Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project


Night of Ideas logo


7–9 PM, JANUARY 28, 2021

 Mayor London N. Breed joins virtual showcase of Bay Area thinkers, artists and activists hosted by KQED Forum’s Mina Kim.

SAN FRANCISCO, JANUARY 13, 2021 – Last February, more than 5,200 revelers from all corners of the Bay Area, and even as far as Portland, Oregon, flocked to the Main Library to enjoy a seven-hour marathon of speakers and performances at the second San Francisco edition of the Night of Ideas. An initiative of the Institut Français, Night of Ideas occurs on the same evening in more than 35 cities around the world. While gathering in person is out this year, the local event partners, Villa San Francisco, KQED, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), San Francisco Public Library and California Humanities, are reuniting to produce a free two-hour virtual showcase of some of the Bay Area’s leading performers and thinkers on January 28, 2021 from 7–9 p.m.

“I’m excited that we’re able to carry on this annual tradition of bringing together local thinkers and artists to share with us their visions for a brighter and more inclusive future,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “This Night of Ideas will remind us of everything that we love about our city and hopefully provide some fun and joy during an otherwise challenging time.”

From Finland to South Africa and from Sydney to San Francisco, more than 200 Night of Ideas will occur on the same evening. For San Francisco’s 2021 Night of Ideas livestream, keynote speakers and performers were asked to meditate on the theme of “closing the distance,” an adaptation of the international theme “proche” or “close.” The program will present a variety of perspectives on how we can collectively move closer to each other and to a better future by reimagining our civic spaces to be more inclusive and by advancing racial equity.

The program, which will be broadcasted globally from France by the Institut Français as part of a 24- hour program, is also designed to bring people closer to the Bay Area and to the individuals who make it special. Viewers can expect to 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.

Hosted by Mina Kim, KQED journalist and host of Forum, this year’s Night of Ideas will include:

  • A special conversation between Mina Kim and San Francisco Mayor London Breed on how the mayor plans to lead San Francisco through the recovery ahead.
  • Co-founder/Co-director of Sogorea Te’ Land Trust Corrina Gould (Lisjan Ohlone) will share her vision for returning ancestral lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship and cultivating more active, reciprocal relationships with the land.
  • A performance by Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu will honor the ongoing fight to preserve Indigenous land and that fosters connectedness among the hula community during COVID times.
  • Activist and author Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project will discuss how closing the distance toward full accessibility is not only about infrastructure and accommodations but also civic participation.
  • Community Arts Stabilization Trust Executive Director Moy Eng will provide a walkthrough of the Dempster Building and her vision for preserving art space in our cities.
  • Destiny Arts Center‘s mission is to inspire and ignite social change through the arts. A performance from The Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company and The Elders Project will explore intergenerational connection.
  • A performance from Antoine Hunter and members of the Urban Jazz Dance Company will explore connection through movement.
  • San Francisco Public Librarian Naima Dean will discuss her Racial Equity work as a librarian serving the Western Addition community and as Chair of the Mill Valley Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force.
  • Young reporters and storytellers from YR Media will discuss what it means for young people to claim space and extend it for others and a timelapse of the painting of Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith’s mural at the YR Media building.
  • Artist Tucker Nichols will give a tutorial on creating flowers for sick people. This stems from a project where Nichols made a drawing, print or photograph of flowers and delivered it by mail as part of a free service.
  • Nikiko Masumoto, farmer, artist and writer, will speak to us from her family farm in the Central Valley about the importance of place.
  • Artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez.
  • Join Lycée Français de San Francisco students from multiple clubs (including Dance, TedEx, DEI and LGBTQ) on a “ballade” through the vibrant and colorful San Francisco Mission In this playful and student-led piece, movement combines with words, images, music and colors to allow participants to creatively express their message and how they approach closing the distance.
  • Amira Yahyaoui, Human Rights Activist and Entrepreneur, is the Founder and CEO of, a San Francisco–based start-up whose mission is to tear down all financial barriers to opportunity.
  • Roberto Hernandez of the Mission Food Hub, will reflect on the role of mutual aid efforts are playing in closing the distances created by the disproportionate impacts of COVID.
  • VivvyAnne ForeverMORE! and Work MORE! will pay tribute to San Francisco drag queens and call for the preservation of queer performance space.
  • Performances by young poets with Youth Speaks and Chapter 510 will highlight iconic Bay Area locales.

