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Tom Wolfe's White Suits Inspire Literary Awards Look

The Chicago Public Library Foundation's Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner raised funds for library programs and channeled Tom Wolfe with clean, black-and-white decor.

Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner

Photo: Phil Moloitis Chicago Public Library

On Wednesday night, the Chicago Public Library Foundation's Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner took place at the Harold Washington Library Center. The cocktail reception, dinner, and awards presentation honored writers Theresa Schwengel and Tom Wolfe, and Wolfe's notoriously natty style influenced the evening's decor. Wolfe donned a white linen suit for the event, a look that the author famously sports year-round and which event coordinator Rebecca Spence said inspired the benefit's clean, black-and-white decor scheme from Kehoe.

Despite the current financial climate, the evening managed to rake in $880,000 for library programsa number that surpassed the foundation's stretch goal by almost $100,000. According to Spence, the financial success had much to do with its co-chairs, Deborah Bricker and John Bryan. “We secured two amazing...forces of nature in the corporate and philanthropic communities,” she said. “It's not hard to get [donors] behind the library, but given this year's conditions, our co-chairs have really gone out there and dialed for dollars.”

This year's dinner drew 500 guests—the maximum that the event can hold due to fire codes. Since the dinner is the only large-scale fund-raiser that the library puts on each year, its donors are never overwhelmed with solicitations. “We're not repeatedly going back to the same people, asking them to come to different events,”Spence said. ”They'll only be asked this one time [a year.]”

The dinner takes place on a Wednesday, which factors out competition with other weekend happenings. But Spence also said that the fund-raiser stands out for its laid-back and intellectual character. With no live auction, no dancing, and a business-attire dress code, “the pressure's off,” she said. “People just come in after work for wonderful food and wine, and to talk about literature.”


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