Nuclear Formation: The Foundation of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

Residents of New Haven, Connecticut are most likely aware of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. The International Festival of Arts and Ideas was founded in 1995 and incorporated in 1996, bringing lectures, art shows, and performances to the people of New Haven. Types of performances include theater, solo performance work, music, puppet work, slam poetry and photography exhibitions. Ideas related programs are equally as varied and has included such programs as comparing and contrasting literature in the United States and China, analysis of music about wars and soldiers, using the arts to help high-risk youths, and the state of the ecosystem of Long Island Sound. The city of New Haven is heavily utilized for the festival, with venues including Yale University, the Shubert Theater, the New Haven Green, shopping centers, and even street corners. There is also family programming, tours of different neighborhoods and institutions in the city, and master classes on a variety of topics.

By now, New Haven residents have gotten used to seeing festival flags on light posts, signs on the street pointing to venues and parking, and the massive soundstage that takes over the Green. However, a lot of folks may wonder how the Festival became such an event in the city. The answer is documented in Manuscripts and Archives recent acquisition of their records from 1988 to 2013 (International Festival of Arts and Ideas Records, MS 2021). Among fundraising records, staff files, board meeting materials, festival programs and ticket sales, and video recordings of several festival events, I found a group of files marked “Nucleus Committee.” Dating mainly back to 1995, it contains correspondence, reports, and presentations about bringing the festival to life.

The festival was started by a group of three community leaders: Anne Calabresi, Jean Handley and Roslyn “Roz” Meyer. Anne Calabresi is a social anthropologist and writer, with many philanthropic interests. She has ties with the Yale community as the wife of Second Circuit Appeals Court judge Guido Calabresi, who also serves as Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer here at the Yale law school and used to serve as their dean. Jean Handley, who sadly passed away in 2010, worked in public relations and corporate relations with companies such as the Southern New England Telephone Company (SNET) and AT&T. She also served on the Executive Board of the Long Wharf Theater. Dr. Roslyn Meyer is a psychologist who received her doctorate at Yale and decided to stay in New Haven, and worked with her husband to donate and help with many philanthropic causes in the area. She also tutored children in the community.

The three women had experience working in their communities.  Calabresi and Meyer had also already collaborated on bringing another group to life, Leadership, Education and Athletic Partnership (L.E.A.P.), which provides counselors to children in need in the New Haven area. Handley became involved in that organization as well. However, what interested the women just as much was bringing an arts festival to the New Haven area. They also were not content to leave it as simply an arts festival. They were also interested in bringing in academics and authorities on different topics to discuss ideas of historical, cultural, literary, political and scientific natures.

The women had a feeling that the New Haven area could and would sustain a festival of large size, especially after seeing the success of the Special Olympics World Games in town in 1995. According to the Festival’s website, Jean Handley started work before the Games, commissioning market research to figure out potential for a festival and even researched the time of the year where the weather would be best for such an undertaking. The data from this research was encouraging. In 1995, the women began reaching out to various contacts to help get this festival off the ground.

Contact List

The organizers, having experience in community work, had a fair idea of who they needed to speak to.

 

The reason why they decided to form it in the first place was from both a community building standpoint and an economic standpoint. The women in their various professional and philanthropic positions and roles in the community had seen the variety of people in New Haven and the variety of problems as well. They felt the arts could be a strong unifier for all. Additionally, they were interested in the impact the ideas part of their festival could have on the wider community. Economically, the founders had studied the impact of arts festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Both festivals had transformed their host cities from sleepy towns to tourist attractions with increases in business, employment, and income all around. The women felt this could help New Haven, which often has large amounts of residents struggling financially.  There was also simply the fact that they could allow artists and thinkers the chance to present and perform to a wide audience made up of many different people who come from many walks of life.

Logo design

One of the prospective logo designs for the festival

The three leaders formed what they called the Nucleus Committee. These committee members started considering budgeting, fundraising, types of programming, structure of staffing, and even naming and logos. By August of 1995, the committee had 19 members. They had made the decision that the festival would last five days the first year (1996) and would continue to grow larger as they continued to fundraise and establish stable financing. Many of the larger institutions and venues of New Haven were approached about programming, including Yale University and the Shubert Theater. They also hired a Festival Director, Norman Frisch, who kept resigning repeatedly because he did not think they could mount a festival in a year and a half with the lack of funding and staffing.  However, when he finally settled into a consultant role, the committee moved forward despite his fears and mounted their festival with performers such as the Shanghai Quartet, Le Cirque Baroque, and Bread and Puppets Theater. It turned out to be a success.

In 2015, the Festival celebrated its 20th year in New Haven and lasted from June 12 to June 27. It’s safe to say that the people behind the organization have not flagged in their drive, passion, or intensity.

Festival programs

Programs from the 1997 and 2006 festivals.

Researchers who wish to use the collection may view the finding aid here. To learn more about researching at Manuscripts and Archives in general, visit our website here.

‘Bulldog and Panther’ Exhibit Opens

Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale – Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

Bulldog and Panther exhibit poster1969 and 1970 were politically tumultuous years in the United States and indeed around the world. Unrest in U.S. urban areas and on college and university campuses focused on racial and gender inequalities, the ongoing U.S. war in Vietnam, and demands by students for more responsive and inclusive campus decision making. On 19 May 1969 Black Panther Party (BPP) member Alex Rackley was kidnapped and killed in New Haven by other BPP members who believed he was an FBI informant. In a time of intense FBI counter-intelligence focus on neutralizing the BPP’s influence in U.S. cities, the broad swath of indictments for the murder seemed an overreach to many. The defendants were referred to as the New Haven Nine, an allusion to the famous Chicago Seven, and included Bobby Seale, national BPP Chairman, who had spoken at Yale the day of the murder. Seale was extradited to Connecticut on the approval of California Governor Ronald Reagan, and the trial was set to begin in May 1970. A large protest rally was organized for the New Haven Green, scheduled for 1-3 May 1970. This exhibit explores the events leading up to the New Haven May Day rally, and its impact on Yale, the New Haven community, and beyond.

