Past Festivals

See links at right to view past festivals events.

Past Festival Themes / Public Conversationalists

  • 2019: Revolution - Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times Magazine's "The 1619 Project."
  • 2018: Intersection - Zeynep Tufekci, techno-sociologist and author of Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest
  • 2017: Power - Dr. James Madison, Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History Emeritus at Indiana University Bloomington, Dr. Maria Hamilton Abegunde, Visiting Lecturer in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at IU-Bloomington, SongSquad, and the Indiana Historical Society Museum Theater program.
  • 2016: Home - Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American CityAllison Luthe, Executive Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, and Timothy Schmalz, sculptor ("Homeless Jesus")
  • 2015: Dream Marshawn Wolley, Director of Partner Relations at VisitIndy, Rev. Anastassia Zinke, Senior Pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church, Phyllis Boyd, Executive Director Groundwork Indy, and David Sklar, Director of Governmental Affairs of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.
  • 2014: Journey - bestselling writer and journalist Gail Sheehy, author of Passages and Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos Into Confidence; cancer survivor and New York Times #1 bestselling author/poet Mark Nepo; and Dr. Timothy E. Quill, Director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care, University of Rochester School of Medicine. 
  • 2013: Risk - Scott Jones, ChaCha CEO & cofounder; Sarah Fisher, professional race car driver & team owner; Philip Gulley, author & minister; and David Baker, jazz performer & educator.
  • 2012: Play - Jane McGonigal, author, futurist, game designer; and Susan Sparks, professional comedian, former trial lawyer, senior pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.
  • 2011: The Body - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball icon; Anita Diamant, author; and Thomas Lynch, poet.
  • 2010: Food for Thought - Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power; Frances Moore Lappe, author; and Harrell Flectcher, gardner/international artist.
  • 2009: Inspiring Places - Former Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut III, and Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman.
  • 2008: Exploring Imagination - Producer, writer, and director Julie Dash; author, songwriter, and pastor Brian D. McLaren; and essayist and journalist Richard Rodriguez.
  • 2007: Living Generously - Patty Stonesifer, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Nathan Dungan, president and founder of Share Save Spend; and Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer, composer, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock.
  • 2006: Tradition & Innovation - Author and human rights activist Sr. Joan Chittister, author and scholar Manning Marable, and Hoosier film writer/producer Angelo Pizzo.
  • 2005: Moving & Staying - Poet and novelist Wendell Berry, writer and humorist Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, and award-winning journalist A'Lelia Bundles.
  • 2004: Building and Belonging - Author Andre Dubus III, educational reformer and psychologist Howard Gardner, and theologian Renita Weems.
  • 2003: Remembering and Reconciling - Editor Jim Wallis, author Charles Johnson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams.
  • 2002: Breaking Silence - Novelist Mary Gordon, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, and critic bell hooks.
  • 2001: Crossing Boundaries - Scholar Cornel West, novelist Jane Smiley, and author Rabbi Harold Kushner.
  • 2000: Growing Up - Jonathan Kozol, Terry Tempest Williams, and Martin E. Marty.
  • 1999: Changing Landscapes - Barry Lopez, Sister Helen Prejean, and Kathleen Norris.
  • 1998: A Gathering of Voices - Peter Matthiessen, Reynolds Price, and Maxine Hong Kingston.
  • 1997: Leaving and Returning - Thomas Keneally, Clifton Taulbert, and Joy Harjo.
  • 1996: Thinking Out Loud about Indianapolis - Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, and John Updike. 

    Essays on the 2015 theme: DREAM : Listen to these essays
  •  Cindy Booth, Executive Director of Child Advocates - "What Do You Like About Being White? What Do You Like About Being Black?"
  • John E. Waters, President of Leave it Better Than We Found It, LLC. - "Leaving it Better Than We Found It."
  • Dr. Lewis Ferebee?, Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools - "Fresh and Bold Vision for Indianapolis Public Schools." 
  • Untitled essay by Katherine Souchet-Downey, Immigration Liaison and Latino Outreach    Coordinator for the Office of Congressman André Carson and a Board Member for The Latino/a Youth Collective of Indiana. Listen.
  • Dream by Sr. Norma Rocklage.  Listen.
  • Perchance to Dream by David Bodenhamer, executive director of The Polis Center. Listen.

