Introducing Color Salons

We want to spend more time with big ideas this year.

Reflecting on the past year, a few civic-minded friends realized they had a common problem. They considered themselves lifelong learners and always enjoyed thinking through big ideas. The sad state of pandemic life had made it difficult. Somehow all the answers keep getting smaller and smaller.

An already fragmented news environment started reporting everything in even smaller bites—numbers of COVID cases, vaccinations,  ICU beds, election results, court challenges, and run-offs. These updates crowded out the time they once had to think about big ideas and the questions that help us see a better world.

Join this group of civic-minded friends and put a date on your calendar. Break out of your pandemic news cycle and make an appointment to spend time with big ideas and good people. Be a part of our first-ever Color Salon.


This Color Salon is not about a new hairstyle, but it is about looking in the mirror.

We want to talk about color in the way it helps us see beyond our own reflection to make an inquiry of the world around us. We hope we have designed a conversation that will work for you the way a good reading list works for a writer:

“In your reading, find books to improve your color sense, your sense of shape and size in the world.”

—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Even if the questions for these conversations look different from those you confront in your regular routine, the exchange of ideas will work as a sort of self-care for the civic-minded. We believe that creating opportunities to pay more attention to these big ideas is vital to a healthy democracy.

We do have a color scheme to play with and guide our conversation. Will Harris developed a seven-color model of political order through his work at the National Academy for Civics and Government. These colors and concepts will help us frame our conversation so that our sessions will make for an easy introduction to his work too.

We’ll save you a seat at our virtual table.

With our first event now in the books, we are now in the mode of “taking reservations” for our next event.

Sign up here so we can send you all the details about our next Color Salon.

Practice the Art of Conversation in Pursuit of Knowledge

We have borrowed the idea of an intellectual salon from the European Enlightenment. Our Color Salons will be an opportunity to engage in “the art of conversation in pursuit of knowledge and fellowship.” Salons were a very particular type of public space, and that’s the remedy we want to make a part of our shared calendar this year.

When you participate in one of our Color Salons, you will enjoy a spirited conversation focused on a big question and collect a curated list of resources.

 The Color Salon will proceed through three phases to engage your own ideas about the answers to this question, especially as those concerns reflect views found in a curated collection of shared texts and other media. Prepare to make your own contribution to the conversation by:

  • Reading the shared texts provided below (We’ll send a copy by email too!)
  • Reflecting on what those shared texts tell us about the answer to our question
  • Thinking more about how the concepts and concerns at play show up in other sources


Once you RSVP, look for an email with two texts relevant to the question. One text will be more of a classic, and a second will be more contemporary. For this first discussion, we will be looking at short excerpts from a speech Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered in 1961 and a recent essay by Dr. Ibram Kendi, published in The Atlantic.


We will also send a reminder email that includes a short list of other resources you might enjoy pulled from podcasts, performances, and YouTube channels.


Then join us for the fun part. Thinking together.

The three phases of our conversation will include:


  • A framed introduction: Professor Will Harris will answer the question “What is humanity?” using the seven-color model he has created for understanding political order
  • A facilitated conversation: Professor Shellee O’Brien will start the conversation using the shared texts
  • An open exchange of ideas: We will work together to connect our conversation to the world around us

We’ll save you a virtual seat.

With our first event now in the books, we are now in the mode of “taking reservations” for our next event.

Sign up here so we can send you all the details about our next Color Salon.

Past Salons

Our Shared Texts for January’s Salon

An excerpt from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience”

“Another thing in this movement is the idea that there is within human nature an amazing potential for goodness. There is within human nature something that can respond to goodness. I know somebody’s liable to say that this is an unrealistic movement if it goes on believing that all people are good. Well I didn’t say that. I think that students are realistic enough to believe that there is a strange dichotomy of disturbing dualism within human nature. Many of the great philosophers and thinkers through the ages have seen this. It caused Ovid the Latin poet to say, “I seen approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do. “It causes even Saint Augustine to say “Lord, make me pure, but not yet. “So that that is in human nature. Plato, centuries ago and said that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions, so that was in our own individual lives we see this conflict and certainly when we come to see the collective life of man, we see a strange badness. But in spite of this there is something in human nature that can respond to goodness. So that man is neither innately good nor is he innately bad; He has potential analogies for both. So in this sense, Carlyle was right when he said that, “there are depths in man which go down to the lowest hell, and heights which reach the highest heaven, for are not both heaven and hell made out of him, everlasting miracle a mystery that he is? “Man has the capacity to be good, man has the capacity to be evil.”

From a transcription of his address before the annual meeting of the Fellowship of the Concerned on November 16, 1961

An excerpt from Dr. Ibram Kendi’s essay in The Atlatnic, “A Battle Between the Two Souls of America” 

“There is a divide in America between the souls of injustice and justice: souls in opposition like fire and ice, like voters and voter subtraction, like Trump and truth.

The soul of injustice breathes genocide, enslavement, inequality, voter suppression, bigotry, cheating, lies, individualism, exploitation, denial, and indifference to it all. This is the soul that aggressively attacked climate science as forest fires raged; attacked anti-racism as police violence and COVID-19 disproportionately killed Black, Latino, and Native people; attacked coronavirus restrictions as the virus stole lives and livelihoods; and attacked voters as fraudulent while its suppression policies made it harder to vote.
The soul of justice breathes life, freedom, equality, democracy, human rights, fairness, science, community, opportunity, and empathy for all. This is the soul that aggressively defended people from climate change as hurricanes battered them; defended people from the scourge of police violence that killed Breonna Taylor and many others; defended people from the racial pandemic within the viral pandemic defended people from voter-subtraction policies and the tyrants behind them.

Both souls can breathe in every single one of us, in our institutions, in our nation. Remixing W. E. B. Du Bois, America ever “feels this twoness”—justice, injustice—“two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one” body politic, “whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

Published in the “Ideas” section online on November 11, 2020

We’ll save you a seat at our virtual table.

With our first event now in the books, we are now in the mode of “taking reservations” for our next event.

Sign up here so we can send you all the details about our next Color Salon.