Past Festivals

See links at right to view past festivals events.

Past Festival Themes / Public Conversationalists

  • 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 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”