After a successful, sold-out inaugural show last year, TEDx Martha’s Vineyard will return for a second season on August 31 at the Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs. The independently organized TED event will include writers, performance artists, chefs, public defenders, and others from across the nation, as well as a few familiar Island faces.
The theme of the 2015 talk is “New Frontiers.” Event organizers Katy Plasse and Maggie Bryan said the broad headline allowed them to pull in a diverse range of speakers, all of whom are “rock stars in their fields,” said Ms. Bryan in an interview with The Times. “It’s going to be interesting having them all bubbling in the same cauldron together.”
“I liked the idea of an event that could have such broad appeal, something that bridged the disparate groups on the Island,” Ms. Plasse said. “TED and TEDx have a unique ability to do that, because the speakers can be so wonderfully varied. How often do you have a transgender urban rapper and a James Beard Humanitarian Awardwinner sharing a stage?”
This year’s talks will follow a new organizational structure, in which two speakers will take on the same topic from a different angle. For instance, Jeffrey Deskovic will speak about the legal system from his experience being wrongly imprisoned, while James Moody will tackle sentencing reform through the eyes of a public defender. Not every speaker has a counterpart, but, Ms. Bryan said, “There’s a lot of overlap.”
“Part of the interest is that although people come from different industries, there’s resonance between their ideas,” Ms. Bryan said. “They are all going to come with a singular idea that relates to what they do, but has a larger impact, a kernel of knowledge that you can take into your own life.”
The event organizers hope the speakers will find common ground enough to collaborate with one another in the future. “We wanted it to be an event where people made friends and connections,” Ms. Bryan said. “The coolest part is witnessing the interactions between speakers.”
“TEDx has something for everyone, and I love the fact that you may come for something in your wheelhouse, but end up falling in love with a talk on a subject you would never have investigated,” Ms. Plasse said. “It instigates happy acts of discovery. It leads people down paths they never would have thought to venture down on their own.”
TEDx will change venues this year, from the intimate Martha’s Vineyard Film Center to the larger Performing Arts Center, in order to accommodate more attendees. “Last year tickets sold out in three weeks, and we had a lot of people who were very vocal in their disappointment about not being able to attend,” Ms. Plasse said. “This year, by holding the event at the PAC, we are able to open up the event to a much larger audience. This means a lot to me, because inclusivity was one of the founding principles of the event.”
Ms. Bryan said hosting TEDx at the Performing Arts Center will also alleviate some of the technical issues experienced last year, like the complex filming and production procedures mandated by the TED brand. The venue also allows more space for stage design, which Ms. Bryan said will follow an “astrology theme,” complete with images from the Hubble telescope, to further support the theme of “New Frontiers.”
The varied TEDx support team has also grown this year to include more Islanders who were involved peripherally in the past, such as Phil DaRosa of the Print Shop, and Christian Thornton of Atria, who will manage set design. “We are building a team for the future,” Ms. Bryan said.
Both Ms. Bryan and Ms. Plasse said one of their biggest successes from last year was the involvement of the Martha’s Vineyard community. Local figures like Geraldine Brooks introduced guest speakers, and others like Justin Ahren of Noepe Center for Literary Arts performed original work. This year, the organizers made an effort to include more locals in the lineup and in the organization of the event, facilitating more connections with the speakers, whether they held Island ties or not.
“We brought TEDx to the Island because we wanted to introduce these rock stars to the Vineyard and bring their ideas to the community,” Ms. Bryan said. The hope is that a bit of cross-pollination between the Island and the mainland will germinate a few more of TED’s legendary “Ideas Worth Spreading.”
The lineup to date is as follows:
- JiaJia Fei: Associate director, digital marketing, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on “Art in the Age of Instagram.”
For more information and tickets for TEDx Martha’s Vineyard, visit tedxmarthasvineyard.com. Tickets can be purchased through the website, starting at $75.