A world of ideas will be at visitors’ fingertips in Kent August 16th-18th when Benjamin and Donna Rosen stage their fourth annual KentPresents, a weekend of talks, discussions and conversations by some of the most distinguished figures in the realms of international politics, science, art, social issues, education, health and the like.
Among the presenters taking part are such luminaries as CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl, world-renowned trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. They will be joined by a full panoply of experts in different areas of concern in the 21st century.
The weekend will feature panel discussions on international relations between Russia, North Korea, China and the U.S., cyber war and the turmoil in the Middle East. The future of science, technology and the environment will be explored by other panels, tackling topics such as “Designer Families,” sustainable energy and the future of conservation.
Among the topics slated for Economics and Education panels are discussions of the future of cities, universities and free expression and charter vs. public schools. Turning to Health and Food, panelists will discuss autism, immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer, molecular gastronomy and psychedelics.
Mind trips triggered by psychedelics have no comparison to the surreal journey of modern American politics and more panelists will explore such pithy questions as the futures of the Republican and Democratic parties, Trump vs. His Own Justice Department and where the Supreme Court is headed.
The societal upheaval in the United States is not confined to politics and under Social Issues panelists will turn their attention to topics as controversial as guns in America, “post-truth” America, sexual harassment and assault, the social media crisis and wrongful convictions in the post-DNA era.
On a more sublime level, Humanities and the Visual and Performing Arts will explore topics such as the works of Jasper John and Diane Arbus, origami and Pilobolus dance.
KentPresents has gathered kudos since it was first staged in 2015 by the Rosens. In introducing the concept, Ben Rosen said he had three goals: “To raise cash each year with the profits going to local charities in Litchfield County, to market Litchfield County, primarily in the New York metro area, and, hopefully, to augment Litchfield County as a cultural center as Aspen’s Ideas Festival has done for Aspen.”
The Rosens had plenty of friends and acquaintances to call on. Ben Rosen, a former venture capitalist, co-founded the venture capital company, Sevin Rosen Funds in 1981, and, in this capacity, invested in Compaq Computer Corporation, eventually serving as its chairman for 18 years. Briefly in 1999, he also served as acting CEO.
His wife, Donna Perret Rosen, child of an artist and an architect, has her toe dipped deeply in the arts. Recruited to serve as director of the Galerie Simone Sterne in New Orleans, she stayed there for more than two decades, first as director and then has owner, relinquishing the role only when she married Rosen nearly two decades ago. She serves as a trustee for the New Orleans Museum of Art and of Whitney Museum of American Art.
The Rosens delved deep into their own impressive backgrounds to attract speakers from the upper echelons of business, policy, philanthropy and the arts. And those contacts suggested others in an ever-widening web of expertise.
The list of panelists is rife with the likes of Nicholas Burns, former NATO Ambassador, Christopher Hill, former ambassador to South Korea; Robert Hormats, former Under Secretary of State, Economic Growth, Energy and Environment; David Sanger of The New York Times; Luis Diaz, Memorial Sloane Kettering, Immunotherapy; Michael Pollan, food activist; Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate and, well, the list goes on …
With her connection to the art world, it’s no surprise the KentPresents lineup boasts many notables from the world of arts and media, as well, including, among others, Flora Biddle, former chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney board member Fiona Donovan, Elizabeth Sussman, curator of photography at the Whitney, New York art critic Jerry Saltz, visual artist Wardell Milan, and Pilobolus executive director Itamar Kubovy.
With tickets at $2,500 each, a weekend of intellectual stimulation is not cheap, but the money after costs, all goes to good causes. The Rosens were inspired to bring the Aspen-like “festival of ideas” to the Northwest hills of Connecticut when they observed the charitable needs of some of the organizations serving the area. In 2017, KentPresents awarded some $125,000 to 38 non-profit organizations serving Litchfield County. This contribution represented a 25 percent increase over 2016, when 29 local organizations received grants.
The groups receiving awards provide social and emergency services, housing, educational and economic opportunities and enhance the cultural and artistic lives of low- and moderate-income individuals and families in Kent and nearby communities. In selecting the recipients, special emphasis is placed on basic needs, emergency services and education programs.
Kent Presents, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and most of the ticket value maybe be deducted for tax purposes.
In addition, those who wish to help KentPresents to fulfill its mission of sharing great ideas while supporting local charities (and to help pay the admission of attendees who would not otherwise be able to attend) can make donations to the charity.
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