How To Raise Money For Arts 3 Ways; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois High Schools, Garfield Park Conservatory

Art is a connective tissue in a well-lived life and in an engaging society.

It’s difficult to quantify the impact of visual art in life, but it’s also obvious that spaces and places without art make life duller, not better. It seems that the more opportunities we provide for creative people, the healthier our society becomes. The students in this video articulate this well.

These three innovative Chicago fundraisers, all sponsored by Make It Better, provide inspiring examples of how to grow opportunities for artists, strengthen community bonds and engage a great audience—in other words, grow virtuous circles that create win-win-win scenarios for all.

Illinois High School Regional Art Exhibition

After a 29-year run, a regional art show for talented high school students folded. With that, a rare opportunity for talented, creative students to be recognized and appreciated by the public evaporated.

Last September, seven ambitious high school art teachers decided to not only resurrect the art show, but also to bring in scholarship support and additional college attention for participants. That group was nicknamed the “Jedi Council,” which explains just how lofty a goal and difficult a process this would be. But John Zilewicz, Christopher Sykora, Benajmin Jaffe, Jonathan Reiman, Nick Hostert, Stephen Murphy and Maribeth Coffey-Sears did it.

Over the course of only a few months, and while working their regular full-time jobs, the Jedi Council organized the juried show; earned the financial support of at least 10 sponsors, including the Deerfield and New Trier High School fine arts associations; and convinced more than 30 colleges to participate. They also convinced approximately 70 high schools to be represented at the show. Whew.

Photo courtesy of Illinois High School Regional Art Exhibition

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” Martha Mead famously said.  The world of a growing number of Chicago-area art students is likely to be changed because of the efforts of this small group of art teachers.

All are invited to the opening Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Zhou B. Art Center, to enjoy the fruits of their intense labors. Find more information here.

“Art in Motion” Benefiting the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago 

An Art Therapy program is one of the many reasons that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) has earned the top spot among the country’s rehabilitation hospitals for decades. It’s also an example of the visionary work RIC does.

Since most insurance and government-aid programs do not cover the cost of art therapy, few institutions choose to provide it. But RIC is deeply committed to this program. “The spiritual healing power of art therapy expedites physical healing too,” says President and CEO Joanne Smith, MD.

Maintaining this program requires substantial private fundraising. To raise the needed funds, Chicago’s art and philanthropic communities come together annually to help, through “Art in Motion.” This year, James Rondeau, Modern and Contemporary Art Curator of the Art Institute, selected exhibitors and awarded honors from hundreds of submissions across the country. The works were displayed and for sale alongside those by RIC patients. RIC receives 50 percent of the sale proceeds.

This year’s event boasted over 500 people in attendance, including many patient and professional artists. Painter Mariam Pare, a former RIC patient who developed masterly skills by holding the brush in her mouth, provided a live demonstration of her work.

“Our goal is to help each and every one of our patients achieve their greatest ability—whatever that may be,” says Director of Marketing Cari Dinneen.

Photos by James Foster (also pictured above)

Art In Motion layers win upon win in a magnificent virtuous circle: win for professional artists who need opportunities to showcase their art, win for rehabilitation patients whose art is treated with equal importance, win for major institutions who grow larger audiences because of this collaboration, win for RIC Art Therapy funding, win for the guests who enjoy the evening and connections.

Fleurotica Fashion Show Benefiting The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance

Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance (GPCA) puts on a stunning annual fashion show featuring attire made by local designers from natural plant materials. The wearable art raises money so that the Conservatory can continue its arts and other community-enrichment programs in a beautiful facility that anchors the surrounding, diverse community.

Photo by David Miller

The GPCA organization is as innovative as the fashion show. Organized 15 years ago, this public-private initiative rescued and renovated the badly damaged Conservatory, bringing new life to the surrounding community.

This collaborative effort creates artistic opportunities for professionals, funds community programs, and grows the network of support for a beloved institution. It’s a winning relationship with art as the connective tissue.

Make It Better is proud to be a media sponsor of Fleurotica 2014, coming in June, as well as the Beer Under Glass event May 15.


We welcome the opportunity to be a media sponsor of additional art-centric, community-enhancing fundraisers too. For more information about growing a relationship with the Make It Better Foundation, visit our website.