Arts & Theater

The Arts & Ideas festival in New Haven is back in full swing, with music, shows and more, a lot of it free

After two years of exciting though largely virtual programming, New Haven’s International Festival of Arts & Ideas is fully back, with dozens of free outdoor concerts and events on the New Haven Green, plus dozens of indoor shows, lectures, gallery exhibits and more at venues through downtown New Haven.

The multifaceted festival was founded more than a quarter century ago to bring cutting-edge theater and music projects to Connecticut from around the world. Arts & Ideas has become one of the state’s top tourist events of the summer, at a time when downtown New Haven would otherwise be desolate after the Yale campus has emptied out.


For years, Arts & Ideas mainly happened for two weeks in mid-June, but Executive Director Shelley Quiala, who was brought on board in 2020 and was able to organize full (if mainly online) festivals in 2020 and 2021 despite COVID-19, has extended the programming this year so that the main festival began in May and continues through June 26. Special events are held at other times of the year as well.

The 2022 festival is hitting its stride with a new opera by singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, based on the Octavia E. Butler novel “Parable of the Sower,” June 21 and 22 at the Shubert Theatre. The Long Wharf Theatre is co-presenting a work-in-progress musical performance piece, “Capsule” by Whitney White and Peter Mark Kendall, June 23 for free on the green.


Major music acts on the green include jazz/gospel star Gregory Porter June 19 at 8:45 p.m. and a “Symphony Goes to the Zoo” set by the New Haven Symphony Orchestra featuring “live animals and animal artifacts” June 21 at 2:30 p.m. There’s a Latin dance night on the Green June 15 with Bridgeport’s Orquesta Afinke and Grammy-winning Cuban singer/guitarist Alex Cuba. Evelyn “Champagne” King headlines an R&B/soul revue on the green June 24 at 6 p.m. There are dozens of local bands and children’s music acts on the green as well, sometimes several times a day.

The festivals’ “Ideas” slate of lectures, demonstrations and book readings include “The Pursuit of Happiness: How To Reconnect with Yourself” with Yale professors Laurie Santos and Tamar Gendler June 15; “The Power of Choice in Climate Change” with Paul Greenberg June 22; and “A History of Ballroom” with drag ball veterans Miss Shalae and Aishah “Spyder” Murray on June 24. There are more than a dozen Ideas events before the festival ends, and they are all free.

Among the storytelling events are “Stir the Style: A Storytelling Mashup” featuring singer/songwriter Lys Guillorn and an all-star storyteller line-up including Chicago’s Nestor Gomez and Connecticut’s Terry Wolfisch Cole and on June 18, and the “She Speaks” storytelling collaborative on June 22.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre makes its Connecticut debut June 14 and 15 at the Yale University Theater. There’s special Juneteenth programming on June 19 with concerts, a bike ride, an appearance by chef and food activist Bryant Terry, a Juneteenth Village of vendors and artisans and an Elders Honoring Ceremony. A day of fashion events on June 18 stars local designer Neville Wisdom.

A complete schedule of Arts & Ideas, which runs through June 26, is at

Christopher Arnott can be reached at