IdeaFestival coming to Bowling Green

Madison Martin

The second annual IdeaFestival Bowling Green, a TED Talks-esque speaker series created to nurture the spread of ideas, will take place Friday, March 20 on WKU’s campus.

As Josh Raymer, Innovate Kentucky’s executive administrator and WKU alumnus, said, “It all revolves around the same concept that ideas are powerful. They’re meaningful. They’re better when they’re shared…”

Innovate Kentucky is a recently-created program funded through a grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation in Louisville. The Center for Gifted Studies, Gatton Academy and the Honors College came together to write a proposal that would further interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) disciplines, through creativity and innovation. One of the aspects of the grant was to host an annual speaker series. 

“We want to create the atmosphere in Bowling Green that this is a wonderful place to come with ideas,” said Julia Roberts, Mahurin professor of Gifted Studies and executive director of both Gifted Studies and the Gatton Academy.

IdeaFestival is based off of the original Louisville program created by Kris Kimel, co-founder of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. Ten speakers from various disciplines will speak in four different sessions throughout the day. The event will feature one 90-minute speech by keynote speaker and associate professor of geography, John All.

All had a near-death experience in the Himalayas last May, when he fell 70 feet down a crevasse and climbed out by himself after breaking 15 bones (six of them being vertebrae), among other injuries. 

“He’s gonna be talking about how his preparation met a moment of need, and that’s what allowed him to survive,” Raymer said. 

Nine other speakers’ talks will be split up into three sessions, each being about 20 minutes in length. The talks are interdisciplinary in nature, but altogether center on the cause for entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Visual and performing arts will also be present throughout the session. Committee member and artist/curator Andee Rudloff will be heading another collaborative mural creation like last year. Rudloff paints an outline with a black ink and paint mixture. Festival goers are able to paint within the lines to finish the mural by the end of the day. 

“We found that (participants) really like interactive opportunities,” she said. 

For this year’s 8-by-32 mural, participants, mainly younger students, are submitting icons and symbols related to the program’s theme. Rudloff will compile them into the black-outlined picture.   

Along with this mural, two artists’ work will be displayed, as well as pop-up improv hosted by two WKU faculty. 

Fifth and sixth graders from the Warren County Public Schools 212˚ Academy are contributing by creating cube towers for the set design of the stage. A Maker Mobile will be stationed in front of Bates-Runner Hall, where participants can utilize an RV full of tools to create and build using their supplies. 

This year is different than the last in that the session is free to WKU students; the event is for the whole community and all ages, but students are especially encouraged to check out the program. 

“Students, it’s such an important audience, because that age is the perfect age to hear the messages that these speakers have,” Raymer said. 

Everyone who has been involved in the festival, whether by speaking or planning or doing both, believes in the approach of highlighting the many different ways that people can be innovative within most any discipline. The goal is to help Bowing Green grow with cutting-edge businesses and build on all its possibilities. 

“We want Bowling Green to be this Mecca for idea-people, people who are excited and celebrate ideas,” Raymer said. 

“You want to find ways to better your city, to give back to your community,” he said, “and so I’m trying to do that in a small part through IdeaFestival, by making it really a reflection of Bowling Green’s creative potential, and the potential of Kentucky as a state.”