Virtual Humanities Festival kicks off important conversation

Katia Faroun

features editor


In March, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust had its presenters all lined up for the year’s humanities festival — unbeknownst to them, seven months ahead of schedule.
Now in October, the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival is finally taking place, free to viewers and all online.
The festival brings together internationally-renowned academics and artists to host intimate conversations on important topics — or “smart talk about stuff that matters.”
Previously scheduled for March 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, the festival began hosting events at the start of October that deal with topics such as healthcare, incarceration, technology and art.
Dubbed Pittsburgh Humanities Festival @ Home, the free, month-long event is a virtual reboot of the “Core Conversations” event planned originally for the spring. The festival is put on by both the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and has been a part of the Cultural Trust for the past five years.
Events so far have discussed life sentences, BIPOC representation in dance and speaking up about sensitive topics in a news-saturated time.
Robert Wideman, a returning citizen who spent 44 years in prison, discussed the challenges he’s faced while reintegrating into society. Pittsburgh dancer Staycee Pearl opened a conversation on the experiences of being a Black woman in the dance industry, and a panel including Abby Rickin-Marks, an education activist, and Zion Ross, a member of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent’s Student Advisory council, talked about equity, diversity and inclusion and the challenges faced by teens when discussing these passions.
Each of the festival’s events feature a live Q&A, offering viewers a chance to contribute to the conversations. The events are livestreamed on Cultural Trust’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
The Pittsburgh Humanities Festival has two more events scheduled:
“Everyone Wants to Get to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die”
Jonathan D. Moreno
Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.
Moreno was deemed “the most quietly interesting bioethicist of our time” by the American Journal of Bioethics.
Moreno is a professor of medical ethics, philosophy and sociology at University of Pennsylvania. This event will touch on the fact that Americans pay more for healthcare, yet have the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rates of any affluent nation. It analyzes the problem of Americans wanting to know everything about the medical field, yet not wanting to know its limits. Moreno will discuss his book of the same name, which urges Americans to be more honest about healthcare.
Public Open Call: Don’t Google This — Offline Curiosity in an Online World
Boaz Frankel
Oct. 23 at 7 p.m.
The Public Open Call provides those interested in being a part of the festival the chance to present alongside the rest of the speakers. Frankel, a filmmaker, writer and talk show host who recently moved to Pittsburgh, will be discussing humanity’s natural curiosity and how it changes from an online to an offline setting.
With the creation of Google and the access to information quite literally at the world’s fingertips, Frankel will analyze the science behind curiosity and what happens when individuals decide to pursue it without the help of the Internet.
Visit the Pittsburgh Cultural Trusts’ website to access the links to each event. Registration is not required.