Chicago Humanities Festival Announces 30th Anniversary Fall Festival Line-up

Article Pixel

Building on the momentum of a powerful series of fall kick-off events, the Chicago Humanities Festival is excited to announce the full lineup for its 30th Fall Festival. Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, author Jonathan Safran Foer, historian Ibram X. Kendi, comedian and The New York Times Magazine's "judge" John Hodgman, poet Nikki Giovanni, Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will all be part of CHF's endeavor to explore Power this fall. Returning Festival favorites including poet and musician Patti Smith, novelist Salman Rushdie, and historian Sarah Vowell will return to Chicago this fall. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is this year's Chicago Tribune Literary Prize recipient.

The 30th anniversary Fall Festival will also bring a number of presenters who have continued to see their national profile rise since their first festival appearance. These presenters include the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize winners for Fiction and Nonfiction-Rebecca Makkai and Sarah Smarsh, respectively-as well as poet Reginald Dwayne Betts. #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza, already a towering figure in activism, has joined forces with Cecile Richards (formerly of Planned Parenthood) and Ai-jen Poo (the National Domestic Workers Alliance) to co-found the women's action coalition Supermajority. Former Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Lawrence Weschler will return to CHF and Chicago to discuss his hybrid memoir-biography of physician Oliver Sacks.

"This year, as we reflect on the staying power of the Chicago Humanities Festival, it's fitting that we consider Power. It is hard to imagine an era more beset by a queasy ambivalence toward power, marked as this moment is by conflicting realities," said Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Alison Cuddy. "A moment like this one triggers many questions. Does art have any power? What are institutions, strong or fragile, for? We don't seek answers, we seek more questions. Our programs offer deeper opportunities for reflection and spaces for dialogue, debate, and community, not just in Chicago, but around the world."

On Thursday, October 3, the 30th Anniversary Gala will feature an intimate conversation with Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. The gala will honor Norman and Virginia Bobins, recipients of the Humanists of the Year award, as well as ITW, recipient of the Civic Leadership Award. Tickets for the event remain available. Visit to learn more.

This year also includes the inaugural R. Scott Falk Memorial Program, created to honor the contributions and memory of CHF Board Chair Scott Falk who passed away unexpectedly over the summer. The Falk Memorial Program will feature National Review columnist Richard Brookhiser, speaking on how to draw strength and inspiration from the nation's founding texts.

The Fall Festival will consider the theme of Power through a multitude of lenses and perspectives. From a conversation with architect Liz Ogbu discussing the power of public spaces and the people in them to bring about social change to a pair of programs on nuclear power after Chernobyl and the testing of atomic bombs, the Festival's wide array of offerings capture the breadth of Power-how it's garnered, and how it's utilized.

Power will also find expression and local context during the Festival's four days neighborhood programming. Bronzeville Night will feature a conversation about the history and legacy of the Chicago Defender, which shuttered earlier this year. South Shore Night will include a conversation about soul music with artists and DJs including Ayana Contreras, host of Vocalo Radio's Reclaimed Soul, as well as a multidisciplinary performance by Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble.

"Whether you've been coming to the Chicago Humanities Festival for 30 years, or this is the first you've heard of us, I know there is at least one event in this Festival tailor-made for you and your interests," said Executive Director Phillip Bahar. "We developed our season to explore a diversity of ideas and topics that shine a light on our contemporary moment and consider our history with new eyes. What makes the Festival such an incredible institution is on full display this fall."

Tickets to CHF members go on sale Tuesday, September 24 at 10 a.m. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, October 1 at 10 a.m.

Visit to learn more and purchase tickets.

Related Articles View More Chicago Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You