CHICAGO, IL – In a creative tribute to Greece, the National Hellenic Museum (NHM) team entertained at their annual “Journey to the Greek Islands” black tie gala held at the modern chic Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago on May 31.
Greeted at the entrance by two cheerful donkeys, guests took their seats at tables named after a Greek Island: Poros, Kalymnos, Mykonos, Crete, Zakynthos, Chios, etc. The $300 individual ticket at one of these tables included fine dining, artistic performances, live music, and dancing throughout the night. An elegant, yet fun candlelit table setting was adorned by leafy branch centerpieces with magenta orchids mimicking the traditional Greek island voukamvilia, and white rocks representing the Greek shores, while soothing blue light accents filled the dim room with a charming island aura.
Emcee for the night, Chicago journalist Anna Davlantes opened the event, while NHM Chairman John P. Calamos took the stage for a word on the Museum’s activities and future collaboration with Chicago’s historical Field Museum.
“Right now we have a beautiful building and now we need things to fill it with,”Davlantes said. “[the NHM] have a great outreach with schoolchildren right now, they have a great attendance from the Greek-American community, but we want more than that. We want people from all over the Midwest and beyond to come by and visit this beautiful museum, and to do that you have to have wonderful artifacts and great exhibits and things that people want to see,” she added.
The sold out event attracted some 475 attendees and raised a significant sum for the NHM. “We’re going to raise close to $350,000 for this,” said NHM Vice-Chairman Peter Parthenis. “The event was very beautiful and very well organized, and all to support the great institution of the National Hellenic Museum, whose mission is to carry on for the next generations, our Greek-American culture and heritage, and document the Greek-American immigrant experience,” he added.
Over at the sweet table stood a cotton candy man, while an artist who drew sketches for the night, and a photo booth with various Greek island backdrops, offered a take-home treat for guests. Additionally, a museum legacy brick, a 50-person private NHM rooftop party and tickets to a Blackhawks game were offered as part of the gala’s raffle and silent auction, among other prizes.
“It was a wonderful event, beautiful turnout, great location… the planning was excellent, great speakers, the women are beautiful, the men are handsome,” said John Hoidas, “It’s what true Greeks are all about.”
“The gala was elegant, fun, a great success. It had true spirit of community, bringing together old and new museum supporters, both local and national, NHM President Connie Mourtoupalas told TNH. “It was heartwarming to see how people around the country are embracing the National Hellenic Museum as the home of the Greek story in America. Our honorees, AHEPA and the Founders of the Greek American Restaurant Association are both very deserving organizations, she added. “In many ways I consider them part of the backbone of the Greek American community.”
The announcement of the National Hellenic Museum’s partnership with the Field Museum was very exciting and people really applauded this initiative. We are very excited that through the generosity of our Chairman, John Calamos, our Museum is able to play such an important role in bringing this exhibition to America, and also present parallel exhibitions and cultural programs.
We are looking forward to an exciting adventure with one of the world’s finest natural history and anthropology Museums in the world.”
Founded in 1983 and previously known as the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, the NHM took on a fresh face at its new facility at 333 S. Halsted Street in Chicago’s famous Greektown in winter of 2011.
“As someone who is of Greek descent, to have a National Hellenic Museum in Chicago is just a beautiful thing, and I think all of us who are proud of our heritage, we finally have a place to celebrate it and recognize the accomplishments and to chart our history,” Davlantes said. “I think lot of other ethnic groups have that already and now we do too, so it makes me very proud,” she added.
Next year’s gala is set to take place at the Field Museum in an elegant setting surrounded by elevated columns and various museum exhibitions. In collaboration with the NHM and arranged to feature over 500 artifacts from nearly two-dozen Greek museum collections, the exhibit “The Greeks: From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great” will premiere at the Field Museum in November of 2015.
“Not only to do I think the Museum is incredible, but I think that the event for next year where we’re going to combine with the Field Museum is amazing,” said event guest Martha Kanis. “It will put us on the map and everyone will know us.”