The Chicago Humanities Festival Gets Graphic

Pics or it didn’t happen! As a whole, humans have been obsessed with imagery for far longer than Bongo Cat gifs or Instagram influencers have been a Thing. Whether it’s a century’s worth of “Wish You Were Here” or an Enlightenment-era vedute, it’s obvious we want to record and commemorate… well, everything. Thus, in recognition of our image-saturated existence, this year’s theme for the Chicago Humanities Festival is GRAPHIC!

No, really, that’s the name.

Sure, it’s also a statement. Also an exclamation. Descriptive, evocative, sensationalizing, artistic, all of the above. And if you want it for your very own, tickets go on sale to the general public TOMORROW.

Such Humanities, Very Festival

But there is so much! What to see?

  • We Fed an Island, in which the indomitable chef José Andrés visits the Field Museum to provide updates on post-Maria Puerto Rico after providing nearly 3 million meals to the island
  • Marvelocity, in which Alex Ross and Chip Kidd talk comics in a church sanctuary
  • From Ego to Eco, in which graphic novelist Özge Samanci attends a university museum to discuss how art could sand off the calluses created by an onslaught of doom-and-gloom environmentalism
  • The Butchering Art, in which Under the Knife writer Lindsey Fitzharris reminds us to wash our cuts and scrapes in a music hall
  • Overlooked: Ida B. Wells, in which a panel of persistent people point out the awesomeness we’ve missed out on by not publishing an obituary for nearly 90 years (featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, Michelle Duster, Eve L. Ewing, and Natalie Moore)
  • Gods and Robots, in which science historian Adrienne Mayor takes the stage to reveal the imagination of the ancients in the form of foreshadowing modern AI  
  • Living Color, in which literature professor David Scott Kastan hangs out in a dorm to tell us how colors have developed meaning and shape our perception
  • Visualizing Knowledge, in which Manuel Lima goes back to high school to teach us why Venn diagrams can be fscking gorgeous
  • Can Art Amend History? in which artist Titus Kaphar visits a glass house to throw stones at the lies of artistic narratives
  • Visualizing Accessibility, in which blind scientist Joshua Miele visits an art school to bring new perspectives to his lifetime of innovation

…and wow, that’s just a few things that caught my eye in the FIRST HALF of the catalog! (Check out the whole thing here.)

What We’re Here For

But the event I’m most interested in attending is the Richard J. Franke Lecture, “Reconnecting Art and Science.” Because, of course!

From the catalog:

The delineations are commonly understood: Science encourages logic, analysis, and problem-solving. Arts encourage intuition, divergence, and practice, practice, practice. On many college campuses, the “engineers” and “artists” barely cross paths. But when did this come to be? Art historian and Dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Adrian Randolph points at dual fears of art and engineering, from the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci to the Brunelleschi Dome in Florence, arguing that the domains of art and science in contemporary American education have become far too separate—to the detriment of both. Join Randolph as he explains why it is essential for universities to dismantle barriers between the arts and sciences if they are to build leaders capable of solving the complex problems ahead.

I’d say I’ve been waiting for the Chicago Humanities Festival to choose a more artistic theme, but I didn’t think they would get much closer than “Style” (2016) or “Brains & Beauty (2002). So I’m extra-excited that it’s gone graphic!

So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do the math to justify purchasing a membership based on how many of these events I want to attend. And figure out when I’ll get anything else done over those two weeks besides being very, very festive.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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