Eight speakers are scheduled to converge on downtown Asheville for the sixth TEDx Asheville event on Oct. 4. Tickets for the event, themed “Community and Transformation,” sold out in one day.
“To some people, Asheville is a tourist destination, and to others, it’s a fun place to live,” says Ron Hoffman, event organizer, “but what came to my mind was community and transformation. I look around and there are lots of communities of people and communities doing interesting things and pursuing some kind of transformation. We could probably do several years’ worth of events with that theme.”
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a 26-year-old nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. TED talks are limited to 18 minutes, and videos from conferences around the world are uploaded to the TED website daily.
TEDx, a branch of the original organization, is an initiative that grants licenses to individuals who wish to host an independently organized event in their community.
TED meets AVL
The most recent TEDx Asheville was held in January 2015, and Hoffman volunteered at that event.
“I was the guy who put the microphones on the speakers right before they went onstage,” says the New Jersey native. He moved to Asheville three years ago and began planning the upcoming TEDx event during the summer.
“It was important to me to put on an Asheville type of event, with an Asheville vibe, and not just a cookie-cutter TEDx event,” Hoffman says.
His other guiding principle, he adds, was affordability. The TEDx license restricts ticket sales to 100 tickets per event, and Hoffman sold those tickets for $25 each.
“A lot of other TEDx events sell tickets for like $100,” Hoffman says. “I wanted to make it available to a lot of people, so instead of calculating our prices after factoring in all the expenses like a lot of other organizers do, we set the ticket price early on and didn’t change it. We may not be able to do that every year, though.”
Sponsors like RISC Networks and Hi-Wire Brewing are paying for hors d’ouevres and beverages for attendees; HNYCMB Creative helped with the website and stage production; and the venue, The Collider, is providing the event space free of charge.
“That held our cost down tremendously and enabled us not to have some elitist event at an exorbitant price,” Hoffman explains. “If all goes well, we’ll probably break even.”
As for the talks, a three-person screening committee selected the event’s speakers – four men and four women.
“We selected eight people who are somewhat of a cross section of Asheville and its communities,” says Hoffman. “It’s a strong lineup of people talking about their journeys, working within community to achieve some form of transformation.”
David Cohen, an editorial cartoonist and musician, will give a talk titled “Just Be It,” which addresses how to climb over self-built walls to reach one’s full potential. Cohen is a drummer and percussionist who began drawing cartoons for the Asheville Citizen-Times 10 years ago. He’s lived in Asheville 45 years.
William Dissen, owner and executive chef of Market Place Restaurant, is a food policy activist who will share his experience in transforming community through building a network of local farmers, artisan producers and sustainable fishermen in his talk “Food Citizen – Changing the World One Plate at a Time.”
Tina FireWolf is a facilitator of “remembering” and also the author of Beneath the Chatter: The Wise Self Awaits. Her talk is titled “Communicating from Chaos to LOVE” and will focus on her experiences from her years as a Middle School Science Educator when she realized enlightenment is for everyone and in every ordinary moment. That enlightenment, she says, comes from communicating with ourselves, others and the unseen from a place of love, not fearful chaos.
Singer-songwriter Gary Jules is best known for his cover version of the Tears for Fears’ song “Mad World,” which he recorded with friend Michael Andrews for the film Donnie Darko. Jules’ music has been featured on a number of platforms, from network TV shows to presidential campaigns. His talk, “Community Can Transform,” touches on his experience balancing fatherhood with a worldwide music career.
J. Eric Mathis, a leader in sustainable community initiatives and co-designer of one of the most advanced coal transition strategies in the country, will introspectively explore how evolution can be a creative force for both changing the present world, as well as developing interpersonal explorations of the future. In his talk, “Exploring the Potential Worlds of Living Architecture,” Mathis will share details of his personal journey of taking theory into the world and, perhaps more important, bringing the world into theory.
Bloom Post, shamanic healer, ceremonialist, teacher and author, will talk about “Crazy in a Good Way,” sharing her wisdom surrounding experiences others may deem “crazy.” She’ll discuss reasons why people may be hesitant to explore these intuitive places, and offer ideas on how to do just that. She will also discuss mental illness from the shamanic viewpoint and tell personal stories from her life, and the lives of her clients, regarding how they worked with experiences that felt crazy in order to find guidance, healing and growth.
Emily Shaules, writer, actor and former attorney, became an entrepreneur when she founded Shift Bars, the first organic energy bar with only one gram of sugar, set to debut in stores next year. Her talk, “Shift Happens: Transform Your Life into One You Actually Want to Live,” is equal parts relatable humor and spiritual smackdown, with a focus on how to change one’s life when stuck in a rut.
Donna Marie Todd, storyteller, retreat leader, certified grief recovery specialist, writer and editor, is no stranger to loss. After her husband died of a stroke in 2011, she learned how to claim her own story, heal and rebuild her life. In “Harnessing the Power of Storytelling for Transformation,” she’ll talk about how to navigate big life changes by claiming the poetry, history and mystery of one’s life story.
According to Hoffman, following the event, videos of each talk will be available on YouTube.