The Night of Ideas was met with overwhelming numbers on Saturday, February 2 for its first edition in San Francisco. Despite the heavy rain, 6,000 people . This first edition of the Night of Ideas in San Francisco was co-presented by the San Francisco Public Library, SFMOMA, the French Consulate and KQED, with the support of the Institut Français, th City of San Francisco, and made possible thanks to the generous support of the Friends of the SFPL, 836M gallery, and the French American Cultural Society.
The night resulted in an explosion of arts and ideas within the San Francisco Public Library. With the help of 140 speakers, 71 artists, and 27 curating partners, the space was brought to life in an exhilarating night of collaboration and celebration. The seven hours of programming featured some 30 panels and keynotes, and guests could move from stage to stage to be immersed in a wide variety of discussions and to witness everything from poetry reading to aerial dancing or talks about the damage of gentrification.
This was San Francisco’s first time participating in the Night of Ideas, an initiative born five years ago in Paris and which has since spread worldwide. This year, there were 220 Night of Ideas, including 150 outside of France, in 90 different countries. This event was produced in conjunction with the French Consulate’s 2019 season of “After Tomorrow”, and the theme of “Facing our Time” ties in nicely with the season’s manifesto of imagining what our world will look like “after tomorrow.” Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Consul General of France in San Francisco, stated prior to the event that, “as time accelerates and innovation constantly disrupts our lives, there is no better place than San Francisco to discuss our 2019 theme: The City of the Future". Panels explored themes in terms of the different aspects of the cultural and physical landscape of the city, with names such as “Poetic City” and “Equitable City.” Journalists from news outlets such as the San Francisco Chronicle and French Morning wrote about their own unique experiences, which reflected the multifaceted nature of the event as well as its collaborative feel.
The night brought with it a hope for change. As described by Allison Arieff, editorial director at SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, “we’re living in such an anti-intellectual, anti-idea time, which makes Night of Ideas that much more thrilling.” In a similar vein, Ryan Davis, Director of Live events at KQED, said that, “every space was brimming with civic spirit and eagerness for intelligent discourse.” In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, Beth Spotswood described the night as a “collective jam session” that “united thousands in an egalitarian night of discourse.” This positive sentiment was shared by attendees of the event. One said that, “I used to come to this library as a child and have seen how much the city has changed. I can't tell you how good it feels to look around and see real Bay Area people, of all ages, who believe in the power of ideas, and in the importance of the public coming together. Thank you for doing this for all of us.”
Overall, the event created a uniquely magical environment in which a diverse group of people came together to discourse about how their beloved city can be “saved” while also acknowledging the processes of change that are currently at work.
The Night of Ideas was made possible thanks to the joined forces of numerous partners:
Co-presenters: SFPL, SFMOMA, French Consulate in San Francisco, with the City of San Francisco
Media partner: KQED
Main partners: 836M, Friends of the SFPL, Public Knowledge, After Tomorrow, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, Office for Science and Technology, A Night of Ideas and Philosophy, French American and Cultural Society, Banque Transatlantique, Institut Français, Fondation de France.
Curating partners: Asian Art Museum, Atelier Crenn, City Lights, Civic Center Commons, The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, the LGBTQIA Center, The Institute for the Future, Litquake, Lycée Français de San Francisco, MUTEK SF, National Park Service, Open Austria, SFFILM, SPUR, Stanford University, Ubisoft, UC Berkeley, Youth Speaks
In kind partners: French bee InterContinental and Mark Hopkins Hotel
And the enthusiastic team of volunteers!