x = independently organized TED event

Theme: It Connects Us

This event occurred on
November 10, 2012
10:00am - 7:00pm EST
(UTC -5hrs)
Corning, NY
United States

On Saturday, November 10, 2012, TEDxChemungRiver showcased many amazing and enlightening local speakers and performers. This intimate event brought together an audience of nearly 150 unlikely peers who are excited about giving their voice to innovative and world-changing ideas. At TEDxChemungRiver, the combination of 22 live speakers and performers giving 16 talks and 11 TEDTalks videos sparked deep discussion and connection in the intellectually-charged group.

The daylong event took place at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY and included lunch, a reception and admission to all of the event performances and networking opportunities.

Corning Museum of Glass
One Museum Way
Corning, NY, 14830
United States
Event type:
Standard (What is this?)
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Sharon Rula Backos

(Allegany, NY) Sharon Rula Backos is a professional actress, poet, playwright, and solo-performer. She is resident actress for Enchante’ Cabaret, a traveling repertory company, performing eight months a year. Rula also writes and performs one-woman shows which include, The Sacred Monsters of Frida Kahlo, Goddess Out Of Exile, Letters I Wear For My Father, and her most recent, Agnes; Woman Under The Blue Veil. Her art practice relies heavily on process; breaking boundaries, exploring new paradigms, and forging into the underbelly of the unknown. Ms. Backos studied acting under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg in NYC, holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and is a member of Actor’s Equity and Screen Actor’s Guild. Agnes: Woman Under The Blue Veil is a performance Sharon Rula Backos wrote specifically for TEDx, from the perspective of “Agnes“, and the flood of 72.

Amelia Harnas

(Corning, NY) She was born with a blue and white sticker on her forehead proclaiming: Future Artist. When she was one or two, she inhaled paint thinner and had to sleep overnight in an airtent at Corning Hospital. When she was three or four, she danced in the living room to her favorite music, either Powaqqatsi or Rite of Spring. When she was five or six, she sang singsongingly almost nonstop and wore skirts with motorcycles and rainbows on them. When she was seven or eight, she built cities with her toys complete with class structures. When she was nine or ten, she experienced the pros and cons of belting out songs about altruism. When she was eleven or twelve, she could sustain meta-hysterical-laughter for hours. When she was thirteen or fourteen, she danced to 1950's advertising jingles in satin pants. When she was fifteen or sixteen, she stared longingly at the National Gallery. When she was seventeen or eighteen, she spent much of the day in one room with her watercolors, favorite brush, and mix tape after mix tape. When she was nineteen or twenty, she carefully labeled hundreds of photos and slides for legend-preservation purposes. When she was twenty-one or twenty-two, she decided it was best to stare at balance sheets and tiny strands of beads instead. When she was twenty-three or twenty-four, she toured the countryside and various landscapes of her heart and moved to Portland, OR. When she was twenty-five or twenty-six, she fell in love with gesamtkunstwerk. When she was twenty-seven or twenty-eight, with a BB gun in one hand and a No. 12 bright in the other, she invented and attended L'Université des Musées. When she was twenty-nine or thirty, she communicated almost solely through pyrotechnics and laser shows.

Michael Dittman

(Trumansburg, NY) From the start of his career as a performance poet in the late 1990s, Michael Dittman has seen the way that art can be used as a confrontational tool to make people question their preconceptions. As a writer, his nonfiction on the Beat Generation and his novel, Small Brutal Incidents, explore the way in which, as Winston Churchill said, “places shape people”. After moving to a sleepy town in Northwestern Pennsylvania, he sharpened his urbanist skills, by being present and helping to guide a nascent urban revitalization process that depended large on the relocation of artists from large cultural centers to a dying Rust Belt industrial town. Today, as a writer, professor, and speaker splitting his time between Pittsburgh, PA and Ithaca, NY he spends his time watching, talking about, photographing, and writing about, the ways in which public art (and culture in general) are a way for people to sharpen their ideas about what they want their livesto embody. For him, art is a tool of self-realization rather than a piece of aesthetic flotsam. He is the creator of, a site that captures all photos posted to social networks with the tag “Ithaca” and blogs at A former cultural blogger for the Pennsylvania State tourism agency, his current project is mapping public art in the Finger Lakes region and examining the correlation between population demographics and expansion or contraction of money made available. His journalism on arts and culture has appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Erie Times News and dozens of other media outlets. He can be contacted at

Joshua Furnas

(San Francisco, CA) Josh Furnas graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 2003. He went on to play Division 1AA football at the University at Albany and graduated in 2007 with dual business & information science degrees. Upon graduation, Josh’s entrepreneurial and creative spirit led him to co-found his first successful enterprise that entertained and fed many on their way tou Southern Vermont. The Big Moose Deli & Country Store is located on the border of Vermont & NY on Route 7. Looking for more meaning and a larger impact, Josh headed to San Francisco in 2011 to co-found SelflessTee with his business partner Danny Bocanegra. SelflessTee’s (and Josh’s) mission is to help others learn, connect, and contribute to the world around them. It is an online platform selling fashionable apparel that gives back to many amazing charities around the globe. As a social entrepreneur Josh feels fortunate to be a part of a generation of entrepreneurs who believe their companies can create and leave a positive impact on the world.

