TEDxVail returns for sixth year with 16 speakers on the theme ‘Naturally’ | VailDaily.com

TEDxVail returns for sixth year with 16 speakers on the theme ‘Naturally’

Melanie Wong
Army veteran Melissa Stockwell lost a leg while serving in Iraq and went on to become a champion paratriathlete. She speaks at TEDxVail about choosing your own story.
Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Sixth-annual TEDxVail, an independently organized TED event, with 16 speakers across four sessions.

When: 2-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.

Cost: $100 in advance or $125 at the door

More information: Visit http://www.tedxvail.com.

BEAVER CREEK — A glass blower, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, a pro big-mountain skier and a filmmaker — you can meet them all and hear their unique ideas at the sixth annual TEDxVail.

Slated for Friday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, the conference features 16 different speakers of all ages in a dizzying array of fields. They’ll each talk about their specific field and expertise, focusing on this year’s theme, “naturally.”

“We chose ‘naturally’ because the common thread that draws all of us to the Vail Valley is the exquisite relationship and beauty that we enjoy with nature here,” said Kat Haber, TEDxVail organizer and curator. “Also, sometimes the ideas we hear confront us and are challenging or unusual. We thought that with the combination of easing into a new way of thinking and of coming to Vail for nature, that word was fitting.”

Most people are familiar with TED talks — short, powerful talks that cover a number of global issues. The TED organization holds four-day conferences around the world, featuring a slate of talks that run about 18 minutes each, and attendees must apply to attend. Beginning in 2009, the TED organization began offering conference attendees the opportunity to create TEDx events. These homegrown, self-organized events follow the same TED Conference format but are more approachable for local audiences. TEDxVail typically features a mix of local and national speakers. The talks are shorter, around 9 minutes, and the conference is one day long.

Just like at TED Conferences, organizers want the audience to be as diverse as the speaker lineup. The overall goal will also still be the same, said Haber.

“The intent of TEDx is to spread worthy ideas. I think of it like a stone soup — everyone from the community is invite to throw in what they have and see what happens,” she said.

Among this year’s speakers are scientist and writer Stephan Schwartz, who will speak about the ingredients that create a change maker; Harley K. DuBois, member of the Burning Man founding board, speaking on female leadership; filmmaker Justin Bogardus speaking on tools of effective communication; and Colorado high school student Peyton Palermo, a brain tumor survivor. Locally, Vail resident, writer and reality TV star Trista Sutter will talk about gratitude.

“All of the speakers are coming in with a great message to tell the incredible people of the valley and the TED audience,” Sutter said. “It is going to be such a great day, and to be a part of it makes me incredibly grateful.”

Those are just a few of the talks that have been almost a year in the making. Here are more highlights you should be sure not to miss.

JP Canlis

Glass blower and artist-in-residence

Artists usually let their work do the talking, but Seattle-based glass artist JP Canlis will be stepping out from behind his art and speaking to Vail Valley audiences at TEDxVail. He’ll talk about the life of a creator, and he admits that sitting down to put his experience into words has been an interesting challenge.

“My talk will be about what my life as a creator has derived from, and about the first time I felt actualized as an artist. I’ll also look in hindsight at my life as a creator and identify three things that have been evident in my life that have allowed me to be a creator,” Canlis said.

Canlis is also the artist in residence at TEDxVail and has spent a week constructing the stage set. The set includes more than 2,000 pieces of glass and will depict shimmering wheat fields and raindrops. The work will only be up for the duration of the conference. On Saturday, Canlis will deconstruct the entire set and ship it all back to his workshop. (He is also looking for volunteers to help with the take-down process. Contact him at jp@canlisglass.com.)

“I can’t think of any other occasion I’ve experienced with my work that would be as rare and unique as this — it’s something that requires huge amounts of work on a stage and will be created spontaneously the week beforehand,” Canlis said.

Melissa Stockwell

Three-time paratriathlon world champion

Army veteran Melissa Stockwell couldn’t imagine what her life was going to be like when she woke up in the hospital following a roadside bomb explosion and learned that she had lost a leg. She certainly didn’t think she’d become a competitive athlete, but her eyes were open to the possibilities when she visited Vail as part of a trip with the Vail Veterans Program.

“The Vail Veterans Program got me back into athletics. I was able to prove to myself that I could still do this stuff,” she said.

She learned to run and ride a bike. Swimming was one of the first activities she was able to do during her recovery. Since then, she has become a three-time paratriathlon world champion and hopes to represent her country in Brazil for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Her topic for TEDxVail is “Choosing Your Story.”

“I talk about my own story, but also that everybody has the ability to create their own story and outcome with what life throws at you,” she said.

Amy Ben-Horin

Founder of Ute Springs Experiential Learning Center

Could a lack of nature be suppressing kids’ superpowers?

Amy Ben-Horin thinks so, and she’s dedicated her career to the idea that kids often have more potential than is recognized. Ute Springs now serves more than 700 kids in Eagle County and beyond, often using hands-on, outdoor experiences.

“I believe that all kids have amazing gifts to share,” Ben-Horin said. “We call them their superpowers, or the things they could do if there are no limitations put on them. I have seen firsthand amazing kids struggle or feel they have no value or feel completely powerless because of the environment they are put in. What is crucial for today is creating an environment of empowerment for kids.”

She’ll speak at TEDxVail about the idea of experiential learning and allowing kids to grow in their own capacity. She’ll also talk about how she was able to turn her own journey and passion into a profession.

Chris Anthony

Pro skier

As a child, Chris Anthony was never a very good student, so he never imagined that part of his successful career would someday be in classrooms.

Every year for the past 17 years, the big-mountain skier and star of many Warren Miller films has visited various classrooms, speaking to more than 20,000 students about his experiences on the slopes. However, behind the clips of professional skiing and stories from visiting some of the most remote places on earth are life and educational lessons that the students absorb.

At first, Anthony said schools received his talks almost as an interruption to the school day. Now, his visits are in demand.

“I’ve seen this evolution in our schools,” Anthony said. “More and more, teachers are seeing the value in putting their kids in front of a problem physically. This lets them work through it in a way that their brain can. We know that all these kids have the ability to solve problems and learn, but they need to be able to do it in their own way.”

The focus of his TEDx talk will be the lessons he learned from skiing.

“Skiing gave me discipline, self-esteem and something to work for. It gave me a sense of purpose,” Anthony said. “If I didn’t have skiing, I would be a mess, I guarantee it. I would have believed this system of education was the only the way and I would have just been out there trying to survive instead of thrive in my own way.”

John O’Neill, marketing manager of the Vail Symposium, contributed to this article.

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