THE ASPEN IDEA: A Mountain Town with A Brain and A Heart
For More than 50 Years, One Big Idea—the Nurturing of Mind, Body, and Spirit --- Has Placed Aspen in its Own League.
The Aspen Idea was born in 1950, when Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, began convening intellectuals, artists, and philosophers in the decaying mining town of Aspen for their foundling Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. It was a high-minded organization, established in the aftermath of the 1949 Aspen festival honoring the 200th anniversary of humanist Johann van Goethe’s birth. Its goals were lofty—the young Institute sought to do nothing less than promote world peace and instill humanism in the tense post-war nation and world. And it has largely succeeded. Today, the Aspen Institute has branches worldwide and headquarters near Washington D.C. Many of the world’s most influential business leaders pass through its famed Executive Seminar.
Paepcke’s influence didn’t just send ideas away from Aspen. It also molded the town itself, spawning from its fold the Aspen Music Festival, the International Design Conference in Aspen, and the Aspen Center for Physics, transforming a defunct mining town into a place where the arts and culture thrive alongside myriad athletic endeavors and a close-knit, dynamic community. It made Aspen a sort of Utopia—a haven for the simultaneous nurturing of mind, body, and spirit.
What does it all mean? It means that an Aspen local is just as likely to attend a classical music concert as go mountain biking (or even more likely, do both—often on the same day). It means that a day of hiking can easily be followed up with a world-class art opening at the Aspen Art Museum. And it means that Aspen visitors don’t need to sacrifice cultural enrichment and intellectual stimulation to enjoy the kind of heart-pumping adventure that brings them to the mountains. It’s all part of the same experience—that’s the big idea.