CHICAGO — The annual Awards for Excellence in the Arts, held Nov. 9 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, celebrated talented artists and visionaries and raised funds for scholarships in support of students in The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Actor, director and choreographer André De Shields ("Ain't Misbehavin'," "The Wiz," "The Full Monty") received the 2015 Award for Excellence in the Arts.
"My art is my ministry. Storytelling is transformative. Storytelling can change the world. Storytelling is our most powerful tool as artists,” said De Shields.
Actress and DePaul alumna Karen Aldridge (“Matilda the Musical,” “Boss”) accepted the 2015 Alumni Award for Excellence in the Arts.
"I've had the opportunity to do amazing things, and they all started with The Theatre School and with Chicago," said Aldridge.
The Leadership Award for Excellence in the Arts was presented to Lou Raizin, president, Broadway in Chicago, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to Chicago arts community.
"We need to build a conversation about Chicago that's heard around the world," said Raizin.
Among the more than 300 in attendance at the 27th awards gala were members of the Chicago theatre and civic community, including Alderman Edward M. Burke; Alderman Michelle Smith; director, actor Ron OJ Parson; director Chuck Smith; Chicago Tribune theatre critic Chris Jones; and artistic director of the Writers Theatres, Michael Halberstam.
Also, Theatre School board members Brian Montgomery, Mary Spalding Burns, Monika Black, Lorraine Evanoff, Penny Obenshain, Pat Slovak, Linda Usher, Tomer Yogev and Dennis Zacek.
Event co-chairs and Theatre School board members included Joseph Antunovich, Sondra A. Healy, Trisha Rooney and the Rev. Monsignor Kenneth Velo.
Major supporters of the event included Antunovich Associates, Exelon, Geico, PNC Bank, R4 Services, Schiff Hardin and Turtle Wax. Wedgwood USA, a long-time corporate sponsor of the Awards for Excellence in the Arts, provided the award pieces for the honorees.
"We are so grateful to each and every person who supported this event, and contributed to The Theatre School scholarship fund," said John Culbert, dean of The Theatre School. "This crucial support directly impacts the success of the next generation of theatre artists."
By the end of the evening, the 2015 Awards for Excellence in the Arts grossed more than $260,000 for the scholarship fund.
Students from DePaul's School of Music provided live music throughout the evening. Many members of the League of Chicago Theatres donated tickets and arts experiences in support of the onsite fundraising initiatives.
The Theatre School at DePaul University educates, trains and inspires students of theatre in a conservatory setting that is rigorous, disciplined, and culturally diverse. Additional information is online at http://theatre.depaul.edu