Courtesy Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs

Barely five months into the year, and humanity seems precariously perched on the precipice of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic, while better understood and more under control, continues to loom large. In the United States and abroad, intolerance and oppression persist. And the Russian war against Ukraine threatens global stability. If ever there were a need for active listening and radical understanding, now is the time.

On May 14, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs will partner with the French Embassy’s new cultural institution, Villa Albertine, to sponsor the first in-person edition of Night of Ideas. Fulton County Arts and Culture and the Science Gallery at Emory University will participate in the event hosted at the Woodruff Arts Center. The six-hour cultural and intellectual marathon is a forum in which individuals come together from various backgrounds, interests, and skill sets to rethink the relationships people have both with the world and each other.

Night of Ideas was initiated by the French Embassy in 2015 as the Night of Philosophy and Ideas/Night of Ideas. It evolved over time as a partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library. Billed as a philosophical marathon, Night of Ideas is an all-night event (6 p.m. to midnight) that includes performances, screenings, readings, music, and philosophical debate that bring together a wide range of thinkers, social scientists, novelists, activists, philosophers, and artists from France, the United States and beyond.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, 120 sites hosted the live-streamed event from seven U.S. cities (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Norfolk, and San Francisco). Guest speakers, including 2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist Esther Duflo, journalist and sex columnist Maïa Mazaurette, and Armenian-Syrian installation artist Hratch Arbach, addressed in philosophical ways many of the pressing issues of the day. The event garnered widespread media attention and boasted an attendance of over 20,000.

More important than ever, Night of Ideas will consider contemporary notions of community and how we can strengthen social cohesion while acknowledging our struggles, celebrating activism, and empowering individuals. The event will showcase a wide range of creative and collaborative practices that question how we act, build, and create in the face of unprecedented societal, economic, political, and environmental challenges.

This year’s Night of Ideas theme is “Where Are We Going?” The Atlanta event will celebrate our resilience as human beings and explore local and global pathways to end the current state of crisis and reinvent our shared values.

Participants include Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens; Amelia Schaffner (Director, Emory University Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation); video game studio Accidental Queens; Elizabeth Strickler (Director, Media Entrepreneurship & Innovation Programs, GSU); artist Floyd Hall; culture curator Bem Joiner; professors Dr. Cheryl Finley (Spelman College and Atlanta University Center), Dr. Joycelyn Wilson (Georgia Tech), Dr. Maurice Hobson (Georgia State University), Dr. Anne Lafont (Villa Albertine & Williams College), and Ryan Gravel (Georgia Tech); Fulton County Public Art Manager Alex Frankcombe; award-winning journalist and Closer Look host Rose Scott; and entrepreneurs Wanona Satcher, Brian Tolleson, and Donray Von. DJ Salah will provide tunes throughout the event.

In the United States, major funding for Night of Ideas is provided by Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. To see the program schedule and register, visit

Camille Russell Love has been executive director of the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs for more than two decades.