The International Festival of Arts & Ideas — a 15-day New Haven festival consisting of over 200 events throughout the month of June — has tapped Bobby Asher to replace Chad Herzog as its new director of programming, according to a Sept. 5 press release.
Herzog left in June to become the executive director of UA Presents, a performing arts organization in residence at the University of Arizona in Tucson, according to Festival Co-Director Tom Griggs. After a roughly two-month-long search for a replacement, Asher will take over the role of programming chief. He will book and organize performances, lectures and conversations for the Festival in June as well as other standalone events throughout the year. Asher will be formally introduced to the Festival’s Board of Directors on Sept. 16 and will begin full-time in October, according to the press release.
“We needed someone very fast. We jumped very quickly on a person with a great recommendation and a great background,” said Gordon Geballe GRD ’81, the chairman of the Festival’s board and associate dean for international student engagement at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “We feel very lucky that we were able, so quickly, to get such a great person into a really critical hole for the Festival.”
The Festival will be hosting its 25th anniversary this year and has as its mission “to create an internationally renowned festival in New Haven of the highest quality,” according to its website. Many of the Festival’s events, at least 80 percent of which are free, take place in Yale’s halls, and Yale administrators, including University Secretary Kimberly Goff-Crews, sit on its board. The University also acts as a sponsor of the Festival.
Asher was already familiar with the Festival because he had visited the Festival twice in recent years, including this past June, to meet with other arts presenters and creatives, Griggs said. The Co-Directors reached out to him for a conversation when the position opened because of that familiarity and his connection to Herzog. Asher said he was “immediately struck with the energy and potential of the organization.”
“Bobby Asher immediately impressed us with his creativity, wide-ranging expertise, and passion for the arts,” said Griggs and fellow Festival Co-Director Liz Fisher in the press release. “He’s known for leading innovative projects that are as exhilarating as they are challenging and that draw diverse voices into conversation about critical contemporary issues.”
Asher most recently directed programming at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland. He also served as the founding managing and artistic director of the Bailey Performance Center at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. In an interview with the News, Asher specifically pointed out his work to build and sustain the NextNOW Fest, a now fully student-operated festival hosted annually at the Clarice. Asher’s experience in an urban environment like College Park, Maryland, and the extent and diversity of his programming stood out to the Festival’s board during the hiring process, according to Geballe and Griggs. Both Griggs and Geballe noted that Asher has done a great job of reaching out to the communities around his places of work in Maryland to gather ideas for programming.
“It’s particularly exciting to me to come to a new situation of working for an independent non-profit that’s connected to a city, really a civic festival, but also they have this great connection to such a great institution like Yale,” Asher explained. “So, it’s really, in some ways, the best of both worlds.”
Looking forward, Asher said that the Ideas portion of the Festival, which brings in speakers and thought leaders to host lectures, matched well with his previous issues-based work. Griggs added that Asher had “already been thinking about programs around democracy” for his University of Maryland programming and that the Elm City’s Festival was “excited about the ideas [Asher] had to expand our Ideas program.”
When asked what new ideas he will bring to the Festival, Asher emphasized increasing participation and breaking down the barriers between artists and audiences. Asher sees himself not as a tastemaker for the Festival, but more as a compiler of what the wider New Haven community wants to see during the 15-day festival in June.
Asher said that he wants to take “the incredible wealth of knowledge in New Haven” and “make it a source of pride” for this community.
The International Festival of Arts & Ideas was established in 1996.
Jose Davila IV | firstname.lastname@example.org