Dave Clark

(Cape Coral, FL) Dave Clark is the only professional baseball player to have pitched and played from crutches. Dave is currently an envoy coach for Major League Baseball International, a motivational speaker, and host of Disability Dream Day events organized by the Dave Clark Foundation. Dave contracted polio at 10 months of age which virtually rendered his legs useless and, consequently, introduced Dave to an existence utilizing crutches. Despite these physical challenges, Dave went on to enjoy a 17 year professional baseball career as a pitcher/first baseman, and a 40 plus year career as a baseball team owner, manager, coach and scout. Dave’s honors include: The National Hero’s of Sports award, Giant Steps Award (Presented by President Bill Clinton at the White House), Bo Jackson Courage Award, and multiple Hall of Fame inductions. Dave’s story is one of the “150 Heroes: People in Sports Who Make This a Better World” by Richard Lapchick. Dave is a native of Corning, New York, who now lives in Cape Coral, Florida, with his wife, Camilla, their daughter, Elica, and son Trey. “Dave Clark’s story is an astonishing blend of fact and fact. It only reads like fiction, but one could never make up the battles he has waged, the obstacles he has overcome, the victories that were finally his,” said Mike Veek, Baseball Executive and son of legendary baseball promoter Bill Veeck.

Laura Cunningham

(Binghamton, NY) Laura Cunningham is a playwright who resides in Binghamton, New York. New to the entertainment world, she writes about issues important to society. These plays include: 2012 Frack You! (filmed by WSKG) - a comedy about fracking which uses humor to start a meaningful dialogue which moves past “talking points”, lawn signs and bumper stickers. It acts as an icebreaker, presenting both sides of the issue in a way that generates laughter and provides a common ground for people to start talking, not shouting, about fracking. Frack You! frames a controversial issue around personal narratives, humanizing an abstract debate, without taking sides. Aired on WSKG, it will also have public screenings followed by moderated “talk backs”. 2012 Color Blind (with Lynn Szigeti and Ken Martinak) - a musical drama which puts Jackie Whittaker, a young Black man, in the spotlight when he refuses to check the box marked ‘African American’ on his college application. This raises the provocative question: does applying to college as a minority student come with a price? Color Blind was selected as one of ten musicals to participate in 2012 NYMF’s (New York Musical Festival) developmental reading series. 2012 Apron Strings, commissioned by Roberson Museum and inspired by their Civil War Exhibit, features mustered-out Union soldiers who share a freight compartment where secrets are revealed, racism exposed, meanness countered by generosity and great courage demanded. And if that’s not enough – they’ve got fleas! Fully produced. 2012 Go Figaro! – an opera spoof which is a musical romp spanning two very different cultures: the world of musicals and the world of opera. Word of warning: nothing is sacred as these two worlds collide before they come to understand and appreciate each other. 2011 A Date with Fate (with Erin Yurday and Lynn Szigeti) - a comedy about young professionals looking for love on the internet. Best advice: don’t read the fine print, read between the lines. Fully produced. 2010 I’m Not Dead Yet – a comedy featuring two elderly sisters, in an assisted living center, determined to live life on their own terms, not as society dictates. Which includes – gasp! – romantic/sexual relationships. These two gals will stop at nothing to maintain their independence. Fully produced. 2008 So Long, Goodbye (with Lynn Szigeti and Ken Martinak) – a musical comedy about the insanity surrounding the college application process. Fully produced.

