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Chicago Humanities Fest Outsourced To NYC?

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 7, 2006 6:11PM

The Chicago Humanities Festival 2006_02_humanities.gifwill be steered from a distance this year, with New Yorker Lawrence "Ren" Weschler taking the position of artistic director while remaining a resident of New York. He’ll spend four to five days in Chicago at a time for the job, and all the while keep his position as director of the New York Institute for the Humanities.

Is this an example of slightly lazy capitalist outsourcing? Chicagoist doesn’t really care, as long as Weschler can bring in the goods this fall. We do wonder, however, if the hiring decision was not just a ruse to continue with last fall’s festival theme, “Home and Away.” If so, will next year’s planned theme, “Peace and War: Facing Human Conflict” prompt the festival to dig up the remains of Leo Tolstoy to run the show? And can Chicagoist suggest the theme for 2007 be “Taking Over the World Starting Right Here in the Windy City” with Oprah on the short list for the job?

Chicagoist was impressed with last fall’s diverse festival schedule, and was glad there were plenty of names from outside of Chicago (Margaret Atwood! Salman Rushdie!) piled onto the extensive roster of local writers. After all, it’s a festival, dammit! And what good is a festival without a literary giant or two in town for us local nerds to drool over?

Curious festivalgoers will have the chance to scope Weschler out at his interview with This American Life’s Ira "Stimpy" Glass tonight at Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute, starting at 6:30. Weschler will be discussing, among other things, his recently published McSweeney’s book, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences. It’s an odd convergence in itself: pairing New Yorker Weschler with Ira Glass, a Chicagoan rumored to soon be defecting to NYC. Chicagoist will be in attendance to eye them both suspiciously and tempt them with Vienna Beef hot dogs.

Thanks, Maria!