Richard J. Franke

Document Type





Imagining America


Arts and Humanities


Richard J. Franke, author, Cut from Whole Cloth, draws from his experience as founding chairman of the Chicago Humanities Festival and as CEO of John Nuveen and Company, to tackle the question, “How do we bring scholars and artists to a larger audience?” Stepping back, he also asks, “Why is it important to reach a larger audience?”

Franke argues here that the humanities can best train citizens to make the complex political, social, and moral decisions that constitute a healthy democracy. Not only are the humanities crucial to the political and social spheres, but also to the professional world where they can strengthen critical thinking, creativity, and leadership. Grappling with the perception of the humanities as elitist, he dismisses the temptation to sacrifice standards of excellence for accessibility and mass appeal. Instead, he offers guidelines on how artists and scholars can engage the public: capitalize on the strengths of scholarly expertise and tradition of debate, hold public discussions about the relation of humanities to citizenship and the public sphere, and emphasize their practical and entertainment value. In short, he writes, “We need to make the humanities available not merely for survival in an increasingly commercial world, but for the sake of democracy.”

Additional Information

This article is a part of Imagining America Forseeable Futures: for more information, please visit


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