Arthur Weaver

(Ithaca, NY) In August 2003, I founded Renovus Energy in Ithaca NY along with two partners (both of whom have since moved on to other endeavors). For a year prior to that, I had been learning on my own about design and installation of renewable energy (RE) systems. Being a scientist helped enormously in understanding solar design, but was of limited value when it came to nuts and bolts installation. It took a while to attain what would be called "workmanlike" or "best practice" installation technique, but at that time there were few opportunities to learn from experienced people and even fewer accredited institutions with renewable energy training programs. This situation has completely changed in a decade. Renovus was a confluence of my interests in science, renewable energy, sustainable enterprise, and social change, and I learned a great deal from the experience. Apart from RE technology, I probably learned even more about doing business and about people in general. One of my personal lessons was that I am more adept as a scientist and technical problem solver than as a manager. That knowledge, along with my single greatest technical frustration while at Renovus, gave rise to my current project which is Weaver Wind Energy—whose mission is to create "the world's most reliable small wind turbine." This startup, now over a year old and also based here in Ithaca, has its roots in years of experience installing other manufacturers' wind turbines, during which time it became clear that the long-term reliability of these systems was the single greatest deficiency. For the past 3 years, it has been my primary professional goal to correct this situation, and I believe we have succeeded. Our first commercial product—a 3-blade, horizontal-axis wind turbine (HAWT) rated at 5kW—is now undergoing pre-production testing in preparation for third-party certification. A pre-production marketing effort to selected local customers has already begun.

Audrey Lane Ellis

(Brooklyn, NY) Audrey Lane Ellis earned a B.A. in both Dance and Philosophy from Goucher College in 2006. Since then she has been performing with NYC based dance companies Headless Horse Dance, Tara Burns Dance, Kelley Donovan and Dancers, El Gato Teatro and 277 Dance Project. She has both choreographed and directed operas for Metropolis Opera Project as well as other musical theater projects and is a Dance Critic for L Magazine. After finishing her masters degree in Philosophy and Art in 2009, Audrey co-founded Brooklyn dance company a+s works. This company focuses on creating and performing original choreography as well as directing an annual dance festival in Hornell, New York called a+s works on the farm.

Randi Hewit

(Corning, NY) A graduate of Rollins College with a degree in sociology and women’s studies, Randi Hewit serves as President of the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. Under her leadership, the Community Foundation launched its first $1 million grant initiative: the Chemung County School Readiness Project. Before joining the Community Foundation, Randi managed fund development, public affairs and education as Vice President for Community Affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Southern Tier. She is past Vice-Chair of ProNet, a professional organization serving program officers U.S. community foundations. She also serves on boards of directors for Corning Children’s Center, WSKG Public Broadcasting, Corning Museum of Glass and the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce. Randi lives in Corning with her husband and daughter.

Whiskey Tango Sideshow

(Ithaca, NY) Whiskey Tango arose one serendipitous evening when the winds whispered 'Side…Show…!' across the flickering embers of some dance-school drop outs. From there the spark ignited and the Whiskey Tango Sideshow fire burns brightly bringing together dancers, singers, musicians, costumers and performers of all varieties. Our goal? To deepen our own understanding and express our passion through the comradery of group performance as well as to connect with others and arouse inspiration in our audience. From some serious sass, to the down right bizarre, the Whiskey Tango Sideshow brings something for all...

Charlie Trautmann

(Ithaca, NY) Charlie Trautmann is executive director of the Sciencenter, a hands-on museum in Ithaca, NY and adjunct associate professor of civil & environmental engineering at Cornell University, where he received his PhD in 1983. Charlie began at the Sciencenter in 1990 and is responsible for vision, strategic planning, leadership of the museum, including its exhibits and programs, staffing, finance, and fundraising. Charlie serves the local region and museum field on various boards and committees. He was founding chair of the Discovery Trail, a partnership of seven museums and the public library in Tompkins County, and currently chairs the board of directors for Tompkins County Area Development, the county’s economic development agency. He also serves on the board of the Association of Children’s Museums in Washington. He has published nearly 100 articles on museum education, non-profit management, and related subjects.

Steve Kettelle

(Pine City, NY) Steve Kettelle was born and raised in Foster, a small rural town in Northwest R.I. Steve attended and graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a degree in Management in 2004. That same year, Steve left R.I. for South Florida. The first few years, Steve worked for Houston’s Restaurants and traveled extensively, living in Atlanta, Houston and Baltimore. Steve left the restaurant business in 2008 and began selling residential real estate with Coldwell Banker, where he would work for the next 17 years. During this time, Steve was very involved with the Palm Beach County Board of Realtors, serving on the board and as president of the 7000 member board in 2001-2002. Steve was also neighborhood association president for the Grandview Heights Historic District and played a key role in getting the neighborhood designated as a Local and National Historic District. In 2003, as Steve approached his 40th birthday, Steve made the decision to leave his job and South Florida for Upstate New York. “My life dream was to own a farm with lots of land and woods”, says Steve. While the farm had land, it had not been a working farm in many years. Steve went to work and cleared the land. Hendy Hollow Organic Farm was born as Chemung County’s first Certified Organic Farm. Today, Hendy Hollow Organic farm is approaching its 10 year anniversary. And offers a popular CSA program for the area residents. Members of the farm stop by each week in the spring and summer for a weekly share of the farm’s harvest. Steve resides in Pine City with his spouse Michael, and their 5 dogs; Lucy, Molly, Sadie, Daisy and Benny.