  • Essays on the 2013 theme: RISK
  • The Honorable Sarah Evans Barker, U.S. District Court Judge - “When the high cost of higher education is too high" (listen here)
  • Dan Carpenter, Freelance writer - “A healthy fear of the risk-free life” (listen here)
  • Ken Honeywell, Creative Director, Well Done Marketing /Editor, - “On Holding One’s Breath for Thirty Years” (listen here)
  • Dr. Robert L. Manuel, President, University of Indianapolis - "Risk" (listen here)
  • Dr. Kent Millard, Retired Pastor - “Hearts of Hate to Hearts of Love” (listen here)
  • Troy Riggs, Indianapolis Public Safety Director - “I Had No Idea!” (listen here)
  • Cory Williams, Musician - “Taking my chances on the outcome” (listen here)

    Essays on the 2012 theme: Play
  • Neal Brown, Chef - “The Playful Side of a Dish” (listen here)
  • Dane Clark, Musician - “The Unsung Heroes” (listen here)
  • Bernie DeKoven, Author and ‘play’ expert - “The Need to Play” (listen here)
  • Marianne Glick, Artist and Philanthropist - “Increasing the Fun Factor” (listen here)
  • John Green, Author - “John Green’s essay on Play” (listen here)
  • Felipe Martinez, Associate Executive Presbyter at Whitewater Valley Presbytery - “Play. Love. Repeat.” (listen here)
  • Polina Osherov, Photographer and Editor - “To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question” (listen here)
  • Chris Stanton, Writer and Designer - “Character Creation” (listen here)

    Essays on the 2011 theme: The Body
  • Jody Bahre - “My Body on Drugs”
  • Rhonda Fox-Waltz - “Homebody”
  • Richard Gunderman, MD PhD, Professor, Schools of Medicine and Liberal Arts, Indiana University - “Cutting Dad's Meat”
  • David Hochoy, Artistic Director, Dance Kaleidoscope - “My Body is My Instrument”
  • Nick Reich, Basketball Coach, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School; Director of Youth Services, Goodwill Industries - “The Sense of Smell”
  • Michael Saahir, Imam, Nur-Allah Islamic Center - “Partners for Life: Mind, Body, and Soul”
  • Wayne Zink - “No Worries, I’ll Just Push Through”

    Essays on the 2010 festival theme: Food for Thought
  • Ibrahim Khalil AlGhani, Husband and Father - “Halal Food”
  • Katy Marquez Carter, Food Blogger - “Blueberries”
  • Joshua M. Edwards, Emmerich Manual High School, STAR Academy, FFA Vice-President - “A Smorgasbord of Friends and Food”
  • Louise E. Goggans, Registered Dietitian, MS, DMSc, and Independent Consultant - “Soul Food: My Legacy”
  • Warren P. Henegar, Farmer and Monroe County Councilman - “Eating Seasonally and Locally in South Central Indiana”
  • Amy Norwalk, Proud mother and daughter and Corporate Communications Manager at Ernst & Young LLP -“It's My Mom's Fault”
  • Mike Redmond, Writer and Eater - “To Everything There Is A Season. Including Dinner.”
  • Jeff Simmons, President, Elanco - “Opportunity Knocks - Feeding a Hungry World”
  • Ann Stack“From Cock-a-Doodle Creek to Provence”

    Essays on the 2009 festival theme: Inspiring Places
  • Maurice Broaddus, Horror and Fantasy Writer - “The Oddest Places”
  • Gloria Gaither, Gaither Family Resources and Gaither Music Company - “Michigan”
  • Edgar Huang, Associate Professor, IUPUI School of Informatics - “Serendipity”
  • Meghan McCormick, Co-Founder, Green Piece Indy - “Bloom Where You're Planted”
  • Kevin McKelvey, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Indianapolis; Board of Directors, Second Story - “Barns”
  • Vop Osili, Architect, Founding Partner and Principal, A2SO4 - “Asa Dam”
  • Brian Payne, President, Central Indiana Community Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation - “A Long Steep Hill”
  • Rob Smith, President, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation - "Cosmos, Consciousness, and Community"
  • Joyce A. Sommers, President Emeritus, Indianapolis Art Center - “Confluence”
  • Aaron Spiegel, Rabbi, Information Technology Director, Indianapolis Center for Congregations - “Sanctuary"

    Essays on the 2008 festival theme: Exploring Imagination
  • Jon Adland, Senior Rabbi, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation - “The Next Place on the Journey”
  • Maxwell L. Anderson, President and CEO, Indianapolis Museum of Art - “Active Imagination”
  • Frank Basile, Professional speaker, author, and philanthropist - “Achieving What I Imagined”
  • Jeanne Farah, Principal Consultant, Excelleration, Inc. - “Cultivating Imagination: Embracing Your Possibilites”
  • Carolyn Hadlock, Creative Director, Young & Laramore Advertising - “Someplace Pure”
  • Eric M. Meslin, PhD, Director, Indiana University Center for Bioethics - “Bioethics and Imagination”
  • Betty Perry, Founder and Director, Metropolitan Youth Orchestra - “The Mustard Grain”
  • JoEllen Florio Rossebo, President and CEO, Young Audiences of Indiana - “Catching the Big Fish”
  • Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh, Architectural artist, author, and public speaker - “A Gateway to Wonder and the Unknown”
  • George Srour, Director, Building Tomorrow, Inc. - “$1.81”