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Inaugural Asheville Ideas Fest Happens June 14–18

UNC Asheville, in partnership with Explore Asheville, will bring the first-ever Asheville Ideas Fest (AIF) to the UNCA campus and other venues around the city, including Biltmore, Omni Grove Park Inn and Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, Tuesday, June 14, through Saturday, June 18. Organizers hope that the event will become a much anticipated annual convening of global thought leaders to Asheville.

UNC Asheville Chancellor Nancy Cable appeared recently with other organizers—Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, AIF advisory committee member and former Blue Cross Blue Shield NC president and CEO Brad Wilson and NY Times bestselling author and UNCA alumni author-in-residence Wiley Cash—to announce the event, which will include conversations, lectures, discussions and opportunities for audience participation in addressing a range of timely themes and topics.

Scheduled speakers for this year’s event include Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, whose research and work helped with development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine; Jon Meacham, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author; Jason Mott, 2021 National Book Award winner for his novel Hell of a Book; Lynn Novick, director and producer of documentary films, including work in partnership with Ken Burns; Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS for CNN Worldwide; and Bill McKibben, environmental scholar and leader of the climate campaign

The event seeks to establish Asheville and WNC at large—with their already established reputations as centers for art, culture, culinary excellence, literature, music and outdoors recreation—as a gathering place for ideas much as other cities have done with their own festivals. The east and west coasts have annual festivals in place already, including The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C. and IDEAS CITY in New York City. “We are claiming our rightful place in middle America,” says Cable, adding that organizers expect about 500 participants, with some events open to the public free of charge.

“We are deeply committed to an extraordinary, engaging, thought-provoking, provocative time when we will bring people together here and at venues around the region to make the Asheville Ideas Fest enduring—maybe in perpetuity,” says Cable.

To learn more about the schedule of events and speakers, or to purchase tickets, visit

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