Starting point: Need to revitalize city’s image

Organizing strategy: Bring together artists and thought leaders to create an event of sufficient magnitude to capture the imagination of the community

Tools: Prominence of Yale University and availability of faculty, city government, businesses and non-profits

Outcomes: A world-class event, most of it free that annually stimulates the community and attracts tourists from around the state and nation

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The mission of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas is to create an internationally renowned festival in New Haven of the highest quality with world-class artists, thinkers and leaders, attracting and engaging a broad and diverse audience celebrating and building community and advancing economic development.


The Festival’s ambitious music, dance, and theater programs fill New Haven with renowned international stars, newly-discovered artists, and a number of U.S. and world premieres each season. The eclectic ideas program offers a mix of serious, controversial, and whimsical topics, all designed to inspire new ways of thinking. The Festival also features plenty of family-friendly events. It continues to make more than 80% of Festival events free to the public, including some of the most prestigious opera, jazz, classical, rock, folk and fusion music in the world.


New Haven is home to several major cultural institutions, including three Tony award-winning regional theaters (Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Shubert Theater); the Yale Center for British Art, which houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom; and the Yale University Art Gallery, the country’s oldest university museum. The city is also home to the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the fourth-oldest symphony orchestra in the United States.

Despite its small size, New Haven boasts strong arts and educational traditions, a profusion of fabulous restaurants and shops, and the New Haven Green, a picturesque gathering place in the heart of the city.


The entire city of New Haven plays host to The Festival. The New Haven Green, named one of the country’s 10 most beautiful public spaces, is the jewel at the center. On the Green, the Festival presents a series of unforgettable concerts, art activities, and opportunities for creative play.

Many Festival events take place at Long Wharf Theatre, the legendary Shubert Theater, and in the historic courtyards, auditoriums, and theaters of Yale University. Tours by foot and bike take visitors throughout New Haven and beyond to discover its wealth of historic, ethnic and natural treasures.


The Festival attracts a strong local and regional audience, attendees from all 50 states, and a growing number of international visitors from dozens of countries. The Festival’s marketing is aggressive and inclusive, reaching out to develop an audience base that is diverse in age, ethnicity, and interests.

Community and Education

The Festival plays a vital role in enriching lives in New Haven and throughout Connecticut by embracing diversity and leading people to understand how their futures are entwined.

Arts residencies are created in schools and community centers throughout New Haven to introduce a diverse audience to the performing arts. Every summer, international artists devote time to teach young students of music, dance, theater and the arts. See our “Opportunities” section for more information about artist residencies and how to perform at the Festival.

In 2013, the Festival drove $34 million in economic activity, and the Festival’s programs have an impact throughout the year, including engagement and educational programming such as the Festival Fellowship Program for under-served youth, and the Visionary Leadership Award held in autumn of each year.