A candid panel on freelancing at Humanities Without Walls

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting on a three-hour panel about freelancing at the Humanities Without Walls workshop, run by the Chicago Humanities Festival. My fellow panelists were journalist Ben Austen (the author of important articles about Laquan McDonald and Cabrini-Green) and media entrepreneur Jenn Brandel (who founded Curious City and now runs the company Hearken). Both of them were generous, kind, and fascinating people; I left the panel inspired by their bold work in the world. I was also thrilled to finally meet Alison Cuddy in person—a longtime cultural reporter for WBEZ, and now Associate Artistic Director of the Humanities Festival. 

The Humanities Without Walls workshop gathers Ph.D. students in the humanities for three weeks of learning, discussion, and site visits in Chicago, all to help orient them to the possibilities of working outside academia. What an amazing idea, right? 

It's clear that in the humanities, just as in the arts, there's an anxiety about how young people being trained in the discipline will survive. But beyond that, there's also optimism about how musicians—and scholars of all kinds—could be having a much bigger positive impact in a wide range of settings and disciplines.

The accomplished workshop participants grilled us about everything from self-employment tax and health insurance, to networking and relationship-building, to how we stay upbeat in a world that doesn't always appreciate the work of artists. 

I hope to stay in touch with what this workshop is doing for years to come! Special thanks to Alison, and sociologist Margarita Rayzberg, for inviting me to participate.