“We are delighted to be reunited with our partners to present the third annual Night of Ideas,” says City Librarian Michael Lambert. “Pop some popcorn, pour your favorite beverage and prepare to discover something new about the beautiful Bay Area we call home.”

“Nothing could stop us from coming together online with our faithful partners for another very promising Night of Ideas!” says Frédéric Jung, Consul General of France in San Francisco. “For this global event, we are proud to gather the best of the amazing San Francisco Bay Area communities in order to offer a two-hour online live broadcast which will put San Francisco once again on the map of the worldwide Night of Ideas events”

“SFMOMA is excited to collaborate across public institutions through the third Night of Ideas. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we engage in meaningful dialogue about our future and art’s capacity not only to provoke questions and action but to spread joy and heal,” said Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA. “In that vein, we will be distributing free artwork to the community through Tucker Nichols’s Flowers for Sick People. Nichols, a Night of Ideas presenter and artist featured in our upcoming exhibition Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis, will have four limited edition prints available through San Francisco Public Library branches, so that you can send one of his flower prints to a loved one in need.

About Night of Ideas

Co-produced in the United States by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the Institut Français and local partners, Night of Ideas has been presented in New York City since 2015 and in Los Angeles since 2017. Last year, more than 7,000 guests attended Night of Ideas at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York and 5,200 attended the 2nd edition of the event in San Francisco. This year, Night of Ideas will offer everyone the opportunity to follow and take part in an unprecedented digital experience: 24 hours of Night of Ideas, which will cross time zones from Oceania to the West Coast of United States, promote the free circulation of ideas and knowledge, and make local experiences resonate in a great global live broadcast on social networks.

For the SF event, more info here.
For the US event, more info here.
For the 24h international event, more info here.

Night of Ideas Contest

Viewers of the 2021 Night of Ideas have the opportunity to win several prizes during the program. Participants may simply register for the event in advance via Eventbrite, and winners will be randomly selected and announced during the event. Prizes include:

  • A staycation weekend at Villa San Francisco. Recently featured in Elle Decor, the new cultural institution created by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US and the French American Cultural Society aims at creating a future-driven dialogue between artists and communities.
  • A membership to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • A membership with KQED, including access to KQED Passport.
  • San Francisco Public Library tote bag with a copy of the 2021 One City One Book selection Know My Name, A Memoir by Chanel Miller.
  • A Masumoto family book will be included with each of the four prizes. This is provided by California Humanities.

A complete list of contest rules will be available on the Night of Ideas website.

Presenters and Sponsors

Night of Ideas is co-presented by Villa San Francisco, KQED, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Public Library and California Humanities.

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.


Villa San Francisco is a new cultural institution that redefines the original concept of Villas by offering a new vision on artists in residency. It aims at creating a future-driven dialogue between artists and communities. Villa San Francisco is a project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy co-produced with the Consulate General of France in San Francisco and the French American Cultural Society with the support of the Institut Français, Paris.

San Francisco Public Library is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center and four bookmobiles.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the United States and a thriving cultural center for the Bay Area. Our remarkable collection of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and media arts is housed in an LEED Gold-certified building designed by the global architects Snøhetta and Mario Botta. In addition to our seven gallery floors, SFMOMA offers 45,000 square feet of free, art-filled public space.

KQED Public Media for Northern CA, the first ranked radio station in the Bay Area and one of the most listened-to public radio stations in the United States will organize a live broadcast of Forum, hosted by Mina Kim, on the San Francisco Public Library stage at the event.

California Humanities logo

California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, promotes the humanities—focused on ideas, conversation and learning—as relevant, meaningful ways to understand the human condition and connect people to each other in order to help strengthen California. California Humanities has provided grants and programs across the state since 1975. To learn more, visit, or like and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Media Contacts

Kate Patterson
Director, Communications & Public Affairs – San Francisco Public Library
Tel: (415) 557 4252
Cell: (415) 312 9685

Jill Lynch
Director of Communications – SFMOMA
Cell: (415) 680-8352

Margo de Fayet
Cultural Affairs Coordinator – Villa San Francisco
Cell: (415) 972 9749

Cherie Hill
Communications Manager – California Humanities
Tel: (415) 391-1474 ex 303

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A Media Kit with images, video and more is available.



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