Philosophers, artists and more return to Brooklyn Public Library’s ‘Night of Ideas’ on May 21

night of ideas file photo
The Brooklyn Public Library’s annual Night of Ideas is back on May 21 with a slew of artists, musicians, philosophers and thinkers.
File photo by Gregg Richards

It is a shortened event but it is back in person for another evening of debate, discussion and performances at Brooklyn Public Library’s annual Night of Ideas.

Starting at 7 p.m. and running until midnight on Saturday, May 21, the marathon of intellectual discussion (formerly known as the Night of Philosophy and Ideas) this year will center around the theme of “Where Are We Going?”

“Amid these complicated times, we are thrilled to present our annual Night of Ideas, inviting New Yorkers back into the safe and democratic space of the public library to discuss and debate the future of our nation and the world with some of the greatest thinkers of our time and one another,” said Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library, in a release.

While the bus ride with one-on-one time with an artist or speaker is already booked up, you can still register for the main events of the night. These include a headline performance from Patti Smith, as well as speakers such as public interest lawyer Kathryn Kolbert addressing the end of Roe and efforts to save reproductive rights, political scientist Claire Sagan, novelist Leila Slimani and more.

The evening will also feature live music presented by composer and multi-instrumentalist Michel Risse and a talk from urban inequality researcher Chayma Drira. Both guests are participants in a new residency program with the French organization and Night of Ideas co-sponsor Villa Albertine.

bpl night of ideas
The Brooklyn Public Library’s annual evening of late-night lectures and debates is back on May 21 with lectures, musical performances, and more. File photo by Gregg Richards

“Night of Ideas is an act of global solidarity, with the conviction that problems are best solved when we collaborate across institutions, disciplines, and countries. I am very proud that this is the first major event of Villa Albertine,” said Gaëtan Bruel, Director of Villa Albertine. “It’s a rare opportunity to gather so many creative, socially-conscious projects under one roof, in the service of philosophical exploration and cross-cultural connection.”

Registration is required and the audience will be limited in capacity. The registration information warns that entry that the evening is on a first come, first served basis until capacity is reached. Proof of vaccination is required for entry and mask wearing is mandatory. The full program of more than 100 speakers, including Joe Baker, director of The Lenape Center and Ukrainian multidisciplinary artist Ola Rondiak is available online.

“In 2017, with our partners at the French Embassy, we began a bold experiment,” said Lászlo Jakab Orsós, Vice President of Arts and Culture at BPL. “We asked New Yorkers to stay up all night with us and to listen and agree—or disagree—with some of the world’s greatest philosophers. Five years later, we are proud to have brought together tens of thousands of people from around the world, young and old, in good times and bad, to talk and debate and simply be together until dawn. In just a few days, we will open our doors once again and we hope you can join us for one of Brooklyn’s most extraordinary evenings all year long.”

A version of this story originally appeared on Brooklyn Paper’s sister site Brownstoner.