DIFFA/Chicago’s Gala 29 Soars at the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago

DIFFA/Chicago Board members
Jim Keane, Andy Cohen, Diane Hoskins, Tom Karras
Mary Jo Fasan, Rob Fasan, Nila Leiserowitz, Ron Leiserowitz, Jennifer Graham

Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Chicago (DIFFA/Chicago) “took wing” on Saturday at the famed Renzo Piano-­designed Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, bringing together A+D’s top brass and industry professionals during its most highly anticipated event of the year – Gala 29.

The event put a spotlight on the critical needs of the HIV/AIDS community and the progress being made in finding a cure.

Like the great works of Picasso, Rothko and Pollack, Gala 29 brought a new and unique perspective to DIFFA/Chicago gala goers. This year featured for the first time a VIP cocktail event hosted by Diane Hoskins, FAIA, and Andy Cohen, FAIA, the event’s honorary co-­chairs and co-­CEOs of Gensler. This special pre-­event allowed individuals access to a private party prior to the opening of the gala. VIP attendees had the opportunity to mingle with distinguished guests and colleagues as they joined Hoskins and Cohen within the intimate setting of Terzo Piano from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

“We are proud to support this event, which is so important to DIFFA/Chicago’s work and the difference the organization makes for so many people across the Chicago area,” said Diane Hoskins, Co-CEO, Gensler. “The design community is at its best when it comes together to stand with those in need and make a positive difference on issues like HIV/AIDS. This gala does that by helping to fund important research, education and treatment efforts geared toward some of the most vulnerable members of our broader community.”

The VIP ticket, which also gives guests entrée to the gala, saw a tremendous response via ticket sales. “Having Andy Cohen and Diane Hoskins serve as our honorary co-­chairs was met with great excitement among industry professionals and they proved it by coming out in full force,” said Ron Leiserowitz, Gala co-­chair. “The generosity of their time and their support is greatly appreciated and helped us to set a new pace in meeting and exceeding our fundraising goals.”

Catherine De Orio

Gala 29 was held in Griffin Court of the Modern Wing and the Pritzker Garden, where guests enjoyed culinary creations presented by Bon Appétit. Expertly emceed by TV’s Catherine De Orio of Check,Please!, the event also featured a series of inspiring presentations as well as its highly anticipated live auction and raffle, featuring exclusive and rarely available experiences and offerings.

Nick Coombs of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers led an energetic rally for the event’s Live Auction. Kicking off the Live Appeal were two of the organization’s biggest fundraisers. Jim Keane, president and CEO of Steelcase and Tom Karras representing Gianni, pledging $20,000 each to DIFFA/Chicago’s endowment.

The gala brought together more than 500 design enthusiasts and raised $450,000.

Among the evening’s presenters was James Petrakis, a former DIFFA/Chicago board member and survivor of HIV/AIDS, who shared his emotional journey and how, without the efforts of organizations like DIFFA, his fate may have been far different. “I’m here today to share this story because of DIFFA,” he said.

DIFFA/Chicago’s annual gala is well-­known for its explosive live entertainment. This year was no exception. Another highlight of the evening was the return of The Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra featuring dancing and star-­studded performances from one of Chicago’s most loved and sought-­after event bands.

Gala co-­chairs are Ron Leiserowitz, Mary Jo Fasan, Richard Cassis and Lynn Fordon.

Gala 29 sponsors are:
Steelcase -­ Presenting Sponsor
Gianni Inc. -­ Presenting Sponsor
Herman Miller -­ Legacy Benefactor
Gensler -­ Platinum Sponsor
Shaw Contract Group -­ Host Sponsor
Thomas Interior System -­ Host Sponsor
Corporate Concepts/Knoll -­ Host Sponsor
Forward Space -­ Host Sponsor
Luca Lanzetta Group -­ Cocktail Party Underwriter
ISI -­ Installation Specialists, Inc. -­ Cocktail Party Underwriter
Stone Source -­ Cocktail Party Underwriter
Walter P Moore -­ Music Underwriter
NEOCON -­ Music Underwriter
LUXE Interiors + Design magazine -­ Local Media Sponsor
sparc, inc. -­ Brand
Event Creative -­ Décor
Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra -­ Music

The Unsung Hero recognition was presented to Jeffrey Foster of Event Creative, who has provided the DIFFA/Chicago Gala with décor expertise that has continually wowed gala-goers for the past 10 years.

Proceeds from the Gala go to Chicago-­area service agencies providing assistance, education and outreach to those living with HIV/AIDS.

About DIFFA/Chicago

DIFFA/Chicago (The Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids) is a not-­for-­ profit Fundraising and grant making foundation that distributes funds to Chicago area HIV/ AIDS Service agencies that provide direct services, preventative education and outreach to people who are HIV positive, living with AIDS or at risk for infection. Founded in 1984, DIFFA has granted more than $41 million to hundreds of community-­based organizations nationwide. For more information visit diffachicago.org.