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. The first Chicago Humanities Festival, a one-day affair, was held on November 11, 1990 at the Art Institute of Chicago and Orchestra Hall, before an audience of 3,500 people. Eight thoughtful and accessible programs centered on the theme Expressions of Freedom, including a memorable keynote address by playwright Arthur Miller, and inaugurated one of Chicago's most culturally rich annual events. Founding co-sponsor institutions included the Art Institute, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera Chicago, and the University of Chicago.
Since that first year, some of the world's most exciting thinkers, artists and performers have come to Chicago each fall for a festival that celebrates ideas in the context of civic life. Each festival brings together novelists, scholars, musicians, archaeologists, historians, artists, performers, playwrights, theologians, poets, architects, policy makers, and others—both established and emerging talents—to offer performances, screenings, exhibits, and discussions on a theme of universal interest, such as Love and Marriage, Crime and Punishment, Work and Play, Peace and War, and Thinking Big. Presented in partnership with some of Chicago’s premier cultural institutions, and produced in some of Chicago’s most remarkable public and performance spaces, the festival has become an annual highlight for thousands of people from Chicago and beyond.
Winter 2021: Join CHF at Home for their digital season.
Reduced ticket prices (specific to event) for teachers & students with valid school ID. Free for volunteers if reserved 48 hours in advance.