The Patron Circle Takes Chicago

First row: Janey Schecter, Sara Haynes, Rosalie Rosenthal, Juliet Gray, Martha Slaughter, Ellen Shapira, Susan Callen, Sarah and Chuck O’Koon, Brenda Balcombe and Judy Shapira. Second row: Jeffrey Callen, Janet Hodes, Trish Haefele, Kenneth Balcombe and Vicki Phillips. Not pictured: Ozair Shariff, Jordan King, Jessica Schwein, Mathias Kolehmainen and Miranda Lash.

First row: Janey Schecter, Sara Haynes, Rosalie Rosenthal, Juliet Gray, Martha Slaughter, Ellen Shapira, Susan Callen, Sarah and Chuck O’Koon, Brenda Balcombe and Judy Shapira. Second row: Jeffrey Callen, Janet Hodes, Trish Haefele, Kenneth Balcombe and Vicki Phillips. Not pictured: Ozair Shariff, Jordan King, Jessica Schwein, Mathias Kolehmainen and Miranda Lash.

Chicago, anyone?” That was the question posed to art enthusiasts by the Speed Art Museum recently, and several people took them up on a quick and fascinating jaunt north for EXPO CHICAGO/2016.

When the Speed reopened in March 2016 after a three-year closure for a $60 million renovation and expansion, the museum promised the community that the best was yet to come. An ongoing series of events, activities and trips now dot the calendar for members of the Speed.

One active program at the Speed is the Patron Circle, which is made up of a diverse group of art enthusiasts, young professionals, seasoned executives and corporate partners. Patron Circle members actively support the Speed and its exhibitions and in return enjoy special opportunities for personal connections with artists, curators and other professionals. The Speed also hosts many exclusive events and activities for Patron Circle members.

One such perk arose when EXPO CHICAGO/2016, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, hit Navy Pier in Chicago last week. In its fifth year, EXPO CHICAGO is a leading four-day international art fair event featuring more than 145 international galleries from 52 cities and 22 countries. More than 3,000 artists had work displayed. Chicago, which has a vibrant contemporary arts community, was a prime location for the EXPO. Many of Chicago’s most prestigious museums, nonprofits and galleries hosted special events.

Twenty-one members of the Speed Art Museum’s Patron Circle joined Speed staff, including contemporary curator Miranda Lash, for a four-day trip that included VIP events, tours of EXPO CHICAGO and introductions and conversations with dozens of the world’s most admired contemporary artists and collectors.

The trip had many personal highlights for Speed Art Museum incoming Board of Trustees Chair-elect Martha Slaughter. “Traveling with a group of friends to learn about high-quality art was wonderful,” she says. “The Speed’s Miranda Lash was on hand to provide a private tour, which made it especially meaningful. She was able to highlight connections between the Speed’s exhibitions and collection with what we saw in Chicago.”

For Speed Patron Circle Co-Chair and Stites & Harbison attorney Ozair Shariff, the trip was a unique opportunity: “It was something that I would almost certainly not have done on my own. I know very little about modern and contemporary art, and traveling to Chicago opened my eyes to a side of art that I neither studied nor fully appreciated. Contemporary art can be a little intimidating for the untrained, and I appreciate the Speed’s efforts to help educate me with a hands-on experience.”

A highlight for both Shariff and Slaughter included private visits to the homes of some of Chicago’s most prominent art collectors. “It is very generous of these collectors to open their homes and share their passion,” Slaughter says.

Shariff agrees: “Without a doubt, visiting the private collection at the home of Richard and Ellen Sandor was incredible. They have a stunning apartment that resembles a high-end photography gallery rather than a living space. The walls, from floor to ceiling, were adorned with over 1,500 of some the most important photographs that exist.”

Speed Patron Circle members who traveled to Chicago also enjoyed cocktails at Christie’s Auction House and an after-hours gallery hop along with time to explore the Windy City on their own.

“The Patron Circle allows me to connect and engage with a wonderful network of individuals, all of whom are much cooler than me,” laughs Shariff. “Museum patronage and participation can sometimes be intimidating for young professionals who think they have to have their name on a wall to be involved. The Patron Circle is the best way to dip your toe into the Speed.”

A highlight of the Patron Circle year is the Speed’s annual Patron Circle Party, held each November. Each year, the party centers around a theme. The 2016 event (November 5) will celebrate the Speed’s new “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture” national traveling exhibition by American Federation of the Arts. The eighth annual Patron Circle Party, titled “Art & Sole,” includes access to the Out of the Box exhibition, food and an open bar all night by Wiltshire at the Speed, live music by the Danny Glover Cover Band, a DJ, dancing, activities and much more in the works.

Back home after the whirlwind trip, Slaughter and Shariff reflected on the adventure. “Trips like these with the Speed are always inspirational,” says Slaughter. “Louisville has such a rich cultural tradition and active support and participation in the arts. This certainly brings both an economic and cultural impact on not only our city but the entire region.”

It’s a trip Shariff would do again. “Irrespective of its size, every great city benefits from a robust arts program like the Speed offers with the Patron Circle,” he says. “I’m not a collector and I’m certainly not amongst the museum’s largest donors, but I understand the importance of participating and supporting the Speed, in addition to our top-notch performing arts scene, whenever and however I can.” VT

For Patron Circle membership and “Art & Sole” information, contact the Speed’s Joanne Caridis at jcaridis@speedmuseum.org.

Story by Laura Ross. Laura is the public relations manager at the Speed.