Chicago Academy for the Arts Shatters Its $1 Million Fundraising Goal. Over $400,000 Raised at Annual Gala

Chicago's leading arts and culture high school enters its 41st year achieving lofty goal two months early.

CHICAGO - APRIL 7, 2023 - The Chicago Academy for the Arts (The Academy) set a record by raising more than $1 Million after Inspire: The Red Carpet Gala at Chicago's Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on April 1, 2023 - nearly two months ahead of its anticipated goal. The $1 million dollar mark was reached during the event and announced by The Academy alum and critically-acclaimed songwriter Justin Tranter (they/them) who, in February, donated $500,000 - the largest single donation in the school’s history - and called for a community-wide challenge to build engagement to raise $1 million by June 30, 2023.

Inspire: The Red Carpet Gala showcased The Academy's diversity with current and former students performing musical numbers, staging theatrical pieces, and live performance art displays. A live auction paddle-raise was hosted by renowned auctioneer Keith Jones of Sayre & Jones Auctioneers. ​ Nationally syndicated columnist Heidi Stevens, James Beard and Michelin Guide-winning restaurateur Rick Bayless were among the more than 200 guests in attendance.

Graduates of The Academy earned more than $40 million in college scholarships over the past five years and gained admission to the nation’s best universities and conservatories. Most students go on to pursue competitive careers in the arts, as well as the sciences, humanities, business, and more. Alumni exemplify the powerful effect of art and arts education as Broadway stars, GRAMMY award winners, engineers, and entrepreneurs. This special evening will highlight students, alumni, and all those that call The Academy “home.”

Not only did this school make me the artist and songwriter I am today but it saved my life in more ways than I can count. Nothing makes me prouder than to be able to support a place that educates brilliant young creatives and more importantly, gives them a foundation of compassion, community and confidence.

- Justin Tranter (they/them) - 1998, Musical Theatre

As one of Chicago's leading arts and culture high schools, and one of the most diverse schools in Illinois, The Academy created an unmatched and transformative educational model. Students are inspired to expand their potential through rigorous arts training paired with an esteemed academic curriculum.

Chicago Academy for the Arts awarded more tuition assistance in the past 12 months than ever before. Justin’s generous gift, and the funds raised through the Million Dollar Challenge enables The Academy to make a world-class education accessible to all aspiring young artists. ​

- Jason Patera, Chicago Academy for the Arts Head of School

Notable alumni of The Academy include Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live actor, author, comedian - 2002, Theatre), Lara Flynn Boyle (award-winning actress - 1988, Theatre), Justin Tranter (award-winning musician and music producer - 1998, Musical Theatre), Lalah Hathaway (award-winning singer - 1986, Music), Tom Gold (award-winning choreographer - 1986, Dance), and Kevin Miles (actor and current "Jake from State Farm" - 2008, Theatre).

The Academy would like to thank the Gala Chair Nadine Mallick, as well as the gala's sponsors: 

  • Justin Tranter
  • Michael & Kelly Finnerty
  • Emily Barr & Scott Kane
  • Rusty Hernandez-Sanfilippo & Jeffrey Sanfilippo
  • The Bayless Family
  • Todd & Sharon Walbert
  • Carlos & Dr. Marina Claudio
  • Dr. Serafin DeLeon & Dr. Jennifer Chan
  • Nora Fleming
  • Krista Linn & Dominique Leonardi
  • Law Office of Nishay K. Sanan, Esq.
  • Richard & Susan Sanders
  • Terri & Michael Freeman



Ryan Arnold

Ryan Arnold

President, DeSoto & State Communications, DeSoto & State Communications

Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.

About The Chicago Academy for the Arts

The Chicago Academy for the Arts (The Academy) is a nationally recognized independent high school for the performing and visual arts.


Designated a National School of Distinction by the John F. Kennedy Center, The Academy offers students the opportunity to engage in a unique co-curricular program: rigorous, college-preparatory academic classes and professional-level arts training in the context of an unparalleled school culture. The Academy’s school day consists of a modified block schedule of three 75-minute blocks of academic courses and a 45-minute flex period followed by a three-plus hour immersion in a student's chosen arts department: Dance, Media Arts (filmmaking, animation, creative writing), Music, Musical Theatre, Theatre, and Visual Arts. At The Chicago Academy for the Arts, young artists master the skills necessary for academic success, critical thought, and creative expression.


The Chicago Academy for the Arts is an Illinois 501(c)3 organization. Click here to learn more or donate.