The Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building Hosts the Long Conversation

By Editorial Team on November 13, 2018
Courtesy of the Arts & Industries Building.
Conversation: Friday, December 7 from 2pm to 10pm

The Long Conversation, the Arts & Industries Building’s signature event for imagining the future, returns to the National Mall Friday, Dec. 7, 2–10 p.m. This radically different Smithsonian experience brings together artists, scientists and the year’s biggest luminaries for a rollicking creative marathon of conversations around one big question: What makes you hopeful about the future?

This year features 30 new conversationalists from wildly diverse backgrounds, from drag queens and DJs to leading cancer researchers and space explorers, including acclaimed actor and activist Alfre Woodard, New York Times columnist David Brooks, leader of NASA’s mission to Jupiter Scott BoltonDaily Showcorrespondent and comedian Roy Wood Jr.; RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour, philanthropist David Rubenstein and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton.

The Long Conversation’s unique format is a relay of short, intimate, two-person dialogues unified by a common question. Conversationalists each bring one game-changing idea from their field that makes them hopeful for the future—a trend, an invention, a technological breakthrough, a movement. Every 15 minutes, one person rotates offstage and another comes on, creating a series of electrifying moments as tech CEOs meet recording artists, and poets meet clean-food farmers.

“In a world where it’s so easy to focus on what’s going wrong, we think it’s a radical and important idea to focus on what could go right,” said Rachel Goslins, director of the Arts & Industries Building. “There are no moderators, no Powerpoint presentations, just authentic and spontaneous dialogue between the most interesting people we know with big ideas for the future. We started the Long Conversation last year, and in many ways it is a microcosm of both the history of the building, which has showcased innovative ideas since opening in 1881, and of its future as a space for creativity, experimentation and forward-thinking.”

Art installations include 3-D brain waves by sculptor and neuroscientist Julia Buntaine; an immersive post-human environment by Baltimore-based Phaan Howng; a 15-foot kinetic light sculpture by Maryland duo McCormack and Figg; and a photoreflective “selfie booth for the future” from Gabriel Mellan.

A gourmet pop-up café from James Beard Award-winner Spike Gjerde, restaurateur of A Rake’s Progress at The Line Hotel, will offer locally sourced and sustainable cuisine for purchase, alongside exclusive cocktails from DC’s small batch, woman-owned distillery Republic Restoratives.

Free tickets will be released online Monday, Nov. 5, with entry times staggered by 2-hour sessions. All conversations will also be livestreamed online on Facebook.

More info and full speaker bios:

2018 Conversationalists

  • IZ Avila, 5-time Grammy winning DJ and producer, ‘Beats by Dre’ co-founder
  • Dr. Jean Bennett, molecular geneticist curing blindness through the first gene therapy approved in the U.S., F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology at University of Pennsylvania
  • Scott Bolton, astrophysicist leading NASA’s mission to Jupiter, Southwest Research Institute of Space Science
  • David Brooks, celebrated columnist for The New York Times, critically acclaimed author
  • Troy Carter, legendary talent manager for Lady Gaga, John Legend and Meghan Trainor; most recently Spotify’s global head of new music; venture capitalist and founder of Atom Factory
  • Liz Cottrell, leading volcanologist, geologist and curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
  • Dr. Laura Esserman, breast cancer oncologist pioneering new forms of patient care, director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, University of California San Francisco
  • Bruce Friedrich, clean-meat innovator and co-founder and executive director of the Good Food Institute
  • Michael Govan, museum provocateur, CEO and Wallis Annenberg director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents
  • Jon Grinspan, democracy fan and historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • Hawah Kasat, global community organizer and activist, co-founder and executive director of One Common Unity
  • Spike Gjerde, James Beard Award-winning chef and local food advocate, restaurateur of Rake’s Progress at the Line Hotel
  • Danny Hillis, supercomputer theorist and inventor, co-founder of Applied Invention and creator of a 10,000-year clock
  • Mercedes Lopez-Morales, astronomer searching for the next Earth at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • Cheech Marin, comedian and actor, Chicago art collector and founder of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture, and Industry
  • Jessica Matthews, Nigerian American inventor harnessing kinetic energy through play; founder and CEO of Uncharted Power
  • Nick Pyenson, whale chaser and paleontologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
  • David Rubenstein, philanthropist and chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents; co-founder and CEO of The Carlyle Group
  • Jacqueline Suskin, performance poet
  • Mily Treviño-Sauceda, grassroots organizer for women farmworkers that inspired Hollywood’s #TimesUp movement, co-director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
  • Baratunde Thurston, futurist comedian and author of The New York Times bestseller How to Be Black
  • Sasha Velour, drag queen, designer, Fulbright Scholar, and winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9
  • C. Brian Williams, founder and executive director of Step Afrika!, the world’s first professional step dance troupe
  • Naomi Wadler, sixth-grade activist and standout speaker for 2018’s March for Our Lives rally
  • Malak Wazne, young documentary filmmaker and alumna of Smithsonian’s Youth Advisory Council
  • Roy Wood Jr., comedian and “Daily Show” correspondent, host of Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening
  • Alfre Woodard, multi-award-winning actor, producer and storyteller

The Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building is located at 900 Jefferson Dr. SW.