Arts & Ideas Takes Flight

Markeshia Ricks | April 1st, 2024

Arts & Ideas Takes Flight

Circus  |  Culture & Community  |  Immigration  |  International Festival of Arts & Ideas  |  Music  |  Arts & Culture  |  Theater


Quiala talks about all things Arts & Ideas Festival 2024 at the kickoff reception. Markeshia Ricks Photos.

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas turns 29 this summer. As it does, the upcoming celebration promises to weave together the cultural, political and intellectual threads of migration into a tapestry that is uniquely American and undoubtedly New Haven.

Festival insiders got an intimate look at this year’s festival last Thursday, during a reception highlighting the upcoming 2024 celebration. This year, the festival boasts a robust calendar that begins in April and May and crescendos with a blitz of events between June 14-29. (Check out the Arts & Ideas calendar here.)

“We actually have already started festival-ling,” Arts & Ideas Executive Director Shelly Quiala said to the crowd that gathered at the festival’s headquarters at 195 Church Street Thursday.


Festival insiders enjoy small bites from Claire’s Corner Copia at the reception.

Some of that activity begins this week. Once again, the festival is partnering with the New Haven Free Public Library for the “Big Read,” an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts that takes place in cities across the country. Starting with a kickoff at Stetson Library on April 3, readers will discuss Thi Bui’s illustrated memoir “The Best We Could Do,” which tells the story of Bui’s parents’ life in Vietnam and migration to the U.S.

During the kickoff Wednesday, Bui will participate in a virtual conversation hosted by the University of Connecticut Asian and Asian American Studies Institute and the Asian Pacific American Coalition of CT.

The book tells the story of the author and her family’s escape from Vietnam and their migration to the United States. Quiala said the narrative of migration has an intrinsic connection to New Haven’s own story of receiving immigrants from all over the world and Black American migrants from the Jim Crow South.


Inner City News Editor-in-Chief and WNHH Community Radio Host Babz Rawls Ivy.

Like Bui’s memoir, the 2024 festival will fête performers, thinkers, and events from the many countries and cultures that have helped write the Elm City’s story. Those include Italy, Ireland by way of Montreal, and several countries in Latin America, as well as a World Refugee Day celebration with the Ukrainian folk quartet DakhaBrakha and a world food bazaar.

Some of those cultures, Quiala added, are distinctly American. In a nod to the city’s jazz roots and “up South” bonafides, festival goers will have a chance to see Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Samara Joy at College Street Music Hall and the Ebony Hillbillies on the New Haven Green.

The second performance may feel like a homecoming; the group has graced the festival with its sound before. Quiala said that bringing them to New Haven this year felt especially fortuitous after musical superstar Beyoncé dropped her 27-track country-influenced album on Good Friday.

“They’re amazing,” Quiala said of the Ebony Hillbillies, “and it’s so timely. We could not have planned it better. This is our call and response with Beyoncé.”


Yale University’s Beinecke Library is among the partners for this year’s festival. 

Circus performers, which Quiala said have been highly requested (and are part of the festival's decades-long roots), will make a return with Montreal-based troupe The 7 Fingers. The group will perform their act “Duel Reality,” which she characterized as a “circus fight” based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Red Trouser Show! Circus will also be staging roving performances all over the Green.

Arts & Ideas Board Chair, the Rev. Kevin “Rev. Kev” Ewing, said he’s looking forward to all that the festival has in store for attendees this year.

“I’m excited about everything on the ticket, including the stuff I’m sure I’m not going to like,” he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I’m excited to see it anyway.”


Ewing: “I’m excited about everything on the ticket, including the stuff I’m sure I’m not going to like."

A good portion of the ideas track of the festival will also be dedicated to climate change and its impact on migration. Best selling author Amy Tan will be talking about observations on a migratory creature whose wellbeing is intrinsically linked to climate from her latest book “The Backyard Bird Chronicles.” Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson of the Urban Ocean Lab will be in conversation with John Dankosky from Science Friday on June 15.

Quiala said Johnson will share more than “gloom and doom,” but also the good news of  “what it looks like when we get it right.”

Festival goers can also look forward to the return of neighborhood festivals starting with Fair Haven on May 4. Arts & Ideas has produced neighborhood festivals for more than a decade.

For the first time ever this year, Quiala announced, Long Wharf will get a neighborhood festival, which will be held at the Canal Dock Boathouse. The area is often seen as a non-residential space between Wooster Square, downtown New Haven, and the Hill (which has its own neighborhood festival May 18).


Lindy Lee Gold, a senior development specialist with the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (CT DECD), and Quiala. 

“Come out to every neighborhood festival,” Quiala urged the crowd. “This doesn’t mean anything unless there are people to experience it.  Your co-creation is your participation.”

Quiala said this year’s festival lays the groundwork for the celebration of the festival turning 30 next year.

“We’re really starting that momentum now so by the time we get to 2025 it’s a full blown party,” she said.