Nuit Des Idées celebrates French culture in St. Louis


On Thursday, March 2, Le Centre Francophone of Webster University hosted its “Nuit Des Idées,” or Night of Ideas. The event was a collaboration with Villa Albertine, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and the Alliance Française in St. Louis. Nuit Des Idées took place in Browning Hall, with free entry.

“Webster’s really more of an idea than a place, and so here we are, celebrating an experience and expressing ideas that are welcome and free. The best at what a university should do in partnership with its community,” Chancellor Beth Stroble said to open the night. 

Dawn Korlovsky performs a self-choreographed piece before audience members in Browning Hall. Photo By Zoe DeYoung.

The free event supplied complimentary food and drink, hosted speakers and welcomed performances by the Congolese Choir of St. Louis and Dawn Karlovsky, founder and artistic director of Karlovsky and Company Dance and a professor for Webster’s dance department.

Nuit Des Idées began in 2016; the night in Paris brought together prolific thinkers in education, culture and history to discuss current events and developing French culture in the modern day. It has been hosted in over 130 cities, only 19 of which were in the United States. 

Numerous organizations worked to create a lineup of speakers, cuisine and art, all in line with French culture, including hors d’œuvres and drinks at an open bar. 

The event was hosted by assistant professor and director of the Centre Francophone at Webster, Salim Ayoub alongside Isabelle Heidbreder, executive director of the Alliance Française and honorary consul of France in St. Louis.

The theme of the evening, as given by the Nuit des Idées committee, was “More”. The flyer for the event read “Art, Culture & Knowledge: More Connected and Global than Ever.” The theme was left up to interpretation by the hosts.

“That’s all Isabelle and I received, we’re like, what do you guys want us to do exactly?” Ayoud said.

The event’s theme was made to be a curation of genuine and often overlooked aspects of culture and connections.

Marie-Claire Balilonoso performs with the Congolese Choir. Photo By Zoe DeYoung.

After opening remarks were presented, the first guests were invited to the stage. First was a performance by the Congolese Choir in St. Louis, including Marie-Claire Balilonoso, a teacher at the Alliance Française.

Jean-Paul Pautrot, professor of French at Saint Louis University, focused his speech on the influence American culture has had on France.

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but the American culture is very popular abroad – in France especially … African American music, literature and thought has influenced French thought and vice-versa,” Pautrot said.

Pautrot introduced Josephine Baker, a St. Louis-born activist, dancer and actress. 

Later, Heidbreder spoke about a famous French graffiti artist and his completion of a portrait of Baker at the Griot Museum of Black History in St. Louis. Guemy, the graffiti artist, proposed the idea of painting 12 famous black portraits in the Griot. He hopes this will bring local and international attention and funds to the museum.

Photo By Maddie Zuke.

Guemy and Heidbreder are working to raise funds to complete this project.

The Nuit des Idées hopes to enrich the minds of attendees and further propel French culture. Experience and exchange of ideas from artists, cultural figures and intellectuals are brought into each city the event is held in. 

For more information, visit the Alliance Française de St. Louis, Le Centre Francophone or Nuit Des Idées.

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Lauren Brennecke
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