Through art, lectures, performances and exhibits, the fourth annual festival—presented by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and numerous cultural and educational partners—will consider the natural world, climate change and the future of our shared common home

The 2019 Cleveland Humanities Festival will explore the relationship between nature and society from various perspectives in history, literature and the arts—with more than two dozen events around Northeast Ohio in March and April.

Photo of Peter Knox
Peter Knox

“Nature is at once multi-layered and simple—fragile yet mighty—and the humanities are a perfect vehicle to explore this topic,” said Peter Knox, director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and the Eric and Jane Nord Family Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. “The festival’s many events aim to recognize our growing understanding of the science of nature and its impact on culture and society.”

Most of the festival’s programs are free and open to the public, although many require registration through the Cleveland Humanities Festival website.

Now in its fourth year, the festival celebrates—and partners—major museums, educational institutions and arts organizations by engaging with the public to address some of society’s most pressing issues and concerns.

Highlighted events

50th Anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire Staged Reading

Saturday, March 16

Cleveland State University

On the 50th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, professional actors will perform original work by Cleveland writers addressing the infamous fire, climate change and other topics related to nature and the environment.

Exploration and Illustration in the Art of Nature

Thursday, March 21

Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve

William Claspy, director of Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections and Archives at Case Western Reserve, will give a broad overview of scientific illustration from the 16th through 19th centuries, featuring works from the library’s collections.

Is Climate Change the End? And If So, the End of What?

Friday, March 22

Tinkham Veale University Center, CWRU

Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University, explores the nature of how humans affect our environment.

Crossings: Crooked River Conversation on Culture and Immigration

John Grabowski
John Grabowski

Friday, March 22

The Magalen

John Grabowski, editor of The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and the Krieger-Mueller Joint Professor in History at Case Western Reserve and the Western Reserve Historical Society, will discuss the migrants and immigrants that arrived to Cleveland by water and helped drive the city’s growth.

Buddhism and the Natural World: Discerning an Environmental Imperative

Monday, March 25

Tinkham Veale University Center, CWRU

In his talk, Mark Blum, professor and Shinjo Ito Distinguished Chair in Japanese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, will examine traditional views of the natural world in Indian, Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.

Crooked River Conversation: Cleveland Author Kristin Ohlson

Tuesday, April 2

Tinkham Veale University Center, CWRU

Northeast Ohio-based author of The Soil Will Save Us, Ohlson combines culinary arts and science in her tale of farmers and foodies.

About the event

“Truth” will serve as the theme of the 2020 Cleveland Humanities Festival.

Last year’s festival explored health; 2017’s events tackled the topic of immigration and the inaugural event, in spring 2016, examined the impacts of war.

Founded in 1996 at Case Western Reserve with a gift from Eric and Jane Nord, the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities supports research and creative endeavors and hosts humanities events around the region.

The 2019 festival is co-sponsored by:

  • 43rd Cleveland International Film Festival;
  • American Buddhist Study Center;
  • Cleveland Buddhist Temple;
  • Cleveland History Center, Western Reserve Historical Society;
  • Cleveland Institute of Art;
  • Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque;
  • Cleveland Institute of Music;
  • Cleveland Museum of Art;
  • Cleveland Museum of Natural History;
  • Cleveland Play House;
  • Cleveland Public Library;
  • Cleveland State University;
  • Cleveland Vegan Society;
  • Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund;
  • Conservancy for Cuyahoga National Park;
  • Cuyahoga County Public Library;
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park;
  • Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District 70th Anniversary;
  • Department of Bioethics, CWRU;
  • Department of Religious Studies, CWRU;
  • Dittrick Museum of Medical History, CWRU;
  • Holden Forests & Gardens;
  • Kelvin Smith Library, CWRU;
  • Lake View Cemetery Foundation;
  • League of Women Voters of the Akron Area;
  • Literary Cleveland;
  • Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center, Cuyahoga Community College;
  • Master of Public Health program, CWRU;
  • National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum;
  • Oberlin College and Conservatory Environmental Studies Program;
  • Ohio Humanities;
  • Social Justice Institute, CWRU;
  • Swetland Center for Environment Health, CWRU;
  • West Creek Conservancy; and
  • XTINGUISH Celebration.

For more information, contact Daniel Robison at