A Summer Without Ideat Village

According to cofounder Nancy Shea, Ideat Village was over and done with last year, and everybody should have known that.

Shea says she's been inundated with emails asking when certain Ideat traditions, from the unjuried Orbit gallery exhibit to the live local band festivals, will be happening.

They won't. Folks might have gotten a clue when the pre-festival tradition of a fundraiser and raffle to pay for the legally required portaporties, held for years at Café Nine a few weeks before the festival kicked off, never happened.

The loss of Ideat Village is certainly widely felt. Over its 12 years of existence, co-founders Bill Saunders and Nancy Shea and a horde of volunteers formed a scrappy counterculture institution that was defined largely by its extraordinary bursts of energy.

Most of that energy was positive and empowering, creating a showcase for important area rock bands, visual artists, filmmakers and other creative types who weren’t appreciated by most of the staid arts institutions in the state. Some of that Ideat energy was negative, antagonism directed at the International Festival of Ideas, which the self-styled Ideats claimed was ignoring local culture in favor of imported acts. Some of that energy was reckless, as with the times that police were called to Ideat events (first at Temple Plaza, than at Pitikin Plaza) because bands were playing too loudly, in defiance of local noise ordinances and complaints from residents of nearby apartment complexes.

It was a noise complaint at the end of a day-long Ideat concert last summer which led to the arrest of Bill Saunders on charges of interfering with police and inciting to riot. When New Haven police officers arrived during a set by The Lost Riot, Saunders was unable to immediately produce the permit which had been granted for the outdoor concert, then said remarks through a microphone which were interpreted by some as a suggestion that others would rise up and there would be more trouble if he was arrested.

But that altercation, which has not yet been granted its day in court after a number of delays and postponements, was not any kind of nail in Ideat’s coffin. The festival had fought noise complaints previously and had been granted permits again. The Ideats had stared down managers of big buildings who’d tried to squelch the outdorr concerts before they happened, finding untapped and overwhelming community support in the process.

No, Ideat Village is over because it is over. Shea was candid about the immense amount of work that was involved in setting up the festival, especially considering how it had grown over the years into multiple sites, multiple weeks and multi-media. Even with considerable volunteer help, and with acts willing to pay for free and thus minimize expenses, this was a large and exhausting endeavor.

Seen lounging comfortably in a lawn chair on New Haven Green on the opening night of Arts & Ideas June 15, alongside her partner in the vintage clothing store Fashionista, Nancy Shea was taking a long-deserved rest from summertime festival-running.

For those who miss Ideat Village, here’s an idea. Start your own new festival. You might even want to do it at a different time than Arts & Ideas. From New London’s Hygienic Festival to New Haven’s Cherry Blossom Festival to any number of state jazz festivals, there’s a long tradition of community-run concerts in Connecticut growing into grand traditions. Give Nancy Shea and Bill Saunders their due for steering Ideat Village for over a decade. Now it’s time to find fresh energetic collaborators and build upon that legacy.