The exhibit is curated by Sarah Schmidt, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Bill Landis, Manuscripts and Archives. It is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM, through May 16, 2014.

For additional resources on the exhibit see the New Haven Register article on a discussion panel, part of a collaborative series of events inspired by the exhibit hosted by the Yale University Library and Pierson College. The panel, held on February 26th, was moderated by Yale history professor Beverly Gage and featured Kathleen Cleaver, Ann Froines, and John R. Williams. Yale TV also did a feature on the exhibit, with interesting interview segments with Henry “Sam” Chauncey, Jr.

Yale Alumni Magazine | The Lincoln Tree and the bones

In the current edition of the Yale Alumni Magazine, Chief Research Archivist Judith Schiff writes about the Lincoln Memorial Tree on New Haven Green and what its toppling last fall during Superstorm Sandy revealed about the history of the Green. Her column begins:

A massive old oak tree on the New Haven Green, across from the Old Campus, was toppled by Superstorm Sandy on October 29. It was the historic Lincoln Memorial Tree, and the unfolding story of its loss and the discovery of the macabre contents revealed in its tangled roots captured the attention of the media and became Halloween headline news. On October 30, a passerby spotted a skull and partial skeleton in the upturned root ball; on closer examination by the state archaeologist, more bones were found. The skeletal remains—possibly representing two adults and two children—are now in the Yale laboratory of Gary Aronsen ’04PhD, a research associate in anthropology and archaeological studies, for further study.

The remains represented a few among the thousands of interments that took place in the period when the Green, especially the area behind the First Church (now Center Church), served as the town burying ground—from 1638, when New Haven was founded, until 1797, when the Grove Street Cemetery was created.

For the full column, see “The Lincoln Tree and the Bones” in the March/April 2013 edition of the Yale Alumni Magazine.

Earth Day and May Day Cross-fertilization at Yale, 1970

In the heady days of the spring of 1970, Senator Edward M. Kennedy came to Yale on Earth Day (April 22, 1970) to speak, on the occasion of the nation’s first Earth Day, at a Yale Political Union luncheon in Commons. In the afternoon after Kennedy’s speech, a teach-in on “The Politics of Pollution” was scheduled in the Yale Law School auditorium.

Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the pre-trial proceedings for the “New Haven Nine” trials and increasing tensions in New Haven and on the Yale campus over the heavy-handed response of the Nixon administration and the FBI’s secret Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to the 1969 kidnapping, torture, and murder by members of the Black Panther Party of Alex Rackley, a New Haven Black Panther member who was suspected of being an FBI informant. These events ultimately led to the May Day strike/rally on May 1-3, 1970, and the temporary suspension of academic activities at Yale.

Student protests over the Black Panther trials spilled over into the Earth Day events when Ralph Dawson, Class of 1971 and moderator of the Black Students Alliance at Yale (BSAY), and Kurt Schmoke, Secretary of the Class of 1971, interrupted the Yale Political Union luncheon to appeal for support for the jailed New Haven Black Panthers. That cross-fertilization of activism was captured in this image from the May 1970 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, and can also found in the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.

Discussing New Haven History

Chief Research Archivist Judith Schiff took part in a discussion on the history of New Haven and the New Haven Register on the WNPR radio talk show Where We Live. Click on the link that follows to listen to the broadcast (Judith enters the discussion 6:25 into the show).

    Where We LIve (December 6, 2012)

Manuscripts and Archives offers dozens of collections pertinent to New Haven history. Among the more heavily used are:

  • Oral Histories Documenting New Haven, Connecticut: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ru.1055. The materials consist of audio recordings and transcripts of oral histories conducted by New Haven Oral History Project staff with New Haven, Connecticut, citizens.
  • Buildings, Grounds and Landmarks in New Haven Photographs: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ru.0685. The materials consist of maps, photographs, engravings, drawings, slides, and lithographs of New Haven, Connecticut scenes, residences, buildings, and landmarks. The bulk of The materials consist of photographs of New Haven and surrounding environs from 1860-1930s. Included are aerial views, scenes of the New Haven Green, photographs of streets, and various individual residences. Of particular interest are the snapshots of houses used for tax purposes, or as documentation of the structure before demolition.
  • Yale Student papers Collection: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ru.0331. The collection consists of research papers and essays by Yale students. Included are many prize-winning essays on New Haven and Yale history.
  • Richard C. Lee Papers: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.0318. The papers contain correspondence, memoranda, position papers, reports, speeches, appointment books, photographs, scrapbooks, and films documenting the career of Richard C. Lee, mayor of New Haven, 1954-1969. The Lee Papers document the professional and public life of Lee, not his personal life. The papers contain correspondence and other materials on the practice of urban politics, urban renewal, New Haven’s efforts in the war on poverty, civil rights and race relations, town-gown relations, and his interaction with local and state Democratic Party leaders. The papers also include campaign files covering the period 1949-1968, appointment books, photographs documenting the course of redevelopment, a small amount of material on Lee’s life after he left office, and political scrapbooks.
  • New Haven Redevelopment Agency Records: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.1814. Project files, minutes, correspondence, and property records, documenting the work of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency, primarily from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Another valuable resource for New Haven History is the New Haven Museum, located at 114 Whitney Avenue. Collections related to the founding of the New Haven colony to its present are accessible at the Museum’s Whitney Library. To plan a research visit, please see http://www.newhavenmuseum.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=38&Itemid=103.