Inaugural Cleveland Humanities Festival: Remembering War

The first Cleveland Humanities Festival (CHF) will unfold beginning March 30 with an array of events exploring the impact of war on society and culture. Amid the more than 20 performances, readings, screenings and tours, participants will consider, from a humanistic perspective, our capacity for brutality and the possibility of transcending it through the power of art.

Here is a sampling of the offerings, which will play out in venues big and small across Northeast Ohio through April.

Hiding in the Spotlight: The Power of Music and the Human Spirit, will feature Russian/Ukrainian Jewish music prodigy Zhanna Arshanskaya, who performed music for Nazis during World War II to avoid execution and became a prized pianist and music professor. She will join a discussion of a documentary about her life, followed by a recital on March 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Simon and Rose Mandel Theater, Cuyahoga Community College East Campus, 2900 Community College Ave.

Warrior Chorus, a major new national humanities program by New York’s Aquila Theatre Company, has trained 100 veterans in four regional centers to present scholar-led public programming based on classical literature. On Sunday, April 10 from 3 to 5 p.m. at MOCA Cleveland, 114000 Euclid Ave, the New York Warrior Chorus will perform, followed by a moderated discussion.

Men in War (1957), is a Korean War drama from acclaimed director Robert Ryan, who is best known for his psychological Westerns and films noir. It tells the story of an American platoon commander whose weary soldiers are cut off behind enemy lines. The film will screen on April 21 from 6:45 to 9 p.m. at Cleveland Cinematheque, 11610 Euclid Ave.

Other diverse events include a discussion on the art of armor at the Cleveland Museum of Art, a poetry reading at the Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern and a tour of notable veterans' resting places at Lake View Cemetery.

Most of the lectures, movies and shows are free and open to the public, although some require registration. Some include a fee, such as the Monuments Tour ($10), which includes area icons such as the Soldiers' and Sailors Monument and others that are not so well known (try: the Smoky War Dog Memorial in the Metroparks, which commemorates the “tiniest hero of WW II”). More information and a complete list of event is available here.

“The idea is simple: bring together the strength of our world-class humanities organizations around a topic that has affected all of our lives in profound ways, large and small,” said Peter Knox, director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities of Case Western Reserve University, which is coordinating the event, in a release. “We hope people think about this topic in new and challenging ways, with the humanities as our gateway.”

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.