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Chicago Humanities Festival Announces Star-Studded Fall Line-Up


The Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) announced a star-studded line-up of Hollywood celebs, South Side legends, and global newsmakers in a wide-ranging celebration of Chicago that will run throughout the fall. Headliners include Tony Award-winning actor and singer Sutton Foster; Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard with his brother, actor Clint Howard; “Design Matters” podcast host Debbie Millman; actor and former White House staffer Kal Penn; Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming; PEN/Hemingway award-winning writer Teju Cole and Illinois Poet Laureate Angela Jackson.

The fall line-up kicked off in late September with CHF’s 2021 Joanne H. Alter Women in Government Lecture featuring Senator Tammy Duckworth and will extend all the way through December 9, with events on stages all across Chicago, including the Harris Theater, Blanc Gallery in Bronzeville, and Columbia College Chicago, as well as live-streamed virtual events.

Many programs will especially center Chicago creativity, including an afternoon in historic Bronzeville at the Blanc Gallery on Saturday, October 2, to discuss Chicago’s iconic public artwork the “Wall of Respect” and the ongoing legacy of Chicago’s Black Arts Movement.

MAKAYA MCCRAVEN2 by David Marques 72dpi sml
MAKAYA MCCRAVEN IS part of the lineup for the 2021 Chicago Humanities Festival.

CHF is especially celebrating the musical legacies of Chicago this fall. One musical performance of note is a special appearance by cutting-edge Chicago beat scientist Makaya McCraven at the Harold Washington Cultural Center on Saturday, October 2, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. McCraven will sit down with the co-founder of his label, International Anthem, Scottie McNiece and artist/musician Damon Locks to discuss Chicago’s genre-defying music scene. The conversation will be followed by a live performance by McCraven and his band.

Then, the following weekend, CHF will host its annual Graham Concert, this year with a special Women in Jazz event with iconic Chicago vocalist Tammy McCann on Saturday, October 9, from 6:30–7:30 p.m. McCann will use her classical training with Jazz and Gospel to take the audience on a lyrical journey to rediscover the powerful women of the Great American Songbook—including icons like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday.

“As we gather together again, we are focused on celebrating and elevating the creativity that makes our city so great,” said Alison Cuddy, CHF’s Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director. “By spotlighting some of the tremendous community and culture in Chicago, as well as inviting in artists, actors, and scholars from around the globe, we hope that many people will rejoice in the return of CHF’s signature programming— from compelling conversations to truly unique performance experiences.”

For in-person events, CHF has joined dozens of theaters and cultural presenters across Chicago to commit to enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols, including requiring proof of vaccination or negative tests to attend indoor programs, mask requirements, and, for staff, vaccination requirements and regular testing.

More programs are to be announced later in the fall. For ticket prices and a list of other events, please visit

The Chicago Humanities Festival believes that humanity thrives when people gather, connect, and open themselves to ideas that go beyond their individual experiences. For more than 30 years, the Festival has been curating live events that allow audiences to connect with the most provocative thinkers—both established and emerging—and to see the world differently. Under the leadership of Executive Director Phillip Bahar and Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Alison Cuddy, CHF is one of Chicago’s most vibrant civic institutions.

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