IdeaFestival Promotes Culture Of Collaboration

Some of the world’s most celebrated thinkers and inventors were known for having mastered not one discipline, but many. Charles and Ray Eames, for example, weren’t able to perfect the aesthetic design for the now-ubiquitous Eames chair until after they’d studied anatomy in order to build leg braces for wounded servicemen. The entire concept of the liberal arts university, similarly, is predicated on the belief that a well-rounded individual will be specially equipped to contribute innovation, art and ideas to society.

Every year, a unique event in Louisville celebrates this notion, that people who expand their minds by learning about various disciplines can change the world around them. IdeaFestival, founded in 2000, is a “celebration for the intellectually curious” which brings together a diverse group of innovators and thinkers in the arts, technology, business, philosophy, education and design, to present and discuss a wide variety of topics. Held each Fall at, and around, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the conference combines thought-provoking sessions with an informal atmosphere, world-renowned experts and curious citizens from all professions and walks of life.

“The original idea was to create something similar to the Sundance film festival, for ideas, innovation, as opposed to film, so it’s not meant to be kind of a conference, in a sense. It’s very eclectic, it’s very dynamic. It’s really meant to be this sort of high-energy event for people to kind of come together and discuss and explore,” explained IdeaFestival’s Founder, Kris Kimel.

The four-day-long event, which begins Wednesday, Sept. 19, will feature presenters and panelists ranging from Kevin Colleran, one of the first employees of Facebook, to Lisa Randall, a cosmologist and particle physicist from Harvard University, to Nikky Finney, who recently received the National Book Award for poetry. Past years’ events have featured such notables as Steve Wozniak, Co-Founder of Apple, and Naomi Tutu, the Human Rights activist. In order to create what they’ve titled a “collaborative environment of disruptive change,” the organizers of IdeaFestival each year bring together a carefully-selected network of varied innovators who possess skills that can be used for positive change, and ask them to share their knowledge with the Louisville community.

“It’s very much about solutions, it’s not just about ideas,” Kimel emphasized. “We work very hard during the festival and afterwards (to determine) basically, how do you take ideas, how do you take innovation, how do you combine those things to pretty much solve problems, whether they be big or small? Also, it’s very much focused on the applied part of ideas – how you use novel ideas, innovation, to solve problems, sometimes in very new and different ways.”

Whether one is a college student studying disease research, a successful CEO, a designer in search of inspiration or just a curious student of life, the events at IdeaFestival are certain to offer new insights and unexpected connections. While it’s up to each person if those things lead to art, innovation or simply a larger circle of intellectual contacts, it’s safe to assume that, in today’s global economy, a more diverse base of knowledge will always be an asset, and will likely also be a pleasure to cultivate.

“I go to all of the events,” remarked Kimel. “For me, it’s a professional development exercise and opportunity, like it is for many people, and I encourage all of our staff to go. I learn a tremendous amount at each festival. There’s a lot of great events I’m looking forward to … and I really look forward to the diversity of people.”

IdeaFestival will be held primarily at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, 501 W. Main St., Sept. 19 through 22. For information about IdeaFestival sessions, locations, registration and ticket prices, call 502.966.4607 or visit

Idea Festival 2012 Schedule of Events

Wednesday, September 19
8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Thrivals 5.0

9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
IF Labs – free, registration required

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Opening Reception – for all-access pass holders, sponsors and presenters only

8 – 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, September 20
8 – 8:45 a.m.
IF Mash-Up: Dynamics of Chess & Business Strategy with Maurice Ashley – for all-access pass holders, sponsors and presenters only

9 – 10 a.m.
Little Bets and Peter Sims – SOLD OUT!

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
How the Hippies Saved Physics with David Kaiser –SOLD OUT!

noon – 1 p.m.
Kevin Colleran (lunch provided) – SOLD OUT!

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Bully with Cynthia Lowen – SOLD OUT!

3 – 4 p.m.
Reimagining Higher Education with Richard DeMillo – SOLD OUT!

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
How “Emotion Data” Will Reshape Healthcare with Rosaland Picard – SOLD OUT!

6 – 8 p.m.
Taste of Innovation – tickets available

8:30 – 9:45 p.m.
Magic After Dark with David Williamson – SOLD OUT!

Friday, September 21
8 – 8:45 a.m.
IF Mash-Up: The Future of Health and Longevity with panel: Shankar Ram, John Reinheart and Therese White – for all-access holders, sponsors and presenters only

9 – 10 a.m.
Grimanesa Amoros – SOLD OUT!

9 a.m. – noon
IF Origins (formerly IF Kids) – separate registration

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Art on the Edge – SOLD OUT!

noon – 1 p.m.
We Meant Well with Peter Van Buren (Lunch provided) – SOLD OUT!

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Baratunde Thurston – SOLD OUT!

3 – 4 p.m.
The Finland Phenomenon with Tony Wagner – SOLD OUT!

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Nikky Finney – SOLD OUT!

8 – 9 p.m.
Ali Ferzat –SOLD OUT!

9:30 p.m.
Spleling Be – free, registration required to be a contestant)

Saturday, September 22
8 – 8:45 a.m.
IF Mash-Up: Where Do Good Ideas Come From? With panel: Liz Cohen, Joel Pett and Jason Pontin – for all-access pass holders, sponsors and presenters only

9 – 10 a.m.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door with Lisa Randall – tickets available

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Shakespeare Behind Bars – tickets available

noon – 1 p.m.
Jodie Wu (lunch provided) – tickets available

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
John Barker – tickets available

2 – 11 p.m.
NuLu Festival – free, open to the public

3 – 4 p.m.
Mental_floss’ Golden Lobes – tickets available

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Greg Van Kirk – tickets available

8 – 9:30 p.m.
Kogan on Beethoven – tickets available