Fresh ideas

If you’re wondering what all the hoopla about TED and TEDxAsheville is (much less, what the monikers mean), ask local youth. They’re putting on a sister event to the second-annual local conference: TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, a free, four-hour conference scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 28.

Xpress asked 18-year-old Estella Cumberford to explain the multimedia, interactive event. One of the youth organizers and also a TEDxNGA, she replies, “It’s about ideas worth sharing… and spreading.”

TED (short for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a nonprofit organization that started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago. The first-ever, 1984 TED included “demos of the newly released Macintosh computer and Sony compact disc, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines with his newly discovered fractals and AI guru Marvin Minsky outlined his powerful new model of the mind,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

TED has since expanded to include local, self-organized events, such as TEDxAsheville and now TEDxNGA. Cumberford couldn’t be more excited to have a chance to be involved. When a friend called to say he had recommended her as a youth participant for the NGA event, she soon joined the team and crafted a presentation of her own, “Walking a Mile in My Shoes.”

Without giving too much away, Cumberford provides a teaser: “My idea is that we humans have evolved with everything we need to enjoy life.” But we’ve lost touch with that fact, she continues. Through the help of modern innovation, “We can reconnect,” Cumberford says.

TED events “invite people who are passionate about something — it doesn’t matter what — and gives them a chance to present their ideas,” says the young woman, who’ll soon journey to England to study digital art and design.

For TEDxNGA, she’s helped organize nearly every aspect of the event, from where and how chairs will be arranged to how to raise money. The youth contributions range from 11-year-old Birke Baehr’s presentation “What's Wrong with Our Food "System?" to a “Rockette’s style” performance by youth members of the Asheville Ballet.

"I'm really excited by the fact that kid's ideas will be heard. …We'll get to hear the passions of other kids, and we will actually be listened to,” adds Julien Melissas, teenage Technical Director and another performer at the event.
Adults, teens and youth collaborate in all the planning and production, working together in creative and innovative ways. “I whole-heartedly believe in the power of young voices being heard, their capacities to be inspiring leaders and their ability to influence positive change,” says Ashley Cooper,  executive director of TEDxNGA. “In a subtle and powerful way, we hope the city of Asheville is catalyzed by the ideas of these young people and members of our community are more connected to one another and ready to play and work together in new ways. The event is only a springboard to a much broader movement of collaboration and innovation.”

Or as Cumberford observes, “In our society, some ideas are accepted and some aren’t. But on this stage, with TED, people listen.”

TEDxNGA will be held on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Orange Peel in downtown Asheville. The event is free, but registration is required. For a full list of performers, and for more information, visit, e-mail organizers at, find them on Facebook as TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, or follow them on Twitter at

TEDxAsheville will be held the next day at the same location, Sunday, Aug. 29. Tickets are $25. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. for the evening conference. For more information, visit


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.