Claudio Mazzali

(Painted Post, NY) Claudio was born in São Paulo - Brazil in 1970, the same year when the first low loss optical fiber was being invented in Corning, NY. During his PhD in Physics Mazzali studied high capacity optical communication systems, what lead him to move in 2001 to this small town in upstate NY where innovation around those amazing glass waveguides was still happening at a fast pace. His continuous work with optical fibers naturally evolved to a curiosity (and passion…) for the meaning of information. This not very well understood entity, that in some cases is more important than energy, is ruling our society and making silent changes in the way we are evolving. Claudio lives in Painted Post with his wife, son, daughter (and dog…) and when time allows loves to play as an amateur woodworker. Claudio’s dad use to tell him and his brother that they should go to school to “learn what not to do” (because that was already done by somebody else). Until today he believes that was the most profound and impactful learning he could carry with him, and certainly what has defined his life and career.

Catherine Drew Harvell

(Ithaca, NY) Drew Harvell is currently a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, where she teaches courses in Marine Ecosystem Sustainability, Marine Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation Oceanography. She teaches Ecology of Infectious Marine Disease at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories. She also serves as the Associate Director for Environment at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. She received her PhD from the University of Washington in 1985. Following NATO and NSF postdoctoral fellowships in 1986, she joined the faculty of Cornell University in 1986 as an Assistant Professor. Professor Harvell is widely recognized for her work on marine sustainability and health, chairing both the World Bank Targeted Research Program on Coral Disease and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis program on the Ecology of Marine Disease and is lead PI on an NSF funded Research Coordination Network Ecology of Marine Infectious DIsease. The current focus of Professor Harvell’s laboratory group is on the ecology and evolution of coral resistance to disease. A subtheme of this work includes evaluating the impacts of a warming climate on marine ecosystems. Her analyses and papers have led to the now widespread acceptance that diseases are restructuring marine ecosystems, particularly in very climate- sensitive coral reef ecosystems. Projects in her lab involve multi-disciplinary, cross-scale approaches, including field studies, remote sensing, genetic and transcriptomics, chemical analyses, and mathematical modeling. Her group has worked around the world, including the Mexican Yucatan, Hawaii, Palau, E. Africa, Australia and Indonesia. In collaboration with colleagues, students and postdocs, she has published over 100 research papers, appearing in journals such as Science, Nature, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Ecology, Public Library of Science, Biology, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Her work has been featured in national and international media. She has been a sabbatical fellow at National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and Vice President of the Society of American Naturalists, and is a senior scientist at The Kohala Center, Hawaii.

Tracy Savard

(Corning, NY) Tracy Savard is a Cataloging Specialist at The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass where she recently opened an exhibition to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the flood of 1972. She has spent a great deal of her life observing the social relations and behaviors of human beings in a fixed community setting; that is, she grew up in the small-town restaurant business. Perhaps it was that childhood fascination with people that inspired her to later study history, anthropology, and education. And, though a proud graduate of Le Moyne College, Tracy recognizes the worth in lessons learned outside the classroom walls. She first heard of the devastating flood of 1972 in the Corning, NY area as a child by listening to stories told by her family. Surely, it’s no surprise that her mother, who lived on Ontario Street at the time of the flood, has always insisted on keeping duplicate family photo albums in locations 20 miles apart. To live through a disaster such as that is to have your life changed forever. In the aftermath of the flood, however, lives weren’t only affected by tragedy. Rather than give up hope, the community found strength. And that story is a lesson we can all learn from.

Bronson Wistuk, Kyle Landin & Amanda Williams

(Corning, NY) We are three high school seniors in Corning and had the opportunity to embark on an educational journey through China over the course of nearly 6 weeks this past summer.Through the Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) program, we were able to study Chinese language and culture through immersion - something unavailable here at home. As a group, we are dedicated to promoting educational change in the area by informing the public of educational differences in the world and how globalization can cause a community to grow.

Organizing team


Elmira, NY, United States
  • Vishoka Iyer
    Speakers & Performers Curator
  • Colleen Parsons
    Attendees Curator
  • Amanda Chafee
    Logistics Curator
  • Colleen Rennie
    Marketing Curator
  • Joseph Welch
    Partnerships Curator