Tom Eblen

No shortage of ideas this week

If you go to the Web site for Idea Kentucky, a big gathering Wednesday in Louisville, there's a link that takes you to the conference's ground rules.

Click on the link, and this is what you see:

Statements not allowed during discussions

That's a crazy idea.

That will cost too much.

That won't work in Kentucky

Those rules set a perfect tone for the six-hour conference at the Muhammad Ali Center. And they work equally well for the bigger event taking place in downtown Louisville from Thursday through Saturday: The 2008 Idea Festival.

This is the sixth Idea Festival, a now-annual gathering that was started in Lexington in 2000 by Kris Kimel of the Kentucky Science & Technology Corp. The festival moved to Louisville in 2006 because it needed bigger venues and corporate sponsors.

I'll be attending both events and blogging throughout the day, each day, at The Bluegrass & Beyond on www.kentucky.com.

There should be a lot of interesting things to write about, because the Idea Festival each year brings some of the world's smartest and most creative people to Kentucky to explain their big ideas and expand the minds of those in the audience.

I love it that the festival links Kentucky with brainpower, creativity and innovation. Kentucky isn't often on the cutting edge, but considering our state's problems and opportunities, now would be a good time to get sharper.

A quarter of Kentuckians smoke. A third are obese. At the current rate of per capita income growth, it would take Kentucky 150 years to reach the national average. And when it comes to educational performance, we're just ahead of the bottom third of states.

Those are some of the issues that will be discussed at Idea Kentucky. Speakers include Gov. Steve Beshear, Kimel and Michael Childress of the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center. But much of the conference will be about audience participation and group discussion. Maybe some new ideas will emerge.

It should be a good warm-up for the Idea Festival, whose speakers range from off the charts to off the wall. Unlike Idea Kentucky's agenda, which seems focused on practical ideas for problem-solving, the Idea Festival simply tries to expand your mind. What happens after that is up to you.

Speakers include scientific types, such as neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik, author of the book Another Day in the Frontal Lobe; Richard Gott, a Princeton University astrophysicist who's originally from Louisville; and Richard Kogan, a distinguished New York psychiatrist and award-winning concert pianist.

There are business types, such as pioneering marketers Bridget Brennan and John Gauntt. Artistic types such as filmmaker Soozie Eastman, chef Howard Dubrovsky and dance artistic director Jacques Heim. And top international architects such as Emiliano Gandolfi of Italy and Bjarke Ingels of Denmark.

The University of Kentucky's College of Design will award the first $100,000 Curry Stone Design Prize to someone whose breakthrough design solutions have improved our lives and our world.

And then there are speakers from all walks of life and disciplines: Rwanda genocide survivor and peace activist Immaculée Ilibagiza; ninjutsu martial-arts master Peter King; crossword puzzle master Will Shortz; and Vova Galchenko of Russia, who is perhaps the world's best juggler.

And many more. See the festival's Web site — http://www.ideafestival.com — for more details. And read my blog for reports several times each day.

Can't get to Louisville? There also should be some good ideas bouncing around Bluegrass Tomorrow's "Inno Vision 2018" breakfast Thursday at the Marriott Griffin Gate. Speakers include Beshear, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson.

The morning-long conference will discuss a comparative analysis of innovation in 22 metropolitan regions around the country similar to Central Kentucky. For more information, call (859) 277-9614 or go to www.bluegrasstomorrow.org.

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