illinoisartsalliancelogoThe second annual Arts Alliance Illinois “Voices of a CreativeState” benefit luncheon features MacArthur Fellow and American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney as the keynote speaker on Monday, June 2, 2014 at the Palmer House Hilton Chicago (17 E. Monroe). Celebrating the powerful role that the arts can and should play in the civic life of Illinois, the benefit will also honor long-time arts supporters Richard and Susan Kiphart with the Citizen Advocate Award in recognition of their vision and civic leadership in providing heightened visibility to the value of the arts.

The annual luncheon—led by Honorary Co-Chairs David Hawkanson, Executive Director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company and last year’s Citizen Advocate Award honoree Fay Hartog-Levin; Benefit Co-Chairs Ken Pigott and Sylvia Neil; and Event Planning Committee Chair Julie Schmidt—benefits Arts Alliance Illinois, the state’s leading arts advocacy organization. In 2013, 500 creative, corporate, and civic leaders gathered together for an afternoon to celebrate the strength and diversity of Illinois’ cultural sector. Proceeds from the event help Arts Alliance Illinois promote widespread support for the arts throughout the state. Some of the programs and initiatives that benefit from the luncheon include advocacy efforts in support of arts-friendly policy change, research on the economic impact of the state’s arts and culture industry, and the development and implementation of policy improvement agenda to advance arts education access, equity and quality in Illinois.

At 32, Tarell Alvin McCraney can already add a list of titles and awards including MacArthur “Genius” to his name. Actor turned playwright, McCraney uses the written word to speak to others through a universal language—one of feeling and expression. McCraney understands the importance of not only the arts but of arts education and will speak about the responsibility of artists and arts organizations to connect with their communities and engage as active citizens.

“Growing up knowing that the arts are what gave me a true sense of community fueled my passion for not only creating influential work but instilling that sense of community and artistic expression in others, said Tarell Alvin McCraney. It’s the arts that allow us to have an ongoing, open dialogue about the world we live in today. Arts Alliance Illinois continues to create and push innovative initiatives that fuel that ongoing conversation—helping to make Illinois one of the most thriving artistic states in the nation and perhaps the world.”

The event will also feature the presentation of Arts Alliance Illinois’ Citizen Advocate Award, to Richard and Susan Kiphart. Presenting the award will be President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia College Chicago Kwang-Wu Kim, D.M.A.

“It is impossible to separate the arts from the holistic process of becoming human, said Richard and Susan Kiphart. “All people – and certainly all children – need, deserve, and must have access to the arts. That is why we support Arts Alliance Illinois and thank them for all they have done to promote the arts in our state. We are honored by this recognition and in turn honor all those who bring the arts to the people.”

The benefit begins at 11:30 am with a VIP networking reception in the Red Lacquer Room. At noon, guests enter the Grand Ballroom for lunch and the benefit program.

Ticket, Table and Sponsorship Information

Individual tickets are $350 with a limited supply of $150-level tickets available exclusively for artists, arts organizations staff and students. Sponsorship packages for tables of 10 start at $3,500. Reservations are strictly limited. To purchase tickets, tables and sponsorships, visit or call 312.855.3105 x13.

About Tarell Alvin McCraney 

Tarell Alvin McCraney has been a Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member since 2010. He is best known for his acclaimed trilogy, “The Brother/Sister Plays: The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.” They have been performed at Steppenwolf, McCarter Theater in Princeton, The Public Theater in New York, at a trio of theaters in the Bay Area: Marin Theatre Company, ACT, and Magic Theatre, as well as the Young Vic in London (Olivier Award nomination) and around the world. Other plays include “The Breach” (Southern Rep, Seattle Rep), “Wig Out!” (Sundance Theatre Institute, Royal Court, and Vineyard Theatre – GLAAD Award for Outstanding Play), and “American Trade” (Royal Shakespeare Company/Hampstead Theatre). Steppenwolf produced the world premiere of his commissioned play, “Head of Passes” in the spring of 2013.

McCraney was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s International Playwright in Residence in 2009 – 2011, where he co-edited and directed the Young People’s Shakespeare production of “Hamlet,”which toured throughout the UK and was presented at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. He is the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, an inaugural Windham Campbell Prize, the prestigious Whiting Award and Steinberg Playwright Award, as well as London’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, the inaugural New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, and the inaugural Paula Vogel Playwriting Award. He was also named one of Chicago’s “40 Under 40” by Crain’s Chicago Business magazine.

He is a graduate from the New World School of the Arts High School, the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and the Yale School of Drama. He is a Steppenwolf ensemble member, a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami.

About Richard and Susan Kiphart

Richard and Susan Kiphart have dedicated a great deal of their lives to advocating for the arts and human rights both in Illinois and throughout the rest of the world. Their philosophy of sharing resources is about partnering with people to promote the Arts, support children’s causes and to enable people anywhere to be full participants in the improvement of their lives. After graduating from Dartmouth College and earning his MBA at Harvard, Richard Kiphart trained at Officer Cadet School and served in Vietnam.  He later went on to work for William Blair where he stayed for over 48 years serving as Managing Partner and as head of the following departments: Trading, Corporate Finance and Private Client Advisors. Susie worked in various educational positions throughout her career and also served as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Kenilworth Union Church for 14 years.

Married for 44 years, both Dick and Susie have served on philanthropic boards and committees with a focus on children, education, music, the arts and Global Health.  Dick has been chairman of the Board of Erikson Institute, MERIT Music, the Lyric Opera, and is now the chairman of the Board of Columbia College.  In addition he is currently on the Board of The Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Poetry Foundation.  Susie is on the Board of the Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Unlimited, the CSO and the Institute of the CSO, Family Focus, and WFMT Radio Committee.  She is a member of the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago.  Susie and Dick have served together on the Boards of the Interfaith Youth Core, Root Capital and the Committee to support The Chicago Public Schools Arts Plan.  They have contributed to and been honored by the Center on Halsted and the Posse Foundation.  They have been supporters of the Music Institute, Chi Arts, and their own Universities.

Extending beyond their work in Illinois, the Kipharts have been active in funding wells for clean water in Ghana West Africa and have traveled there for twelve years.  They have funded or added to existing schools in a number of villages and have supported the Children’s Welfare Clinic in Kumasi, Ghana.  They are now expanding their work by partnering with the Center for Global Heath at the University of Chicago under the leadership of their good friends, Doctors Funmi and Sola Olopade. They have three grown daughters and six grandchildren.

About Arts Alliance Illinois

Incorporated in 1982, Arts Alliance Illinois is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts advocacy and service organization promoting the value of the arts to all residents of Illinois. With more than 30,000 advocates and hundreds of member organizations, the Alliance is the largest statewide arts advocacy network in the country and the only organization in Illinois that represents artists and cultural organizations across all disciplines, budget sizes, and geographic areas.

Arts Alliance Illinois works to amplify the collective voice of the arts sector through legislative and grassroots action, close collaboration with policymakers and public agencies, and a robust online and social media presence. The Alliance ensures that the arts are central and indispensable to Illinois by empowering arts and culture stakeholders with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to be active participants in the policymaking process and the civic life of their communities; by proving data-driven evidence on the impact, assets, and needs of the arts and creative industries in Illinois; and by connecting and supporting leaders across multiple sectors around common goals and shared outcomes.