in the ashes of World War II. The underlying goal of our festival and those worldwide is to bring people together to increase international understanding, social cohesion, and celebrate diversity.


New Haven

New Haven is one of the most diverse, creative and welcoming small cities in New England. We have a rich history and outstanding academic institutions including Yale where many of our events take place. New Haven is a walkable “human-scale” city with shops, outstanding restaurants, museums, boutique hotels and several parking areas. There is public transportation from Metro North train station and we are off I-95 and I-91. Set in the beautiful hills and estuaries of Connecticut, New Haven is home to the Quinnipiac tribe, a storied colonial history and a long tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world. One out of every eight residents is foreign-born and our students speak over 100 languages at home. Although immigration is a complex issue, residents widely agree that our diversity is the primary source of our cultural, social and economic health. We think that’s something we should all celebrate.