Aspen Ideas enters its 16th year this week (Sunday, June 28 through Thursday, July 2) with some major changes to this year's event; the festival will be held entirely online due to COVID-19, and all live content will be free for virtual audiences.
"I hope that people, as they watch and listen, appreciate that this is new territory," said Aspen Ideas Festival executive director Kitty Boone. "But we're really excited, and we think it's really thoughtful and tries to represent a lot of differnt kinds of voices."
Those voices include many that audiences will likely be familiar with, like guest speaker Anthony Fauci, who will address topics surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (Sunday, June 28, 5 p.m.). Other speakers include former representative and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (Sunday, June 28, 5 p.m.), former US Navy Admiral William McRaven (Monday, June 29, 5 p.m.), and Bill Gates (Tuesday, June 30, 5 p.m.).
56 guest speakers will be part of the event, and topics for each 90-minute live streamed video will include discussions about racial justice and voting rights to COVID-19 and freedom of the press.
There's also a focus on the arts; cultural icons like Talking Heads frontman David Byrne will be on hand (Sunday, June 28, 5 p.m.) to discuss the role of performing arts in the present moment; performances from various musicians and dance companies will also be part of the schedule. Boone said that incorporating artists into this year's forum is an important part of the examining the present moment and its cultural and historical implications.
"We're actually talking about how art interprets the moment you're in," she said. "It's really interesting and these are incredibly thoughtful, intellectual people in their own right."
Musican and bandleader Jon Batiste is scheduled to perform (Thursday, July 2, 5 p.m.), and pianist Yafim Bronfman will also be part of the lineup (Tuesday, June 30). Audiences can sign up for the event online, and tune in each night for the live stream.