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Between 1988 to 1991, the Telluride Institute  held four “Composer-to-Composer” festivals, in which major composers from around the world, including John CageJohn AdamsTerry RileyGe Gan-ruLaurie Anderson and Tom Ze, met for several days of private discussions followed by a weekend of public performances. Composer-to-Composer bred a spin-off: Charles Amirkhanian, co-director with John Lifton, launched the annual Other Minds festival in San Francisco, California in 1993. 2005 saw the eleventh Other Minds festival take place[citation needed].

Another element of the TI’s arts program was the Radio Futures project, which over five years saw more than 75 original radio plays performed on Telluride’s community radio station, KOTO.

In 1991, the late anthropologist and author Dr. Alfonso Ortiz, founded the TI’s Native American Writers and Artists Forum, which
offers a unique opportunity for distinguished Native writers, artists and educators to explore issues of craft and culture , as well as to lead and publish discussions about the future of their communities. This forum gave rise to the Native American Writers in Schools residency program, which sponsors Native writers and artists to work with Native high school students in week long workshops in school.

In 1997, the TI invented the idea of Greenbucks, printed vouchers that one earns by working for environmental clean-up and restoration projects and that can be used as tickets to local concerts or at participating stores and restaurants. The institute administered the Greenbucks program in Telluride, Mountain Village, and other nearby towns. Greenbucks is an idea that has been copied on five continents.

In partnership with the Town of Telluride, the TI held its first annual Black Bear awareness week in 2005. It included lectures, performances and a community celebration on Telluride’s Main Street to educate area residents about the proper way to coexist with the local bear population. In 2006, the institute took over the organization of the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, a popular event that involves lectures, film screenings, foraging trips, and cooking demonstrations.  TI has played host and catalyzed conversations around the need for affordable housing in major ideas festivals in 1989, 2000, and 2016.

Future projects for the TI include funding a survey of the San Miguel Watershed’s wildlife, largely to be conducted by students, and building a campus in Telluride where visiting scholars would come together, research, discuss and teach.

In 2006 John Lifton and Pamela Zoline founded the “Centre for the Future” in the Czech border town of Slavonice. The Centre planned to hold, in September 2006, two simultaneous dual-language festivals: “Robot,” a gathering of science fiction authors and artists inspired by science from the US, UK and the Czech Republic, and “Cultural Landscapes,” examining the impact of society on the surface of the Earth and vice-versa through panels and exhibits regarding architecture, urban planning, landscape design, land art and new technologies of mapping and representing topography.  A new Science Fiction Collection will be housed at the Telluride Institute starting in 2017.  A preview of that collection is currently on display in the new “Ghost Town” tea and coffee shop that fronts the TI offices in Telluride.

Our Accomplishments

1984:  Telluride Institute established.

1985:  First TI Ideas Festival, “Reinventing Work.”

1987: “Glasnost” (Ideas Festival), with participants contemplating the future:  Leonid Dobrohotov (Soviet Historian), Amory Lovins (Rocky Mountain Institute), John Naisbitt (Futurist),  and Tankred Golampolski.  Photograph by Richard Lowenberg.

1988: “Perestroika” (Ideas Festival), the first event in the United States to be co-sponsored by a NGO and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR  (the only political party permitted in the USSR at the time),

1988 – 1993:  “Composer to Composer” Experimental music festivals including John Cage, Morton Subotnick, and others.

1989: “Housing the Community”  (Ideas Festival), which inspired an ongoing effort by the local governments in the Telluride region to provide deed-restricted housing to the local workforce.

1991:  Native American Writers and Artists Forum

1992: “Water: The Upper San Miguel Watershed” (Ideas Festival)  gave birth to the San Miguel Watershed Coalition, now an independent nonprofit group whose 2006 Watershed Report Card inspired the Institute to hold a lecture series addressing the issue that summer.

1993: “TeleCommunity” (Ideas Festival),  spawned the InfoZone, a project which made Telluride the first small town in the United States not affiliated with a university or corporation have direct dial-in to the Internet through a dedicated Internet POP tied to a pervasive community tele-computing network.

1993 – 2000:  Info-Zone

2000:  “A Town Without Locals” explored the challenges of building a truly vibrant community without housing and economic opportunities for Telluride’s full time residents.

1992 – 1997 (?): Radio Futures  project, which over five years saw more than 75 original Radio Plays performed on Telluride’s community radio station, KOTO.

2004 – present:  Watershed Education Program

2005:  Black Bear Awareness Week

2006:  Centre for the Future established in Slavonice, Czech.

2006 – present:  Mushroom Festivals.

2011:  Atlas of the San Miguel exhibition and photo competition.

2011 – 2013:  Compassion Festivals

2014: Launch of Talking Gourds, the poetry project of the Telluride Institute.

2015:  Launch of the Valley Floor Living Classroom (building on the significant legacy of BVLC–Bridal Valley Living Classroom).

2015:  TIES (Telluride Institute Environmental Studies) established as umbrella for all environmental programming including WEP, VFLC, SCAPE, and Mushroom.

2016:  Housing Our Community.  New Ideas Fest returns to theme explored in 1989 and 2000.

2017:  Launch of the new Clute_Science_Fiction Library based on the collection of long-time TI supporter,  John Clute.