ilartsThe second annual Arts Alliance Illinois benefit luncheon, “Voices of a Creative State,” welcomed more than 400 artists, creatives and civic + corporate leaders to the Palmer House Hilton,Monday, June 2, 2014. Highlights of the luncheon included a special keynote address by MacArthur “Genius” and Steppenwolf Ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney and the presentation of Arts Alliance Illinois’ “Citizen Advocate” Award to Richard and Susan Kiphart in recognition of their vision and civic leadership in providing heightened visibility to the value of the arts. The event raised more than $275,000 to help the organization promote widespread support for the arts throughout the state.

Celebrating the strength and diversity of Illinois’ cultural sector, the luncheon was led by honorary co-chairs Governor Pat Quinn and Congressman Aaron Schock, both of whom spoke to the captive audience about the vital role the arts play in our communities and Illinois’ economy.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Executive Director of Steppenwolf Theatre CompanyDavid Hawkanson and last year’s Citizen Advocate Award honoree Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin (Ret.) also served as honorary co-chairs. Benefit Co-Chairs were Ken Pigott and Sylvia Neil and Event Planning Committee Chair was Julie Schmidt.

The event began at 11:30 am with a networking reception accompanied by music from the Chicago High School for the Arts Jazz Ensemble. Immediately following, guests were ushered into the Palmer House Grand Ballroom where they were greeted by a gorgeous rendition of Vivaldi’s violin Concerto No. 1 in E major, “La Primavera” (Spring) from the Four Seasons, performed by Music Institute of Chicago studentSerena Harnack on violin accompanied by Milana Pavchinskaya on piano. Arts Alliance Illinois Board Chair Kassie Davis then welcomed guests to the second annual luncheon before introducing Congressman Aaron Schock. Following Congressman Schock’s remarks, a short video was played featuring arts leaders from across the state of Illinois—including CSO’s President Deborah Rutter and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Director Mike Ross—sharing their thoughts on the power of arts advocacy and working together to advance support of the arts and for the Alliance.

Lunch was served then Event Committee Chair Julie Schmidt continued the program by introducing co-chairs Ken Pigott and Sylvia Neil, alongside President and Chief Executive Officer of Columbia College Chicago Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, D.M.A., who paid tribute to the extraordinary work and dedication of bothRichard and Susan Kiphart who were presented with the “Citizen Advocate” Award.

Steppenwolf Theatre Artistic Director Martha Lavey took the stage to introduce the event’s keynote speaker, her collaborator and friend, Tarell Alvin McCraney. McCraney, who was equally entertaining and inspiring, spoke about finding his own place in the community and the essential need for arts education. He shared his thoughts on the importance of feeling connected to others and to oneself through the arts and how the arts provide invaluable tools to help us persevere in the world.

Governor Pat Quinn also spoke to the fundamental necessity of the arts in Illinois before Arts Alliance Illinois Executive Director Ra Joy thanked the more than 400 guests for their continued support and commitment to arts education and arts advocacy.

Premiere Sponsors for the event were Richard and Susan Kiphart. Benefit Sponsors included Allstate, Columbia College Chicago, The Crown Family, Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin and Daniel Levin, Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel, Alexandra and John Nichols and Ken and Jane Pigott. Patron Sponsors were Julie and Roger Baskes, BMO Harris Bank, Choose Chicago, Donna Van Eekeren Foundation, GCM Grosvenor, Ingenuity, The Sun-Times Foundation/The Chicago Community Trust, Walgreens, William Blair & Company and Helen Zell. For Partner Sponsors visit

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.