Night of Ideas 2021
Around the U.S.


Join the Brooklyn Public Library for a FREE SIX-HOUR VIRTUAL EXCHANGE OF IDEAS, featuring philosophical debate, readings and music performances with top philosophers, cultural thinkers and artists from around the world.

This year’s NIGHT OF IDEAS continues in the tradition of our annual A Night of Philosophy & Ideas. It is part ofthe U.S. Night of Ideas curated by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and presented as part of the global24-hour virtual La Nuit des idées, coordinated worldwide by the Institut Français.

Thursday, January 28, 2021, 6 PM – 12 AM (ET)


Villa San Francisco, KQED, SFMOMA, San Francisco Public Library and California Humanities are reuniting to produce a two-hour virtual showcase of some of the Bay Area’s leading performers and thinkers.    

For the livestream of the third San Francisco-edition of the Night of Ideas, speakers and performers were asked to meditate on the theme of “closing the distance,” an adaptation of the international theme “proche”. It will present a variety of perspectives on how we can collectively move closer to each other and build a better future by reimagining our civic spaces to be more inclusive and advancing racial equity. Viewers will see performances featuring some of the area’s iconic scenery and tributes to our artists and essential workers that have kept spirits up during these challenging times.  

The event is made possible by the support of the City and County of San Francisco, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States – Consulate General of France in San Francisco, and the French American Cultural Society. La Nuit des Idées is a project of the Institut Français.

January 28, 2021 from 7-9 p.m (PT)


Join The Alliance Française in Minneapolis for a reflection on “Closing the distance”. 

The night will feature Poet Valérie Déus, Dancer Djenane Saint Juste, Mixed media artists Jacques & Dumont from Douala Soul Collective, Guitarist Philippe Gallandat and more!

This event will be held outdoors, in-person, in accordance with guidelines set forth by the State of Minnesota. Masks will be required and social distancing enforced.

Location: Patio of La Dona Cerveceria, 241 Fremont Ave N, Minneapolis, United States.

January 28, 2021 from 6-8 p.m (CT)


“Proches/Nearness” “Physical Distance; Spiritual Closeness”

As the world adjusts to an all-encompassing pandemic, this year’s virtual and restrained Night of Ideas probes the question: how can we get closer to one another despite the physical constraints imposed by a brutal and highly contagious virus? How can the pandemic situation help us appreciate what makes our local treasures so valuable to us; how can theater thrive despite the impossibility of in person audiences and how can it be used as a healing agent in times of anxiety and trauma? How can looking at the stars and planets help us feel more at home on earth despite their colossal distance? How can one reach out and exchange with cultures so different and far from our own? How can we connect with faraway lands through poetry as our evening comes to a close and theirs is just beginning?

Through 6 engaging speakers from the hyper local to the extreme distant, this evening will help us highlight our interconnectedness despite seemingly impossible challenges and separations.

On Zoom: Link Coming Soon… Hosted by Old Dominion University Dept of World Languages and Cultures.


January 28, 2021 from 7-10 p.m (ET)

Montpelier, VT

Join Vermont Humanities for a Live Discussion on  Qualities of “Mercy?”


Join Peter Gould, founder of the “Get Thee to the Funnery” Shakespeare camp, campers Gouri Bhuyan and Audrey Grant, and longtime Funnery participant and Literacy Programs Officer Jonny Flood for a roundtable discussion about their “Qualities of ‘Mercy?’” film.

During the pandemic of 2020, the camp took on the controversial Shakespeare play, “Merchant of Venice” and used it to confront prejudice and hate speech, deal with the pandemic lockdown, and examine the Black Lives Matter movement. The team of campers 8,000 miles apart collaborated on the project that was filmed on Zoom and their iPhones. The piece was edited by Gould and Burlington videographer Isaiah Palmeri.

This event will be held on Zoom. Register now for the free discussion.
January 28, 2021 from 7 p.m (ET)

Exeter, CA

As part of the 2021 Night of Ideas: Closing the Distance and in partnership with California Humanities, the Tulare County Library is proud to present An evening with Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, author of Children of the Land.

Event supported by California Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Tulare County Library Foundation.

Children of the Land is an “unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States.”
Tulare County Library is giving away 12 free kindle copies of Children of the Land for the event. If you would like a free copy, fill out this form. The Library will email you a copy of Children of the Land starting Thursday, January 21, 2021, until supplies last.

Join the Tulare County Library via Zoom here.

January 28, 2021, at 6:30pm (PT)

Truckee, CA

The Truckee Library, working with the local college and career access group La Fuerza Latina, produces a 1 hour virtual event called “Voices from the Mountains: Latinx Students Closing the Distance.”

Event supported by California Humanities and the  National Endowment for the Humanities.

Hear from first generation high school and undergraduate scholars to share how they are “closing the distance” between their rural immigrant upbringing and accessing broader professional careers. Topics they address include how they are closing the distance academically, financially, and metaphysically as they navigate selective college admissions, diverse undergraduate life, and prepare for post-graduate programs and professional careers. During interludes scholars will present a poem, artwork or music. A Q&A session will follow.

Please click here to join the webinar.

January 28, 2021 from 10 p.m (ET)

New York, NY


Acclaimed Broadway actress and chanteuse Melissa Errico, working in collaboration with New Yorker essayist and lyricist Adam Gopnik, presents a concert on the great French obsession: l’amour fou.

This evening of music and conversation about desire considers the French art of seduction and its American responses. In particular, it dives into the ways sex has become entangled in other matters of pleasure and life. Appetites for love and food, a classic French pairing, take up much of the evening, with songs from Adam Gopnik’s musical Our Table and the Broadway adaptation of The Baker’s Wife. The second half of the evening focuses on the equally potent French duo of seduction and fashion. Selections include Funny Face, Coco, French art songs, and the best of Broadway.

January 28, 2021, at 7pm (ET)


Night of Ideas: Atlanta

Avian Reservoirs: About Birds and Pandemics 

A discussion between Senior Researcher Frédéric Keck and Associate Professor Stéphanie Boulard 

Night of Ideas: Atlanta

Marie Morel’s Birds: A Conversation

A Conversation between painter, artist and musician Marie Morel and Stéphanie Boulard 

Night of Ideas: Boston

Born to Empower

A conversation between visual artist Anne Plaisance and Marc-Olivier Bherer, staff editor and reporter at Le Monde. 

Night of Ideas: Boston

Music as Proximity

Conversation with soprano  Anne Azéma and Marc-Olivier Bherer, staff editor and reporter at Le Monde. 

Night of Ideas: Washington, DC

Art as Solidarity

A conversation between Hishhorn Museum Director Melissa Chiu, and Pakistani-American sculptor Huma Bhabha