The Night of Ideas Returns: (Re)building Together

The Night of Ideas Returns: (Re)building Together

The international Night of Ideas is back this May with in-person events after last year’s pandemic shut-down, and no where will it be more celebrated than in San Francisco.

Coordinated worldwide by the Institut Français, participants this year are 19 cities (the largest number ever) and more than 100 countries. With the theme of (Re)building Together: Where Are We Going, the public will join leading thinkers, authors, film makers, activists and artists from their community to hold discussions and encourage inspiration for a path forward in today’s challenging world events. According to the Institut Français, these challenges include climate crisis, racial violence, current wars and the erosion of democracy.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge. Photo © Martha Sessums

San Francisco plans a Night of Ideas on May 17, 2022, starting at 6:30 PM at KQED radio and television station’s new theatre, The Commons, and will be streamed online. The evening will bring together local thinkers and the public to explore the Bay Area communities’ critical challenges with the goal to find hope in the future. Areas to be explored are the disruptions wrought by the global pandemic, dismantling the systems of oppression to meet today’s challenges, fortifying democracies and finding hope in the future for a brighter tomorrow.

Night of Ideas SF 2019. The colors of Night of Ideas on San Francisco City Hall.

Night of Ideas SF 2019. The colors of Night of Ideas on San Francisco City Hall. ©Maxime Benallaoua- Courtesy of the French Consulate in San Francisco

“This year’s edition of Night of Ideas is especially important as we reconnect with our partners and communities, finally reunited in person,” said Frédéric Jung, Consul General of France in San Francisco. “Together we will spark a promising dialogue between France, the European Union and the United States by addressing some of the most pressing challenges of our times: democracy, freedom of speech and health. By innovating, (re)building together, using art as a visionary tool, we aim to contribute to paving the way to our common future.”

Portrait of Frederic Jung

Frederic Jung. Photo © Jules Caron.

Those topics sound like a tough challenge but San Francisco is up for it. The evening of talks, art, music and community features a variety of researchers, authors, youth groups, scientists, innovation tech leaders and film makers. They include the following:

  • Bruce Cain, Ph.D with a wide background in political science, the environment and economic policy
  • Jeff Chang, author of books on cultural history of race and racial identity
  • Jacqueline Fabius, biosciences expert
  • Sharaya Souza, a leader in American Indian Cultural issues
  • Debbie Lum, filmmaker and director of the movie Try Harder!

Bay Area youth have a great representation with Bay Area Theater Cypher which blends theatre, hip-hop and community and Mycelium Youth Network which is dedicated to equipping youth with the resources, training, and knowledge they will need to survive and thrive in a climate challenged world.

Music and art are a key part of the evening with performances by the San Francisco Girls Chorus and the San Francisco Community Music Center. I suspect there may be some hop-hop dancing when the Girls Chorus sings, because that’s just San Francisco. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will provide Soapbox Derby cars created by local artists and the bar in the station’s lobby will provide refreshments. Creativity Explored will show off the artwork installed at KQED featuring neurodiverse and disabled artists working in their San Francisco studios.

Night of Ideas SF 2019. RAW Dance in action

Night of Ideas SF 2019. RAW Dance in action. ©Matthias Carette – Courtesy of the French Consulate in San Francisco

“We’re thrilled to host Night of Ideas in our new KQED headquarters,” said KQED President and CEO Michael Isip. “We’ve been honoured to collaborate on this event over the years in order to highlight the intellectual and cultural dynamism of the Bay Area in a uniquely entertaining way. The theme of ‘(re)building’ is particularly resonant for this moment and we look forward to bringing our community together in person so we can explore ideas and find common ground.”

Night of Ideas 2022 is the first major public event of Villa Albertine, a cultural institution across 10 U.S. cities. Its mission is to create international community through a shared exploration of arts and ideas. Launched in fall 2021, Villa Albertine coordinates more than 60 exploratory residencies and 15 professional programs annually and curates local and national events. Many of the Night of Ideas will have the local Alliance Française organisations as co-presenters.

SF Press release image of Night of Ideas 2022

Night of Ideas website and logo ©

San Francisco’s Night of Ideas is supported by the City and County of San Francisco, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco and the French American Cultural Society.

The Night of ideas is in 16 other U.S. cities including New York on May 21 which will have singer Patti Smith as a headline performer. The Night of Ideas in France Today’s other Ambassador cities are Los Angeles on May 9 and Washington, D.C. on May 11.

Lead photo credit : Night of Ideas 2022 © SF Press Release

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Martha Sessums is the France Today Ambassador for San Francisco. Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization.

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  • Greg Teamons
    2023-08-24 10:38:52
    Greg Teamons
    Thank you for sharing the concept of "rebuilding together." Unity makes a difference. How can communities ensure sustainable recovery after facing challenges?