Festival of Ideas brings great minds to Edmonton

Authors Colm Tóibín and Joyce Carol Oates join comic-book master Art Spiegelman to headline showcase of leading thinkers and artists.


(Edmonton) Created in 2008 as a University of Alberta centenary legacy gift to its communities, the Festival of Ideas is once again set to showcase the U of A’s intellectual contributions to Edmonton and help build on the city’s rich cultural tradition.

The U of A is bringing some of the world's great minds to Edmonton Nov. 20–23 to push the limits of conventional wisdom in an effort to deepen the connections between science and the arts.

“The Festival of Ideas weaves together scholarship, learning and discovery to bring about important conversations within the community,” said Debra Pozega Osburn, U of A vice-president of university relations. “It brings thought leaders from near and far to Edmonton to engage in our many communities, including our faculty, staff and students. It encourages debate, discussion and deep thinking on a range of issues that we all care deeply about.”

Organizers of this year’s festival chose “Utopia/Dystopia: From Heroes to Villains” as the theme, inviting guests whose work examines how pursuing the utopian dream of a more humane, just and equal world often leads to initial outcomes that are anything but.

Headlining this year’s festival is famed American novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who will be engaged by CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel in a wide-ranging discussion.

Cartoonist and comic-book advocate Art Spiegelman will take the audience through a chronological tour of the evolution of comics, emphasizing the value of this medium, and the award-winning Irish author of The Story of the Night (1997) and The Master (2004), Colm Tóibín, will join the Edmonton Journal’s Elizabeth Withey in an onstage conversation to open the festivities Nov. 20.

The week will also feature a talk entitled “The Psychology of Scarcity” by Princeton behavioural psychology professor Eldar Shafir; an Indigenous Peoples Panel that includes Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Marie Wilson, Aboriginal Olympian and CBC broadcaster Waneek Horn-Miller, First Nations artist Aaron Paquette, and Aboriginal educator and leader George Lafond; as well as the annual Tory Lecture to be given by the U of A’s Ibolja Cernak, who recently travelled to Afghanistan to study the resilience of our armed forces first-hand.

The festival will also feature the ever-popular Kids’ Festival of Ideas at Enterprise Square on Nov. 22, and a performance in Camrose by Edmonton’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, Canada’s only professional Ukrainian dance company.

“We see the Festival of Ideas as an important contribution to the intellectual life of the city,” said Pozega Osburn. “It also connects the University of Alberta to the broader community, consistent with the promise by our founding president, Henry Marshall Tory, that the university would be dedicated to “uplifting the whole people.”

Pozega Osburn adds that an event of this magnitude comes courtesy of its founding sponsor Capital Power, its festival partners—the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Arts Council—and many event sponsors.

“This festival would not be possible without our community partners and corporate sponsors who believe strongly in this event, and who enabled organizers to bring together some of the world’s most interesting and provocative thinkers, writers, artists and scientists.”

To find out more or get tickets to Festival of Ideas events, visit festivalofideas.ca