Kris Kimel said when he founded Idea Festival in 2000, things were pretty different, namely people weren’t walking around with smartphones and unlimited access to online TED Talks and the like.
And for an annual event that has focused on bringing together forward-thinking speakers — like Steve Wozniak, Janelle Monae and Richard Florida — for in-person conversations, that’s a problem; and it’s one of the factors that contributed to the decision to cancel the 2018 Idea Festival in Louisville.
In a news release sent Monday, organizers wrote, “our audience has fundamentally shifted over the years and it is unclear at this point whether our ‘product’ is still of sufficient value and relevance to a wide group of people, organizations and companies.”
“The other thing that has significantly affected the programming is because we rely so much on sponsorships to support the festival in order to keep the cost low for people of all walks of life, every year we had to start out from basically scratch to raise the money,” Kimel said.
As such, Kimel said festival organizers typically would only know about a month ahead of time whether they’d be within budget.
“That really did impact the quality of the content, the programming — because of all the competition, the cost for talent has really gone up exponentially in the past 10 to 15 years,” Kimel said. “And because we were so uncertain about our financial situation, there were a lot of people and events we were interested in booking that we had to let go.”
Kimel said, however, that Thrivals@IF, an independent event focused on Louisville high school students and run by Nat Irvin of the University of Louisville, will continue this year. So will other student events in Louisville and Bowling Green.
As for future versions of Idea Festival, Kimel said “that’s up in the air.”