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The International Festival of Arts & Ideas: A New Haven Summer Staple

As I have come to learn this past month, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas is a New Haven summer staple.  Although the Festival was new to me, it began 15 years ago and is now established as a significant arts festival.
The Festival offers a broad array of events from concerts, plays, dance shows and musicals to art talks, walking tours and food tastings.  But the best part is that 80% of the events are free.  In fact, the opening night kicked off with the Connecticut premiere of cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble—a free event!!  The concert took place on the New Haven Green.   Sadly, I couldn’t make it to hear Yo-Yo Ma play.

But, I did get to participate in some exciting events.  I took the free walking tour “Gardens & Gargoyles: Explore Yale Courtyards” organized by the Yale Visitor Center.  We visited several of the courtyards that are within Yale’s residential colleges.  For those who don’t know, Yale’s residential college system is a distinctive feature of the College.   Before freshman year, all incoming undergraduates are assigned to one of Yale's twelve residential colleges and students remain affiliated with their residential college for all 4 years.

The tour started in the courtyard of Calhoun College, where the guide explained the residential college system and I had a flashback to the sorting hat scene of Harry Potter.  The tour then moved through Old Campus to Branford College, continued to the Sterling Memorial Library and its courtyard, and finished at Yale Law School where we discussed some of the stone sculptures depicting lawyers, judges, and scholars. In addition to learning about residential college traditions, we were also shown the tricks employed by architect James Gamble Rogers to make the buildings he constructed appear aged.  For instance, he splashed acid on stone walls and purposely cracked and then repaired window panes to simulate age. 
As part of the Festival, I also attended another free event “Identity, Politics, and Rights in the Art and Practice of Justice” at the Yale Center for British Art—a talk by our own Professor Judith Resnik.  In her presentation, Professor Resnik provided a historical overview of the iconography of justice, discussing how Lady Justice with her scales and sword has become associated with law and courts around the world and how the embodiment of justice has changed as equal rights have expanded.  It was fascinating to see how depictions of Lady Justice developed throughout history and how she is depicted in court buildings around the world. Following the presentation, Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis discussed their book Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms.

I topped off my festival experience with a food tour of State Street.  The tour started with an appetizer and a glass of wine in the lovely outdoor patio of L’Orcio seen in the picture below.  Having traveled in Italy, I was impressed by the authenticity of their menu.  We then moved on to a main course at a Mexican restaurant called Mezcal.  Here I was curious, as I have yet to find an authentic Mexican restaurant in the area.  After tasting the chicken enchilada with mole sauce that was served to us at Mezcal, however, any doubts I had vanished.  Although I am not a huge fan of mole, I loved their mole sauce and enjoyed a second helping.  The tour ended with a cooking demonstration at Chestnut Fine Foods where we learned how to make gazpacho and French bread.  Like on a cooking show, when the demonstration ended, the oven beeped and out came perfectly golden French bread rolls for us to try.  Fresh from the oven—delicious!





Avery said:

Love the festivals and the food is marvelous!

# August 30, 2011 4:25 AM

Mark said:

The french bread at Chestnut is simply the best I have ever had!!  I love Summer at Yale.

# September 20, 2011 5:31 AM

Emily Borris said:

The festival as well as the atmosphere was awesome, just love it.

# September 20, 2011 7:33 AM

Nadav said:

I've been to the festival and just saw this post. It was definitely an amazing festival, and I'm glad I took part in it.


# September 30, 2011 4:36 AM

Austin said:

Yo-Yo Ma for free? What a lovely event! I'm always skeptical of any Northeastern Mexican food--but if they can do mole-- they can do anything!

# September 30, 2011 11:27 AM

Asic Gel Nimbus said:

What I love the most during Festivals are the presentations and of course, the food. :)

# May 10, 2012 3:39 AM