Night of Ideas: Alive!

Event summary


Jan 30  |  6:00PM
to Jan 31  |  12:00AM


Advance registration is required to attend this event.


About this event

Celebrate life on Earth and imagine its future with this free, after-hours event, presented in partnership with Consulate General of France in Chicago.

A group of dancers perform in Stanley Field Hall. Guests stand around the dancers, watching and taking photos of the performance.
Night of Ideas: Being Alive

Night of Ideas: Alive

Night of Ideas is a global celebration of art, science, scholarship, and community. For the first time, the event comes to Chicago with Night of Ideas: Alive!, an evening hosted in partnership with the Consulate General of France in Chicago. Explore the museum after hours while engaging with performances and talks on topics like biodiversity, urban sustainability, humans and technology, sex positivity, disability leadership, and more.

Connect with thinkers and creators from across Chicago. Together, we’ll reflect on what it means to be alive—on Earth, in our cities, and within our communities.

Program highlights include three keynote presentations:

  • What Color is Utopia? by WBEZ journalist Natalie Moore and artist Amanda Williams—6pm
  • The Global Energy Challenge by Michael Greenstone, economist and former advisor under President Obama—8pm
  • Living and Acting: Re-thinking the Creator’s Commitment by novelist Alain Mabanckou—9pm

Take part in workshops and other interactive experiences like group yoga and tai chi and enjoy live music and performances.

Activities continue until midnight, along with access to museum exhibitions. Talents and voices will also join from: University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Northwestern University, University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Fermilab, Argonne National Laboratory, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Black Thread Agency, Science Riot, WBEZ, ADA25 Advancing Leadership, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Core Power Yoga, and Poems While You Wait.

This event is free and open to the public. Advance registration required. Food and beverage will be available for purchase at the Field Bistro. Use code ALIVE2020 for a 25% discount on Lyft rides to and from the Field Museum for the Night of Ideas.


Explore the program


  • Industrial Brain Mapping for Reverse Engineering Brains in Silico by neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri—7pm  

  • 3 Million Missing Birds by professor of biology Ellen Ketterson—7pm

  • We Must Adapt by philosopher Barbara Stiegler—7pm

  • Versailles and Giuseppe Penone: A Contemporary Critique of the Baroque “Tyranny Over Nature” by professor of literature Larry Norman and PhD candidate in literature Loriane Lafont—7pm

  • Fiction is About Living Beings by professor of literature Thomas Pavel—7pm

  • The End of the (Ancient) World: An Environmental Crisis? by professor of history Alain Bresson—7pm

  • When the Rainforest Goes Quiet by conservation scientist Zuzana Burivalova—7pm

  • Embedding Intelligence in Infrastructure to Better Understand Cities and the Impacts of Urbanization by computer scientist Charles Catlett—7pm

  • Making Sense: Why You Shouldn’t Trust What Your Brain Is Telling You by anthropologist John Terrell—8pm

  • Why Your Social Life is a Matter of Life and Death by professor of sociology Linda Waite—8pm

  • Democratizing Science by professor of Earth sciences Gabriel Filippelli—8pm

  • The Living Nature of Dead Specimens: Mammals as a Lens to Discovery by Dakota Rowsey—8pm

  • Our Dynamic and Evolving Universe by professor of astronomy and astrophysics Wendy Freedman—8pm

  • Has the Earth Become a Phobic Object? by professor of planetary humanities Frédéric Neyrat—8pm

  • Is Male Domination “Natural”? by philosopher and sociologist Raphaël Liogier—9pm

  • The Poem Tree is Alive: Poetic Voices and Spaces in North Africa by postdoctoral fellow in Romance languages and literatures Khalid Lyamlahy—9pm

  • Studying Aquatic Biodiversity While Restoring Chicago’s Waterways by research biologist Austin Happel—9pm

  • What Happens When the AI Rubber Meets the Road by professor of computer science Ben Y. Zhao—9pm

  • Building Wildlife Friendly Cities by Seth Magle, Director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute—9pm

  • Dancing With Gravity by juggling artist Cyril Rabbath—9pm

  • In Denial: Philosophy and the Fear of Death by professor of religion and literature Sarah Hammerschlag—10pm 

  • The Social Logic at Work in Police Use of DNA Database by anthropologist, sociologist, and biologist Joëlle Vailly—10pm

Panels and discussions

  • Solving Environmental Challenges in Collaboration with Affected Communities with Kim Suiseeya, Jennifer Dunn, Nyree Zerega, James Schwoch & Patty Loew (Northwestern University)—7pm

  • Great Universities in Vibrant Cities with Bala Srinivasan, Derek Douglas, Katherine Baicker, Deborah Gorman-Smith, and Jay Schrankler (University of Chicago)—7pm

  • The Lives We Lead: The Evolution of Disability Rights Across Generations with ADA 25 Advancing Leadership—8pm

  • Chicago’s West Side Pride and Identity with Odile Compagnon, David Jurca, Corey and Graig Stevenson, Andrew Schachman, Jaclyn Jacunski, Anna Maria Leon, Apriel Campbell, and Eric Hotchkiss—8pm

  • Diversity and Inclusion in Action: Black History Month and the Field Museum with Reda Brooks and Mark Alvey—9pm

  • Cities 2020 and Beyond: Intelligent, Resilient and Sustainable with Elena Grossman, Anne-Marie Hanson, Elizabeth A. Kócs, Yu-Feng Forrest Lin, Carolee Rigsbee, Ashish Sharma & Donald Wuebbles (University of Illinois System)—9pm

  • Performing Life: Alive in the Theater with theater director Hutch Pimentel—9pm 

  • The Best Diet to Keep Our Bodies and the Planet Alive with Monica Eng, Joseph Bozeman, and Thomas Jonas—10pm 

  • Cultivating Sex Positivity in Chicago conversation led by Coelti Ticsay—10pm


  • Hands in the Pockets by juggling artists Jérôme Thomas, Jörg Müller & Martin Schwietzke—7pm

  • Feeling Alive with Science Riot by Eric Gorscak, Nathan Bradshaw, Matthew Spenko—7pm

  • Music: Duo OASIS by Isabelle Olivier (harp) and Rez Abbasi (guitar)—8pm

  • Music: Trio OASIS by Isabelle Olivier, Rez Abbasi, and Ernie Adams (drums)—9pm

  • Science Slam by physicists Fernanda Psihas and Pedro Machado—10pm

  • Dance performance by The Era Footwork Crew—11pm

  • Music by DJ Spinn—11pm

Workshops and interactive activities 

  • Living Information: Motion Capture, Kung Fu and Quantum Entanglement, an interactive installation by STAGE Lab University of Chicago—7–11pm

  • An Introduction to Taoist Long Life Practice, a tai chi and meditation class with philosopher and sociologist Raphaël Liogier—8pm

  • To Create Is to Live Twice: Chicago Latinx and Black Communities Creating through Entrepreneurship, a pitch session with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce—8pm

  • The Meaning of Being Alive, a Philosophy Corner with professor of philosophy Agnes Callard and students from the Lab School and University of Chicago—8–11pm

  • Yoga class with Core Power Yoga—10pm 

  • Silhouette Portrait by Nina Nightingale—all night

  • Poems While You Wait—all night 

  • Black Thread Agency—all night

  • Insect Zoo, Fungal Interactions, Discovery Carts, and interactive exhibits—all night

  • DNA Lab—all night

  • #ChangeMyMind Challenge—all night