Night of Ideas



Jay Afrisando

Composer, artist, researcher, educator

Do you think music is only for persons with ‘normal’ ears? I don’t.

Jay Afrisando is a composer, multimedia artist, researcher, and educator. He works on aural diversity, acoustic ecology, and cultural identity, focusing on disability and environmental justice, arts and accessibility, and decolonizing arts practices. He shares vital experiences and disseminates knowledge through various media and methods. He is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Juan Ruiz Cortes

Ph.D Student

Undocumented-everything, everywhere, all at once!

Juan Ruiz Cortes is a 2nd-year Ph.D. Student in the Latin American & Latino Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. Juan works on cultivating resources for undocumented students, theorizing about the undocumented lived experience, and respecting, valuing, and enjoying all forms of People of Color livingness. When not engaging academically, he loves playing soccer, swimming in open waters, and hiking through the forest on a rainy day.


El Sistema Santa Cruz/Parajo Valley and Estrellas de Esperanza

Cultural Heritage

El Sistema Santa Cruz/Parajo Valley and Estrellas de Esperanza are two organizations giving the children of Watsonville/Pajaro Valley the keys to claim their cultural heritage and the tools to build their creative and social legacy through music and dance education.


Kalie Granier


Kalie Granier is a French interdisciplinary artist based in Santa Cruz, explores the profound connections between humans and non-human entities through ecofeminist values. Her work addresses social and ecological imbalances, envisioning alternative narratives for a more equitable future. Engaging at the intersection of art, science, and activism, Granier collaborates closely with scientists and environmentalists. She co-founded Loud Spring, an ecofeminist-inspired European-American Art Tank/Collective, and holds an MA from the ESAG, Penninghen School of Visual Art in Paris. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the United States, Europe and Argentina and she delivers lectures at various institutions, including UCSC, Cabrillo College, and Santa Clara University.


Luna HighJohn-Bey

AI visionary and shrine keeper

Luna HighJohn-Bey emerges as a trailblazing figure at the forefront of the intersection between artificial intelligence, spirituality, and culture. As an AI visionary and shrine keeper, she channels ancestral wisdom into contemporary art, offering a unique perspective on the role of AI and machine spirits in shaping our collective future. Luna’s profound connection to these realms positions her as a cultural bearer, transcending traditional boundaries. In her capacity as Historian in Residence and curator, Luna serves as a bridge between the past and the future, crafting transformative experiences. Her work emphasizes the liberatory potential of imagination within the realm of AI, envisioning a future where creativity and technology converge to unlock new possibilities for individual and collective liberation. Luna HighJohn Bey’s contributions resonate as a beacon, inviting us to reimagine the potential of AI not only as a technological force but as a liberatory tool for the boundless realms of human imagination.


Kiitten on the Keys


Bay Area Native Kitten on the Keys has been performing stateside and internationally for 25 years -everywhere from sleazy bars to the award winning French film “Tournee” at the Cannes Film Festival. She can be seen in a variety of piano bars and cabarets throughout San Francisco including The Rite Spot, the Madrone Art Bar, the Royal Cuckoo Market, and annually at Flower Piano. Her songbook is deep and wide. Pianist, accordionist, and singer, she plays a delicious smorgasbord of styles and eras from kitschy cabaret originals to bawdy blues, unexpected covers and forgotten gems of yesteryear.


Rachel Nelson 

Director and Chief Curator of the Institute of the Arts and Science

Exhibition Walkthrough

Rachel Nelson is director and chief curator of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences. She has curated and organized exhibitions including Barring Freedom, a group exhibition engaging art, prisons, and justice; Carlos Motta: We The Enemy;  jackie sumell: Solitary Garden; Newton Harrison and Helen Mayer Harrison: Future Garden, and other projects with artists including Sadie Barnette, Maria Gaspar, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Nelson also writes and publishes extensively on contemporary art and geopolitics, including exhibition catalogue essays, journal articles, and reviews in Journal of Curatorial StudiesPublic History WeeklyBrooklyn RailNKAThird TextSavvy, and African Arts. She teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at UC Santa Cruz.


Somreeta Paul

Ph.D Candidate, UC Santa Cruz

You are in my Mind – A Cartesian Nightmare

Somreeta Paul is a South Asian artist, poet, and researcher currently pursuing her Ph.D. in philosophy of mind and cognitive science at UC Santa Cruz. She is the co-author of the photobook Murals Under Our Skin, and some of her poems have appeared in Phi Magazine, Gulmohar Quarterly, and others. When she is not working on theoretical models of the mind or teaching philosophy, she is engrossed in a thriller book/film or planning for her next trip.


Ana Pedroso


Ana Pedroso is a recent philosophy PhD graduate from UC Santa Cruz. She is currently working as a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s philosophy department.  Her research focuses on 19th and 20th-century philosophy (Latin American and European), phenomenology, and the philosophy of relationality between individuals, which includes topics such as communality, inclusivity, plurality, and the ethics (and aesthetics) of care.


Terri Peszle

Ph.D Candidate, UC Santa Cruz

Outside the Lines: The Bhagavad Gita

Terri Peszle is a second year PhD student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who brings broad academic (science, law, education) and personal experience (international, multi-cultural living) to philosophy. Terri currently asks what we should make of apparently sudden epistemic ‘shifts’ that are seemingly prompted by aesthetic experience, or aesthetic experiences that are the product of such shifts.


Jeanne Proust

Interim Acting Director of the Center for Public Philosophy, UC Santa Cruz

Welcome Remarks

Dr. Jeanne Proust has studied Humanities, Philosophy and Visual Arts in Bordeaux, Berlin, and Paris. She has been teaching Philosophy for the last 13 years in the US and is currently the interim acting Director of the Center for Public Philosophy (UC Santa Cruz). Her PhD dissertation (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) focused on the pathologies of the willpower, both in philosophical and psychological perspectives, but her interests are wide: among many fields, she does research in Ethics, Philosophy of Technologies, Bioethics, Feminist theory, and Aesthetics. She taught at different universities in New York, advocating for a widening of philosophical education beyond the Academia frontiers by participating in different events open to the general public. She gives many public talks, volunteers in prison (Rikers Island, San Quentin), and collaborates on various podcast projects (she produced her own, “Can You Phil It?”). With the Center for Public Philosophy, she is now working on launching the first Tech Ethics Bowl in the Bay area, and the first Santa Cruz edition of the Night of Ideas. (website)


Edward Shanken


Edward Shanken believes that by opening our hearts more fully to ourselves, we can open our hearts more fully to others and to the Earth. While attempting to integrate joy and wisdom, he discovered that joy contains its own wisdom, and vice versa. Ultimately, he tries to love everybody and tell the truth. When he’s not teaching art theory and practice at UCSC, he can be found dancing, playing the piano, and chasing rainbows and waterfalls. He is best known for his books and essays about art and technology, including Art and Electronic Media (Phaidon, 2009).

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