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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Night of Ideas Will Explore Existential Questions

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

What does it mean to be alive?

It's a large and complicated question, but an all-night event Jan. 25-26 at Norfolk's Slover Library, co-sponsored by Old Dominion University and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, will bring together artists, musicians, educators, philosophers and many more from across Hampton Roads for a night of performance and programming.

The Night of Ideas, or "La Nuit des Idées" in the original French, is a worldwide event being held in cities including Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Brooklyn and, for the first time, Norfolk. Celebrating this year's common theme of "être vivant," or "being alive," the Night of Ideas celebrates the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics and generations.

The goal was not only to put Norfolk on the international stage, but to connect the university and the city, said Peter Schulman, professor in world languages and cultures. Schulman attended a Night of Ideas at the Brooklyn Public Library several years ago and thought, "Why not Norfolk?"

"Together, we are merging the University with the city, businesses, and engaging in intellectual thought," Schulman said.

One of the unique parts of the event is the timing; it is a true nightlong event, running from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., with concurrent workshops, plays, talks, debates and art. The Night of Ideas takes a nugget of French culture and expands it into an event for everyone, Schulman said.

"It might seem like an outlandish event, holding talks and performances all night, but I can't say how proud I am of my colleagues for stepping up to make this happen," Schulman said. "It really shows great collegiality and civic duty from everyone involved."

Old Dominion University participants include:

  • ODU Writers in Community Poetry and Art, which includes award-winning poet Luisa Igloria and five MFA students (Courtney Tala, Will Wilson, David Jacobson, Raoul Lobo and Gabriela Igloria) performing poetry while artist Hannah Colasurdo creates art reflecting their words.
  • Tim Siebles, Virginia Poet Laureate and professor emeritus in the Department of English, performing a poetry reading.
  • Jennifer Fish, chair of the Department of Women's Studies, giving a talk titled "Human Resiliencyand Refugees."
  • "Existentialism: Beyond Science" with Justin Remhof, associate professor of philosophy.
  • "Why Adapt?" with Barbara Steigler, a guest of world cultures and languages.
  • MFA grad students poetry and prose readings from Paula Fortin, Reinetta Vaneendenburg, Timothy Norton, Roudri Banerjee, Samia Ahmed and Bhavika Sicka. The readings will be accompanied and introduced by traditional Iranian music performed by Vahid Shabouei Jam of ODU.
  • Beer from ODU alumnus, Kevin Connor of O'Connor Brewing, with a brew made especially for the Night of Ideas.
  • Poet and Department of English Instructor and Lecturer Noah Renn.
  • "An Ancient Faiths Religion Panel," moderated by Nicole Willock, assistant professor of religion, with leaders of local faiths discussing notions of being alive from a spiritual point of view.
  • Solar energy expert Sylvan Marsillac will discuss the role and innovations of solar energy initiatives which he leads as an alternative energy source for the future.
  • "The Blue Line Project: Sea Level Rise" discussion with Tom Allen and Michael Allen, both of the Department of Geography, will describe and map out sea level rise in Norfolk.
  • "Comets, Planets and Star Gazing" with Planetarium astronomer and director Justin Mason.
  • Joyce Hoffman, associate professor of English, will participate in the journalism panel, "The Night Beat"
  • "Travels in Antarctica and Greenland" with Talor Stone, doctoral candidate in the graduate program of international studies and world-renowned photographer known as "The Redheaded Nomad," and Greg Cutter, professor of earth sciences and Antarctic explorer, will discuss their latest findings about Antarctica and Greenland as well as their adventures in the great north.
  • Vittorio Colaizzi, associate professor in the university's Department of Art, and Seth Feman, photography director of the Chrysler Museum, will discuss life through the lenses of contemporary art and photography.
  • "Life and Death in Modern Iraq" with Aras Syahmanssouri, doctoral candidate in the graduate program in international studies, who will discuss living situations and social peace in contemporary Kurdistan and Iraq within a context of political science and history.
  • A showing of the seven-hour French film from 1971, "Jacques Rivette's Out One," with Schulman.

For a full schedule of event, visit the Slover Library website. The event is free, but registration is encouraged.

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