On Sunday the Center for the Arts stage will turn into something of a classroom.

Nine speakers, each with their own expertise or experience, will speak on the theme of metamorphosis. TEDx Jackson Hole is back for its seventh year, bringing artists, doctors, a tech CEO and more, whose talks will range broadly, each tied together by the topic of change.

“We choose the theme first,” said organizer Lisa Samford. “It has to be provocative and broad enough.”

TEDx is an independent event, given guidance by the TED conference, the global body behind TED Talks, but self-driven. After Samford and the committee settled on metamorphosis, the next step was to choose speakers who could tell stories related to it.

Split almost evenly between locals and others, the docket of presenters bring a vast array of life experience and, therefore, changes they have undergone. Locals include Dr. Devra Davis, an epidemiologist, wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen, retiree and park ranger John Kerr and Dr. Mary Neal, whose books on her near-death experience have become bestsellers (see the sidebar for a full lineup).

They will have 15 minutes to tell a story from their life and research that is germane to the topic.

“You have to focus on what is the simple message you want people to understand,” Davis said.

Davis has several areas of focus she researches and presents on, but one she finds pressing in our ever-digitizing world is the relationship between cellphone use and radiation.

Much of her research has homed in on the effects of our heavy phone use on male reproductive health, brain function and breast cancer.

“We have so much use of digital devices, and we’re not thinking about what it does to our health,” she said.

Her talk will focus on new test results on phone use and radiation that, she said, will upend the way we understand how much radiation our bodies are exposed to when we use our phones and other devices. But rather than being simply alarmist, Davis will provide a path forward to make our phone use safer.

“I’ll talk about how to protect yourself, and there are ways to do so that aren’t outlandish,” she said.

Other talks will be more personal. Iranian-born filmmaker Jahanara, whose portfolio includes narrative and documentary works, will speak not about her work, though she may touch on it, but about her journey as an immigrant.

Born in the Iranian capital of Tehran, she immigrated to the U.S. around the year 2000 to pursue a film career, inspired by movies she watched as child.

“We have very limited access to film because of the revolution in Iran,” she said. “But we had a guy who would come to our house with suitcase of VHS tapes.”

Moving to another country is always a compelling narrative, but doing so just before 9/11, and living through the ebb and flow of anti-immigrant sentiment, which spiked after the World Trade Center attack and again recently, adds an urgent element.

“I am going to speak about abolishing hate, fear and ignorance, mostly about immigrants and refugees,” she said.

Living in Jackson can feel like living in a bubble, but Sunday night at the Center for the Arts will be a chance to visit faraway lands and confront difficult and wonderful truths, a necessary escape.

Tickets for the event are sold out, but you can add your name to the waitlist at JHCenterForTheArts.org. 

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-5902 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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