Arts and Lunch: Celebrating Our Wins and the Work Ahead

Alliance Board Chair Brooke Flanagan and Alliance Executive Director Claire Rice toast the Alliance's recent wins. Photo by Erik Unger.

Last month the Alliance welcomed over 300 artistic, business, creative, and philanthropic leaders from across Illinois to our Seventh Annual Benefit Luncheon at Venue West Chicago.

Centered on the theme of “Arts &,” we recognized the wide variety of contributions that arts, culture, and creativity make in our communities. Fittingly, the event’s honorees reflected this: Citizen Advocate awardees Elissa Hamid Efroymson and Adnaad Hamid have elevated the arts alongside education, social justice, and the environment through their thoughtful philanthropy, while Creative Voice winners Anne Libera and Kelly Leonard have devised innovative ways to inject comedy into the health and sciences.

In presenting the Citizen Advocate Award, Theaster Gates reflected on the rare gift it is to be in a room full of artists and those that support them. Accepting the award on behalf of the couple, Efroymson reiterated her appreciation for those in the room . 

Creative Voice Award presenter Kim Scott was assisted in her remarks by a video tribute featuring the likes of Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell, all former collaborators of Libera and Leonard. After accepting the award, the couple led the room in a creative exercise on the science of improvisation and caregiving. 

Above, from left: Creative Voice honorees Kelly Leonard and Anne Libera watch the program; Adnaan Hamid and Elissa Hamid Efroymson receive Citizen Advocate Award from Theaster Gates. Photos by Erik Unger.


With this many rock stars of the Illinois creative sector in the room, we had to take a moment to toast our successes over the past year. In kicking off the show, Alliance Board Chair Brooke Flanagan and Alliance Executive Director Claire Rice reflected on the Alliance’s wins over the past year: leading a delegation of arts advocates to Washington, DC to lobby for federal funding, directing an action campaign for the arts to be weighted in the state’s new K-12 education accountability system, and hosting a Mayoral Arts Forum in Chicago. Of course, our recent $50 million capital bill win yielded the biggest cheer of the day. 

Concluding her remarks, Rice spoke of the important role the Alliance plays on behalf of the creative sector. “We fight for you because we know how important arts and culture are to our communities,” she noted. “We take on the challenges that no one organization or artist in the sector can face alone.”

The event raised over $175,000 toward the Alliance’s fight for arts resources and policies that benefit our members and all Illinois residents. We were honored to have many special guests in attendance, including State Senator John Cullerton and Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Mark Kelly.

We’d like to thank our honorees, presenters, performers Meher Dance Company and DJ Rae Chardonnay, and all who joined us for the festivities. A very special thank you to all of our sponsors, particularly Premier Sponsor The Efroymson Family Fund and Benefit Sponsors Allstate, The Chicago Community Trust, and The Second City.