NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The environment will be spare but the organizers of the first-ever TEDx North Adams are sure that the ideas shared will be illuminating.
Eleven speakers will be featured at the Mohawk Theater in January for a full afternoon of talks and videos around the basic TED theme of "Ideas Worth Sharing."
Organizers announced on Sunday that the empty Mohawk on Main Street would be the venue for the event.
"We knew it would be bare bones and continue to be bare bones," said Benjamin Lamb, one of the organizers and president of the City Council. "We thought it was a good way to activate the space in a different way."
The former movie house was stripped down to bare bones as a part of a restoration effort that stalled years ago. With the exception of the scale model of the Empire State Building being stored there for the model railroad museum, the theater was last used in 2012 for a Johnny Cash tribute band fundraiser.
The more use it gets, the more likely the 100 — or 100,000 — items it needs will start getting checked off, the group feels.
"Obviously this building is a skeleton of what it was ... everybody has a memory here," Geeg Wiles said, standing with Lamb and Keifer Gammell in the theater's chilly lobby. "We need to start showing people we can use this space for other purposes. Get the ball rolling on a project that is over 30 years old. ...
"It's like a Big Dig of North Adams. We need to start-slash-finish this sooner or later."
Only 100 tickets will be sold to the event, which runs from noon to 6 p.m. on Jan. 27. The speakers will also be recorded for later showing.
The speakers range from authors to magicians, psychology professors to river movers, politicians to financial planners. The mix from around the region and across the country are Dr. Clare Mehta, Julia Bowen, state Sen. Adam Hinds, Amanda Brinkman, Catie Hogan, David Feng, Dylan Dailor, Judy Grinnell, Justin Brown, Dr. Matt Carter and Samantha Livingstone.
"Each one of their topics are things that could be heard locally and resonate here but could be watched somewhere else and touch a piece of home wherever home is," Wiles said.
TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) grew out of a conference 30 years ago. The short international talks cover a range of topics. The small "x" signifies an independent community event.
The application for TED was fairly long, said Lamb. But he believes TED "saw what we had to offer here. ... We had to showcase what we thought North Adams had going for it and they dug it."
Some 60 speakers were nominated by community members and more than 30 responded that they were interested in participating. A curatorial committee narrowed those down to the final 11.
"You get kind of a sample pack of different types of talks, themes and genres and I think we'll be surprised as this event falls over the years," Gammell said.
The event came about after Wiles came back from a TED talk in Ohio and broached the idea to Lamb, who had already been speaking to others about it.
"I think between all of us wanting it but not knowing other people were thinking of it, it became a high priority," Wiles said, adding North Adams could become a hub for this kind of event, which it turn could highlight venues not being used as they could be.
Initial TEDx events are limited in attendance, and the 100 participants in January can be seated in front of the Empire State Building with room to spare. Heaters will be brought in and necessities will be available. Lamb described it as an outdoor event being held indoors.
Forty tickets are being made available locally at Empire Cafe and Eagle Street Artisans until Dec. 1, when they will go for sale online through the TEDx North Adams website and Eventbrite.
"We wanted to give North Adams the chance to get tickets before anybody else," Gammell said. "Just shy of half the tickets will be sold in town at two local businesses."
The cost is $45 for the afternoon event; a reception with the speakers following the talks will be ticketed separately.
"The TEDx name has this gravity around it, that you hear the name and see that excitement," Lamb said. "We had the table at the Downtown Celebration ... I can't tell you how many people came up to us just wanting to talk about it."
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