We here at the Reader have made no secret of our deep and abiding love for the Chicago Humanities Fest. Our biggest complaint, besides being forced to choose which events to go to instead of just getting to go to them all, is that the festival comes but once a year. Well, OK, that’s not entirely true: for the past few years, the CHF crew has stealthily been scheduling individual events throughout the winter and spring. But now, for the first time, there will be a full-blown festival running April 28 to May 1, featuring many big-name visitors in a concentrated period of time, all speaking around a central theme: style.
“It’s a perfect festival topic,” says Alison Cuddy, the festival’s associate artistic director. “It’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere: art, music, sports, politics. Fashion is a big component, but it’s not just about clothes. It’s about individual expression.”
Among the presenters Cuddy is most eagerly anticipating are Iris Apfel, the 94-year-old fashion icon; photographer Sally Mann, whose work has fascinated her for years; and the author and cultural critic Margo Jefferson, whose memoir Negroland, about the writer’s childhood on the south side, came out last fall. Cuddy’s also looking forward to seeing Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which the former thinks has created an entirely new style of political activism.
Other confirmed presenters are Arianna Huffington, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Mary-Louise Parker, Maria Pinto, Andrew Solomon, and George Wendt. The full schedule of events will be released March 1.
Many of these events will be taking place in stylish locations that the festival has never used before, including the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the newly remodeled Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building, and the Art Institute.
Cuddy is excited about making the Humanities Festival a year-round cultural institution, and not just to spread the humanities love. “In November,” she says, “we’re always worried about whether it’s going to snow during the festival. We don’t have to worry about that in the spring. Although . . . you never know.”