A Unique Summer Festival in Fort Collins

Anne M. Cleary
Off the Hook Arts

An eclectic mix of creatives from around the world will descend on Fort Collins this summer for a first-of-its-kind festival from June 17-July 12. The festival’s theme is Perception, Illusion | Deception, Confusion. Among the first to arrive will be a group of cognitive scientists convening for an academic conference called Perceptual and Cognitive Illusions: Quirks of our Everyday Experience (from June 17-20). Around the same time, mathemagician Peter Kolm will be arriving for a performance on math and magic, comedian David Misch will arrive to discuss what science and comedy have in common, and musicians Carlo Grante, Colin Carr, and Marija Stroke will arrive to deliver evening concert performances with composer Bruce Adolphe. Among these musical performances will be a concert called Deceptive Cadences, which will explore the use of deception as a natural component of music throughout history.

In conjunction with cognitive science, the conference will be noon-hour talks by prominent speakers that are free and open to the public. Some of these speakers during the first week of the festival include David Misch on the “Science of Ha!” (and what makes things funny), Stephen Macknick, on visual illusions, and Colorado State University’s Jessica Witt on why your eyes can deceive you.  The conference will also feature some public book signing hours with prominent cognitive science authors such as Steven Macknick and Susana Martinez-Conde, authors of Champions of Illusion. Also available will be Mark McDaniel, author of Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Alan Castel, author of Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging, and Colorado State University’s own Matthew Rhodes, Anne Cleary and Edward DeLosh, authors of A Guide to Effective Studying and Learning: Practical Strategies from the Science of Learning.

The eclectic offerings continue through June and include a noon-hour public talk on June 25 by Assal Habbibi on Bistable Perception, and another on June 27 by Rael Cahn on the neuroscience behind our tangled webs of perception and hallucination. On the evening of June 25, science and music will come together as scientists join composer Bruce Adolphe in a panel discussion and live performance of his Piano Puzzlers, which have been on public radio’s Performance Today weekly for 17 years. Colorado State University’s Professor Anne Cleary will discuss her research on what makes Piano Puzzlers elicit that strange feeling of familiarity, and how that might relate to deja entendu (the auditory version of déjà vu). Also joining in the discussion are Colorado State University’s Professor Carol Seger and University of Southern California’s Assal Habibi on the neural basis of music processing. The week will also be peppered with musical performances and evening concerts by prominent musicians such as pianist Stephen Beck and the Miami String Quartet.

On Sunday, June 30, multiple sponsors will jointly put on a science fair called BrainFest. BrainFest will include kid-friendly hands-on demonstrations and activities related to the science of visual perception, attention, and memory, including how these processes can go awry, and the brain science behind them.

The festival continues on into July, with many evening concerts and more noon-hour public talks, including talks by the following faculty from Colorado State University: Jen Harman on why children reject loving parents (July 2), Scott Denning, on truth lies and poetry (July 9) and Anne Cleary on déjà vu and other strange memory experiences (July 11).

Among the many venues for these events will be the brand new Nancy Richardson Design Center on the Colorado State University campus and the Carnegie Center for Creativity in Fort Collins.

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