By Derrick K. Baker
It’s a public secret that the annual list of black tie, no tie, and tie one on fundraisers in Chicago is long and diverse. Virtually every day in the Windy City, there’s a special event, an affair, a gala or a dinner hosted somewhere by some organization in support of some cause.
All of which makes it critical – yes, critical – for hosts and presenters to reinvent or at least revisit their event with some regularity to remain relevant and top of mind for sponsors and partners and paying guests who are solicited in the city’s competitive charitable giving scene.
To that point, whether by design or happenstance, over the past few years there appears to have been a minor but noticeable reinvention at the annual Black Creativity Gala at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), and this year’s event was no different.
Youth, relatively speaking, was served in the form of what felt like an increase in the number of millennials enjoying the always-plentiful food and abundant bars.
And that’s a good thing given that the gala supports the annual Black Creativity programming and events that pay tribute to the culture, heritage and science contributions of African Americans and help motivate youth in the sciences.
In other words, if the dynamic of youth attending Black Creativity is a sign of support for other youth, everyone wins.
This year, the 33rd annual black tie gala attracted 500-plus guests and raised more than $500,000 through the co-chairmanship of Cheryl Harris, senior vice president, sourcing and procurement solutions at Allstate Insurance Company; and Linda Nolan, senior vice president and managing director at Northern Trust.
The night kicked off with guests enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the annual Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition that featured more than 100 original works of art from African-American artists as several of the Museum’s Science Minor teen volunteers presented science demonstrations.
The exhibition opened with 116 dynamic works from both professional and amateur African-American artists from around the country, including artworks from youth artists ages 14-17.
This longest running exhibition of African-American art has been displayed annually at MSI since 1970. The exhibition is included in Museum entry and open through February 21.
And what’s a black tie gala without abundant food? After the exhibition, guests made their way to the Museum’s Rotunda for a strolling buffet catered by Food for Thought.
The dinner stations, as usual, were diverse and plentiful, featuring a popular chilled seafood bar with shrimp and stone crab claws; mojo rubbed pork shoulder with currants and creamed kale; Creole grits with bacon, collard greens, fried okra and chicken gumbo; chicken and waffles with crispy cornbread and Sriracha-maple dressing. Dessert stations offered bread pudding bites, build your own pies, mini tartlets, skillet cookies, and sorbet cones.
The Black Creativity program invites students, teachers, families and the public to explore the legacy of rich contributions and achievements made by African Americans while encouraging interest in science and technology among youth. This year’s programming focuses on innovation, inspiring children to become innovators of tomorrow.
The program also features the Innovation Studio for youth to experiment and explore new ideas through making. Powered by guests’ own curiosity, and inspired by science-related challenges, guests use various materials and tools to create solutions to issues.
During these sessions, facilitators chat about innovative African Americans to help inspire young inventors to seek out opportunities in science, technology, engineering and medicine. The Black Creativity Innovation Studio runs sessions for school groups by reservation throughout the week.