Big Ideas 2021

All programming is presented free of charge and will be streamed live on Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch, and our Virtual Stage. Please note that World-Building with Moiya McTier is a workshop and will be presented on Zoom (registration and links will be added to the event page when available).

Contemplate Black futures with Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza and the Narrative Project's Mercy Quaye; honor Indigenous wisdom with Madeline Sayet, US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, and Native activist and professor Kyle Whyte; celebrate communal love and mutual aid with founder and visionary of Love Fed New Haven Raven A. Blake; and organize a solidarity economy with New Haven's own Collab cofounder Margaret Lee.

The Ideas conversations bring together vital thinkers and doers to engage with national and international issues through the microcosm of the culturally rich, diverse, and complex communities of New Haven.

During this year of change and transition, we are protesting for Black lives and abolition, honoring Indigenous wisdom and rights, developing vaccines in mere months, changing administrations, and finding new ways to gather and care for each other. It’s a powerful time to Imagine new ways of being. Last year's Ideas program, focused on the theme of democracy, examined the world and its systems as it is; this year, we invite you to imagine and manifest a different world with us.

The Ideas Program is presented in partnership with Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional leadership support from our media sponsor CT Public.

Joy Harjo in Conversation with Madeline Sayet

An NEA Big Read Event


The first Native American Poet Laureate and a member of the Muscogee Nation, Joy Harjo will reflect on her award-winning body of work, including An American Sunrise: Poems, the Festival’s selection for the 2021 year’s NEA Big Read.

Listening to Earth: Indigenous Wisdom & Climate Futures

An NEA Big Read Event


Hear from Indigenous voices on the climate knowledge that has existed in their communities for generations and the practical solutions that can spur a better collective attempt at caring for our planet.

The Legacy & Future of Love as Liberation

A Panel on Mutual Aid


A conversation with global majority organizers and artisans who have been doing mutual aid prior to the pandemic.

Indigenous Writers of Connecticut

An NEA Big Read Event in partnership with the New Haven Museum


This panel discussion will inform our deeper understanding of contemporary indigenous culture and the living writers - our neighbors - who represent its diversity and strength.

The 15 Minute City: Imagining the Future of Transportation

In partnership with: The CT Mirror & Pickard Chilton


Join radio journalist and moderator John Dankosky for this series of short presentations followed by a panel discussion on human-centered cities.

New Haven Pride Center Day of Action: LGBTQ+ Racial Justice

In partnership with the New Haven Pride Center


A full-day mini-conference combating racism in the LGBTQ+ community through discussion, group learning, and artistic perspectives.

New Haven Museum Founders Chat: Finding Your Rhythm

In partnership with the New Haven Museum


Alisa Bowens-Mercado in conversation with Randi McCray on entrepreneurship and creative passion.

Reimagining Economies: Entrepreneurship and Building A Solidarity Economy

In partnership with Collab New Haven


A panel discussion on the role of entrepreneurship in creating a solidarity economy that benefits all. 

WORKSHOP: World-Building with Moiya McTier


Kick-start your creative flow by learning how to build fictional worlds with astrophysicist and folklorist Moiya McTier.

Crowning Glory: The Art of Hair


Hosted by the Festival's Director of Programming and Community Impact, this panel of community advocates, beauty experts, and multi-dimensional artists will discuss topics ranging from the politics and art of hair to styling trends.

Monuments and Collective Memory


Adriane Jefferson, Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of New Haven, leads a panel of artists and experts in conversation about how monuments shape the fabric of our landscapes and serve as permanent reminders of what and who our society values.

Imagine a World Without Prisons


In this panel, abolitionists imagine a different justice system that moves beyond punishment into transformative justice that works for all, not some.

How Artists Shape Our Future


New Haven Director of Cultural Affairs Adriane Jefferson leads a talk among many of the festival’s main headliners on the topic of what a future honoring artistic diversity can (and should!) look like.

Brilliant Boba: Amplifying Asian Voices

In partnership with Yale China


This discussion, led by Brilliant Boba, a team composed of storytellers, artists, and educators in New Haven, will provide attendees with creative resources that build intercultural empathy and social emotional skills.

Honoring Our Bodies: A Future For All Abilities


A panel on creating a world that accommodates all abilities and communities of care.

Imaginando un Mundo sin Muros, Jaulas y Detención

In partnership with Melting the Ice


Luis Luna guiará este panel de discusión en el que una breve introducción al sistema de detención actual de ICE servirá como punto de partida para imaginar cómo se vería un mundo sin ICE.

Everything You Touch, You Change: Visionary Science Fiction and Liberation

In partnership with The Schwarzman Center


Award-winning luminaries will touch on themes of Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler, and bringing a creative approach to our understanding of what social justice initiatives of the future might look like.  

Black Futures

In partnership with The Narrative Project


Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) movement, organizer, and civil rights activist Alicia Garza will sit down with Mercy Quaye, Founder and President of The Narrative Project, in a one-on-one conversation about the future of black lives in America.