In its second year, the Original Thinkers Festival, which takes place Thursday through Sunday, aims to connect people through ideas and stories. New this year is a special Saturday evening screening of Show Seven — “Unearthing Culture” — at the Deep Creek Mine, an abandoned limestone mine Down Valley. In addition to the screening, The Happening, as it's been dubbed, experience includes art installations, live performances, burnings, a tea ceremony, a BBQ and a late-night DJ set. 

David Holbrooke, festival creator and executive director, believes that these days congregating is a “sacred act” and that original thinking is critical to our evolution — and de-evolution — as a species.

“If we say, ‘OK, the status quo continues,’ we’re screwed,” Holbrooke said. “But if we say, ‘Let’s innovate, let’s be disruptive, let’s embrace original thinking;’ that’s what the festival is all about.”

While Holbrooke agrees that content is king, he insists context is everything else.

“How do you watch a movie? How do you hear a speaker? It’s the environment and the vibe that’s radically different,” he said. “So the idea of art at a mine is, to me, so exciting.”

The Happening at Deep Creek Mine is the vision of local welder, architect and artist Anton Viditz-Ward, who manages the mine space and has kept his art studio there for more than a decade. For the past 20 years, Viditz-Ward has been crafting heavy steel to create art installations for clients and events; notably epic fire exhibits at Burning Man.

“I kind of look at it as Mine 3.0,” Holbrooke explained. “Mine 1.0 was the mine. Mine 2.0 was the idea of letting artists kind of figure this thing out. And now this is a new iteration — Mine 3.0 — something that hasn’t been done before anywhere.”

The Happening BBQ for passholders takes place at the mine from 4-5:30 p.m. followed by Show Seven — “Unearthing Culture” — which runs from 6-7:15 p.m.

Each of the festival’s 10 shows is built around a theme; Saturday evening’s show is about building culture.

“How did culture come about and how do you build it?” said Holbrooke, summarizing the film experience. “And how important is it to our lives? Who we are as human beings and as a community?”

With the immersive Deep Creek Mine event — and with the Original Thinkers Festival, in general — Holbrooke is trying to build a culture. 

“We have to have the people who commit to being here, believing that this festival is too important to miss,” Holbrooke said. “Ideas matter. Individual stories matter. Let’s engage, connect over them and build a world that makes more sense.”

Passholders will be shuttled from the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village (known this weekend as The Big Idea) up to Deep Creek Mine and back.

As part of a unique and immersive culture at the mine for passholders, there will be a meditative, multi-sensory installation by Studio Chromasonic, founded by visual artist Johannes Girardoni and sound artists Orpheo McCord and Joel Shearer — both members of the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes — meant to inspire deep mindfulness and real human connection.

“So it’s basically a light/sound installation, taking technology and creating an analogue experience that mellows us out,” Holbrooke explained. “They’re trying to create a culture where people are saying, ‘Hey, I really want to sit down and chill out with other people to share this.’”

“The art installations by visiting artists are new for us,” Viditz-Ward added. “Original Thinkers are using the space like it has not been used before.”

Cultural instigator Nic Aziz, an interdisciplinary artist and curator at the New Orleans Museum of Art, will also perform live.

“He poses as Rodin’s Thinker, but he re-interprets it as a 21st century American black man,” Holbrooke said. “So the thinker is thinking something very different.”

The mine show continues with a conversation about art, culture and independent thought among Rhea Combs, curator of film for the Smithsonian African-American Museum, Chris Taylor from the rock/electronic group Grizzly Bear and singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman.

Starting at 8 p.m., people who aren’t passholders may join The Happening at the mine for a closing DJ set. 

“There will be food, there will be stuff burning, there will be all kinds of cool things,” noted Holbrooke, who emphasizes that there’s no need to buy an additional ticket to The Happening at Deep Creek Mine if you are already a festival passholder. 

If someone is not a passholder and wants to attend the DJ party at the mine that begins at 8 p.m., a separate ticket is available for purchase at brownpapertickets.com or from the Original Thinkers website at originalthinkers.com.