When Anna Abraham first visited Athens, it struck her as the perfect place to host a cultural festival —- an event that could unite artists, academics, writers and performers around a common conceptual theme.
A psychologist and neuroscientist, Abraham joined the University of Georgia faculty last year as a professor in the College of Education and director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development, an organization focused on researching creativity and developing innovative education techniques.
Next month, Abraham will make her vision of a cultural festival into reality. The Torrance Center will host its first Festival of Ideas from April 23-25 online via Eventfinity. Admittance will be free, but require advance registration and be limited to a thousand participants.
The event will consist of presentations from 21 individual speakers and six local nonprofits. While their subject matters vary greatly, the presenters are thematically tied by the idea of human connection, Abraham said.
“The Festival of Ideas is really a celebration of the heterogeneity of ideas of our world,” Abraham said. “It’s a way for people who have an exciting, groundbreaking, new, unique or just really interesting idea to talk in an open matter with the general public.”
Topics will range from the business-oriented to the deeply personal, the artistic to the scientific and everything in between.
Sycarah Fisher will present a talk titled “Racial Identity: A Promising Protective Factor for Minoritized Populations,” while Joan Koenig will address the musical capabilities of children. Susan Cohen will lead an interactive session on entrepreneurship, and organizations such as Books for Keeps and Love.Craft Athens are also set to present.
The Torrance Center is also seeking art submissions exploring the theme “Reflections on 2020,” according to the Festival of Ideas website. These works will be compiled into a digital booklet and distributed to festival attendees, said Samantha Bonnet, a senior public relations major and student event coordinator for the Torrance Center.
“With 2020 being such a chaotic year … we think a lot of beauty and artistic work could come out of [the digital booklet],” Bonnet said. “We want to showcase what people went through … commemorate the last year in a way that’s not so negative and dull.”
Submissions, which can be literary, musical or visual, are open to all and accepted through the Festival of Ideas website.
Bonnet is hopeful that the Festival of Ideas will spark creativity among attendees.
“I think it’s going to have people leaving inspired, and wanting to research a certain topic or get more into something artistic,” Bonnet said.
Abraham expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m a great fan of the unexpected,” she said. “I would be really interested… just to see the collaborations and inspirations that come out [of the festival]. I’m just interested in the magic of it.”