Wednesday, January 13, 2016



·       Good evening. Thank you all for joining us.  Tonight is a result of collaboration between 1871, William Blair, KDWC Ventures co-founder, Dick Kiphart and Be Creative: A Campaign for Chicago Arts Education.

·       I’m especially proud to be a small part of this evening because the arts have been as important a part of my life and career over the last 50 years as anything I’ve done in business and frankly these two passions have been inextricably bound together whether at CCC,, Kendall College, Tribeca Flashpoint, Experiencia or 1871.

·       I’ve tried to make sure in each of these endeavors that – notwithstanding all the technology surrounding us – that we never lose sight of the importance of creativity in the non-digital world and that we celebrate excellence in those kinds of activities just as often as we toot our own technology trumpets (and I think you all know that I spend a great deal of each day doing exactly that).

·       What you may not know is that - apart from my service for years under Michelle Boone’s leadership on the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs council and on the Illinois Arts Council as well - we are avid art collectors with works by more than 1400 individual artists currently in our collection and over the years we’ve been pleased to give or acquire major works of art for all of the Chicago and for many other Midwestern art museums and provided stipends to several dozen artists over the last 10 (sadly lean) years in the arts. So I’m all in.

·       I spoke recently at SOFA about my fears for the next generation of collectors and arts supporters because we live in an Uber-ized world where no one under a certain age wants to own anything these days. They’re all for experiences and they appreciate utility – but they aren’t interested in possessions or stuff in the way that we were and this is a real challenge for our cultural institutions.

·       Tonight, we are here to talk about our city’s next generation of creative entrepreneurs, creative civic leaders, and creative community members.  How do we help develop this next generation?  The answer is simple - we have to teach and nurture creativity and the arts in our schools.

·       Not everyone will be an entrepreneur in their life; but every one of us needs to be entrepreneurial in whatever we endeavor to do with our lives and every artist is an entrepreneur for sure.

·       This place, 1871, is the epitome of what is possible when creativity meets business, when entrepreneurs assemble to change the future, and where innovation overcomes the old ways of doing things.

·       I’m pleased that almost every one of the panelists tonight has already spent time at 1871 and been exposed to the energy, the enthusiasm and the excitement of this place. As a double NU grad, A Pumpkins fan from the get-go, a VC myself, a massive fan of McDonald’s fries, and having a daughter who’s an opera singer, I couldn’t be happier with the panel members you’ll hear from in a few moments.

·       And the good news for our mission tonight is that today – more than movie stars – more than professional athletes – entrepreneurs are the rock stars of our culture. And the kids know this as well as anyone.

·       Creativity allows us to innovate. If done right, it can provide a competitive advantage in business and in our communities. But creativity isn’t just about inspiration – it’s an iterative process and one that we believe can be taught and regularly improved upon. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENS WITHOUT HARD WORK. As I say around here every day, hope alone is not a strategy for success. At 1871, and in life, you don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.

·       Creativity needs to be cultivated, taught and encouraged – and our schools are the places where the process needs to begin. If you don’t see it – you can’t be it. And I specifically remember watching Renee sing and Yo-Yo Ma play for the kids at one of our neighborhood Chicago schools and understanding that some of their lives would be forever changed in that very moment.

·       For those of you who prefer hard data, national research speaks for itself.  Kids who attend arts-rich schools:
o  have higher attendance rates
o  higher SAT and ACT scores
o  are more likely to graduate from high school, and are
o  three times more likely to earn a four year degree

·       As we look to make Chicago a global hub of technology and entrepreneurship, and a leading example of innovation, we can’t allow our kids and our schools to miss out on the creativity which underpins those grand goals. As a global city, Chicago needs to be at the forefront of developing leaders with the creative abilities to be the entrepreneurs and innovators of our next generation.

·       Tonight we are joined by some of the key folks who are helping to increase arts education in Chicago Public Schools. It breaks my heart when I hear kids say these days that school is the most boring place they have to go each day. We’ve got to change that attitude and I believe we can.

·       Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Emanuel and Michelle Boone, a group of civic leaders have launched the Be Creative Campaign. It’s not just about STEM – at 1871, we talk about STEAM because we add in the Arts to the equation.

·       Be Creative is raising money to ensure that Chicago public school students have access to the arts as part of their education.  They are working to nurture our city’s next generation of creative leaders.   

·       Leading this effort are Dick and Susie Kiphart, Steve and Nancy Crown, and Steve Solomon at Exelon.  As the drivers of this great work they should be recognized for their foresight and commitment.

·       Through the funds distributed by the Be Creative campaign—30,000 more Chicago Public Schools students have greater access to arts resources and instruction than just two years ago.

·       In the past two years we’ve seen a 45 percent increase in CPS elementary schools offering arts instruction 2 hours a week. 

·       Tonight, we are excited to welcome a truly impressive group of individuals who have all put creativity to work in the arts, business, higher education and beyond.

·       So to kick off our night, I’d like to welcome our moderator for tonight’s discussion, Don Thompson, former CEO and President of McDonald’s Corporation.


Henry Bienen, President Emeritus of Northwestern University

Jimmy Chamberlin, Drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins

Renée Fleming, World-Renowned Soprano and Creative Consultant for the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Dick Kiphart, Retired Partner of William Blair and co-chair of the Be Creative Campaign


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