The Event: Some 200 guests gathered for "Celebrating Indian Culture in Chicago & Beyond" a benefit at the Bridgeport Arts Center in Chicago on June 9. The event was an exclusive preview of the sixth annual Eye on India festival, coming to Chicago Sept. 15-Oct. 2, and also honored Dr. Ralph and Marta Nicholas of Hyde Park with the Chicago-India Cultural Connection award. Guests were also treated to a taste of the music, visual arts, dance, fashion and food to come this autumn.
Founded by Anuradha Behari of Burr Ridge, the festival has blossomed from a 10-day fête to a 3-week celebration of Indian culture and history, with additional special events sprinkled throughout the rest of the year.
Cause célèbre: "I think a festival like this is absolutely critical to…understand each other better (and) to understand each other's context," said Behari. "Every negative sound bite in the media captures attention and there is a ton of information but there is very little engagement or interaction. So a festival like this, which is in partnership with organizations and artists from different communities, brings people together."
Eye on India offers events in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Poetry Foundation, Chicago Public Library and the Chicago High School for the Arts.
"What we have tried to do is bring the best of Indian culture to Chicago," said Karim Ahamed of Chicago, board member, adding that Eye on India now has a national footprint with sister fests in California, Massachusetts and Colorado.
"In the process of understanding each other, I think we also understand ourselves better and our insecurities at some level are reduced," said Behari.
Bottom Line: The gala netted $32,000 for Eye on India outreach programs and cross-cultural education efforts aimed at building bridges across communities.