TED talks come to Martha’s Vineyard

TEDxMarthasVineyard will feature 13 speakers, each talking for 15 minutes, and three streamed videos spread out over a single afternoon.

Ken Wentworth, Katy Decker and Liz Witham are collaborating on the Vineyard's first TedX conference. — Courtesy Liz Witham

“Insanity, Genius, and the Creative Process” will be the topic of TEDxMarthasVineyard, on August 19, from 11 am to 6 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society. TEDxMarthas Vineyard is the first TED event to be held on the Island. The Martha’s Vineyard Times is the media sponsor of the event.

“We’re really proud to partner with TEDxMarthasVineyard as media sponsor for their inaugural conference,” Peter Oberfest, publisher of the Martha’s Vineyard Times said. “TED began 30 years ago to consider the convergence of technology, entertainment, and design (hence TED), and has grown into a sprawling international program, including affiliated TEDx conferences in communities all over the world. TED’s mission — ideas worth spreading — resonates with the best of community newspaper and digital content goals, to challenge conventional wisdom and to spark creativity within the Martha’s Vineyard community.”

The first TED conference in 1984 included demos of cutting-edge technology such as the compact disc, the e-book and 3D graphics from Lucasfilm. TED’s popularity exploded after TED Talks were first posted online in June 2006. At the end of the first year, TED Talks had two million views. By the end of 2009, the first year of the TEDx program, the total views surpassed 200 million and in November 2012, TED Talks had one billion collective views. There have been over 10,200 TEDx events in 162 countries since the program began in 2009.

Following the TED model, TEDxMarthasVineyard will have 13 speakers, each talking for 15 minutes, and three streamed videos spread out over a single afternoon. Alexandra Styron, an author and lifelong seasonal Island resident, will moderate TEDxMarthasVineyard. Katy Decker is directing the event, with support from fellow co-founders Maggie Bryan, Ken Wentworth, and Liz Witham.

“I’ve produced TEDx events in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, and I thought it would be an amazing fit for the lsland,” Ms. Decker said. “We wanted to do an event that isn’t age or gender specific, and that would attract people from all walks of life.”

Ms. Decker said the speaker selection began with suggestions from some prominent Islanders.“There’s a lot of amazing people here on the Island, like Geraldine Brooks and David McCullough,” she said. “They already give so much back to the community, rather than ask them to speak, we asked who they would like to hear.”

Speakers at TEDxMarthasVineyard will include author and screenwriter Jon Ronson (Men Who Stare at Goats, The Psychopath Test); seasonal resident and film producer Gary Foster (Sleepless in Seattle, The Soloist); Bevil Conway, lecturer on neurobiology at Harvard Medical School; renowned sommelier Andre Mac, Ian Ridgeway, captain of tall ship Shenandoah, singer/songwriter/producer Devonte Hynes aka Blood Orange, and costume designer Janie Bryant (Mad Men). Ms. Bryant is nominated for an Emmy award, but has elected to speak at TEDxMarthasVineyard and to watch the proceedings on television from the Island. A full list of speakers, along with ticket and sponsorship information, can be found at the TEDxMarthasVineyard website.

TED has exacting standards for TEDx events, and work began on this event last August. “This is a very expensive event to produce, since we have to post the talks on-line and TED production standards are very high,” Ms. Decker said. “That along with travel expenses for the speakers has us running at a deficit right now. The proceeds from this year, if there are any, will go to funding next year’s event,” she said.

Tickets are $65 for the August 19 event. There will be events over four days, starting on August 17, where donors of $500, $1,000 and corporate sponsors will have the opportunity to join the speakers at more intimate gatherings, including cocktail parties, a lunch sail on the Shenandoah and dinner and wine tasting at Atria.