Chicago Humanities Festival announces one-day Our Cities Festival

On Sunday, May 15, the Chicago Humanities Festival will launch its first ever one-day festival, Our Cities, an exploration of the economic, social, and personal issues facing residents of the cities in our region.
One in a series of local and national programs celebrating the 35th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, Our Cities will draw on the expertise of Chicagoans and MacArthur Fellowship recipients for a series of conversations about how we tell the stories of our cities-in words, in images, with data, and with imagination.
In the day’s first event, CHF Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy will moderate a conversation between Juan Salgado and Natalie Moore. Juan Salgado, President of Instituto del Progreso Latino, will talk about the decade he’s spent developing education programs in immigrant communities on Chicago’s Southwest side. WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore, will discuss her newly published book, The South Side, a sweeping portrait of segregation in Chicago, which moves from the Great Migration to the present, and weaves together memoir, history, and the voices of local scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, and urban farmers. Moore and Salgado will speak at 12 p.m.
The second event pairs StoryCorps founder Dave Isay and photographer Camilo José Vergara, again in conversation with Cuddy. Isay has been collecting oral histories of ordinary Americans for more than 20 years. His latest book, Callings, presents people for whom vocation becomes something more-a passion and a way of life. While Isay collects voices, Vergara uses photographs to capture stories of time and place in cities. Vergara, who has worked often in Chicago, will discuss his forthcoming work, Detroit Is No Dry Bones. Vergara and Isay will begin at 2:15 p.m.
In the final event of the afternoon, beginning at 4:30 p.m., Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond will speak with journalist Alex Kotlowitz, the award-winning reporter and storyteller behind There Are No Children Here and The Interrupters. Desmond’s Evicted is a searing account of the toll taken by rising eviction rates on two Milwaukee neighborhoods. Desmond’s story is about Milwaukee, but his analysis and conclusion-that eviction is the cause of poverty and not its result-applies across the country, and in Chicago’s own neighborhoods as well.
“This festival is a real opportunity to convene a public forum about the issues facing America’s metropolises,” says Phillip Bahar, Executive Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival. “Whether it’s in a city like Detroit and Cleveland, currently experiencing major shifts in their populations and economies, or in a Chicago neighborhood like Logan Square or Humboldt Park, where rising rents are fueling conversations and activism around gentrification and affordable housing, it’s more important than ever to highlight the stories of individual people trying to get by in a changing world,” Bahar says, “Our Cities gives us a chance to highlight the innovative work of MacArthur Fellows – from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds – all focused on how people will interact with the American city moving forward.
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at or by calling the CHF Box Office at (312) 493-9509, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more about a CHF membership, visit Tickets range from $5-15. A ticket to all of the day’s events is available for $30.
All three events at the daylong festival will be held at Venue SIX10 located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. The Chicago Humanities Festival ‘s Our Cities festival is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of its ongoing commitment to local arts and culture and in honor of the 35th anniversary of the MacArthur Fellows Program, which recognizes exceptionally creative people who inspire us all.
Following the Our Cities Festival, CHF continues its roll out year of year-round programming with events featuring novelist and National Book Award winner Louise Erdrich, silent film and Shakespeare expert Judith Buchanan at the Music Box Theatre as part of Chicago’s Shakespeare 400 festival, and a conversation with chef and Fresh off the Boat author Eddie Huang.
  • Thursday, April 28, 2016 – Inaugural CHF Spring festival “Style” begins
  • Sunday, May 15, 2016 – Our Cities Festival begins
  • Tuesday, May 24, 2016 – LaRose: An Evening with Louise Erdrich
  • Monday, June 6, 2016 – Silent Shakespeare
  • Monday, June 13, 2016 – Eddie Huang: Double Cup Love
About the Chicago Humanities Festival
For more than 25 years, the Chicago Humanities Festival has celebrated the questions that shape and define us as individuals, communities, and cultures. For the curious at heart, CHF’s vibrant year-round programming and robust Fall Festival offer the opportunity to engage with some of the world’s most brilliant minds. Collaborating with leading arts, cultural, and educational organizations, it presents scholars, artists and architects, thinkers, theologians, and policy makers that change how we see the world, where we’re from, and where we’re going. Under the leadership of Executive Director Phillip Bahar, Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Jonathan Elmer, and Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy, CHF is one of Chicago’s most vital presenting organizations. Visit for more information.
About The Chicago Community Trust
The Chicago Community Trust, our region’s community foundation, partners with donors to leverage their philanthropy in ways that transform lives and communities. Since its founding in 1915, the Trust has awarded approximately $2.3 billion in grants to thousands of local and national nonprofits, including $164.5 million in 2014. Throughout its Centennial year, The Trust will celebrate how philanthropy in all its forms-time, treasure and talent-strengthens our region and impacts the lives of its residents in countless ways.