The Chicago Humanities Festival is a foundation which organizes an annual series of lectures, concerts, and films in Chicago. The main festival takes place in the first and second weeks of November. The festival was started in 1990 by the Illinois Humanities Council and became an independent foundation in 1997. The annual Festival is generally built around a theme. For example, in 2012, the Festival theme was "America". Scheduled events included David Brooks, Russ Feingold, Adam Hochschild, Nathan Gunn, Grant Achatz, Philip Kotler, Tricia Rose, and Adam Gopnik. The Foundation also presents other shows and lectures during the remainder of the year. In 2012, past year-round events included Marina Abramović, Nancy Pelosi, and Etgar Keret. The theme for 2018 was Graphic.
The Chicago Humanities Festival is designed to create opportunities for people to explore the humanities. In addition to its annual Festival of the Humanities, it presents programs throughout the year on the study and enjoyment of the humanities.
Under the aegis of the Illinois Humanities Council and its then-chairman Richard J. Franke, the notion of a "humanities day" was proposed, and then expanded into a "festival". Eileen Mackevich created the first Chicago Humanities Festival, a one-day affair, held on November 11, 1990 at the Art Institute of Chicago and Orchestra Hall, before an audience of 3,500 people. Eight programs addressed the theme Expressions of Freedom, including a keynote address by playwright Arthur Miller. Founding co-sponsor institutions included the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the University of Chicago.
In 1997, the Festival formally separated from the Illinois Humanities Council and established itself as an independent, nonprofit organization. Under Eileen Mackevich's leadership, by 2006, the independent Festival had expanded to nearly 150 programs over 16 days, in more than 30 venues, involving nearly 40 partner institutions and several hundred site volunteers, and attracting a combined audience of nearly 50,000.
A Children's Humanities Festival was introduced in 2000. In addition, a year-round slate of education programs is devoted to supporting classroom teachers and students. The Festival also expanded its presence year-round, offering public lectures, readings, concerts, and special events that anticipate and build interest in the November Festival.
In January 2010, Matti Bunzl was appointed as associate artistic director. In the fall, after four years with the festival, Lawrence Weschler became emeritus artistic director and Matti Bunzl assumed the role of artistic director. Bunzl left in 2014 for Vienna's Wien Museum.
Stages, Sights & Sounds
In 2009, the Children's Humanities Festival was renamed to Stages, Sights & Sounds to better reflect the full breadth of the spring festival. Stages, Sights & Sounds is now[when?] in its third year. The spring festival's emphasis on performance provides contrast to the fall festival's adult-centered programming, which includes more lectures and discussions in exploration of a central theme that changes each year.
CHF XVIII: The Climate of Concern (2007)
Notable presenters: Wangari Maathai, E.L. Doctorow, Philip Pullman, Majora Carter, Peter Singer, Roger Payne, Terry Tempest Williams, W.S. Merwin, Edward Burtynsky, Maya Lin, Dave Eggers, Colin Quinn, Cat Chow, Greil Marcus, Amartya Sen, and the head writers of The Onion
CHF XIX: Thinking Big! (2008)
Notable presenters: David McCullough, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Darnton, Wendy Kopp, Erika Doss, Robert Irwin, Naomi Klein, Lawrence Lessig, Amitav Ghosh, Colonel Eileen Collins, Jonathan Alter, Ronald Mallett, and Laurence Tribe
CHF XX: Laughter (2009)
Notable presenters: Matt Groening, John Hodgman, Bob Sabiston, Lynda Barry, Jules Feiffer, Robert Mankoff, Barbara Ehrenreich, Paul Farmer, Claire McCaskill, Robert Reich, Billy Collins, Ronald K.L. Collins, Kay Ryan, Tim Reid, Tom Dreesen, Ian Frazier, John Adams (composer)
CHF XXIII: America (2012)
Notable presenters: Camille Paglia, Mark Helprin, Charles C. Mann, John Lewis Gaddis, Yves Béhar, Austan Goolsbee, Neil MacGregor, Nate Silver, Ian Frazier, Russ Feingold, David Brooks, Elie Wiesel, Richard Ford
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- Johnson, Steve. "Alison Cuddy promoted to Chicago Humanities Festival artistic director".
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- "CHF 2015: Citizens - Chicago Humanities Festival".
- Johnson, Steve. "2016 Chicago Humanities Fest has its theme: Speed".
- Mueller, Corey. "Al Gore to headline Chicago Humanities Festival, theme announced".
- Johnson, Steve. "Chicago Humanities Festival gets 'Graphic!' with new year-long theme".
- Yang, Rachel. "The 2018 Chicago Humanities Festival will focus on graphics and visual art".