Kris Kimel, founder of the IdeaFestival, announced on Tuesday that the event would be scaled back this year as it undergoes “a complete re-evaluation and reinvention of every aspect of the enterprise.”
In a phone interview, Kimel said, “We just decided it’s time we stepped back and look at everything with an eye toward reimagining, rethinking the festival.”
Everything is on the table, he said, except one thing: There are no plans to move IF from Louisville.
“We need to come up with a sustainable financial plan. Trying to raise money each year is not a viable financial strategy,” Kimel said. “Every year, it’s been a struggle.”
In fact, the festival is built on sponsorships, with ticket sales contributing just one-fourth of the financing, he said. “Generally speaking, we don’t know if the festival will be fully funded until August.”
Meanwhile, the organizers want to keep the price point low so that more people have the opportunity to attend the festival, which celebrates creativity and offers a network of “global thinkers and innovators connected by an intense curiosity about what is impacting and shaping the future of the arts, business, technology, design, science, philosophy, education.”
That’s what differentiates IF from a lot of other festivals, Kimel said. “From Day 1, we wanted to create an event available to a lot of people, not dependent on them spending their whole paycheck.”
For the rest of this year and into 2018, Kimel said organizers would be working with the broader IF community to “design an exciting, sustainable model for the future.” Already they have been reaching out to lots of different people to see what their thoughts were, Kimel said. “We want to make sure it’s not stale.”
This year’s festival will be two days, not three, Sept. 27-28, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, led by the presenting sponsor, Delta Dental of Kentucky. Festival passes are now on sale for $249.
The abbreviated event will still be preceded by Thrivals 10.0, led by Dr. Nat Irvin, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, which is geared toward a younger audience. And the festival will still offer the annual Taste reception, Kimel said.
IF, which describes itself as “a leading space for imagination, disruptive thinking and curious minds,” announced on Tuesday its initial speakers. They include:
- John King – CNN chief national correspondent and anchor of “Inside Politics.”
- Timothy Harlan M.D. – physician, chef, author and director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University.
- Emily Dreyfuss – senior writer at Wired, covers the intersection of technology and society including monitoring trends, innovations and factors that influence the future.
- Peter Gray – American psychologist and professor at Boston College, who explores how unleashing the human instinct to play makes children happier, more self-reliant and better learners for life (in partnership with Bernheim Forest).
In the announcement, Kimel explained the rationale for why organizers were working to reboot the festival now.
“Since our first event in Lexington in 2000, IdeaFestival has relentlessly stressed the importance of creativity, discovery and high-speed innovation. Given the nature of this annual event, we inevitably must start planning the next IdeaFestival the day after the previous one ends. A lot has changed since we started down this path and everything is on the table…and we believe it’s time to rethink and reinvent IdeaFestival for the future – from overall design to content and production to our financial sustainability.”