A packed crowd of architecture professionals celebrated the launch of a new LGBTQI+ alliance by the Chicago chapter of American Institute of Architects ( AIA ) Feb. 28 at Studio Gang in Noble Square.
The reception kicked off the group's mission to foster diversity, education and mentorship in the design community. With rainbow lights setting the tone; free food and drinks to keep the night lively; and an opportunity to network with like-minded professionals, the event represented the alliance's mission in action.
Marcela Hernandeza commercial contractor for Santosha, Inc. who is part of the LGBTQ communitysaid she was happy to see what she considered the unexpectedly large turnout, and network. Hernandez said she attended because she wants to get involved, give back and gain exposure in the design community.
She added the alliance is important to have a space where LGBTQ professionals can connect and push each other to grow, despite potential judgments from other professionals.
"People need to see that LGBT people are not just in the movies or in the clubs. We are professionals too, just like everyone else, trying to get ahead and provide a better life for everybody," Hernandez said.
Juliane Wolf, design principal at Studio Gang, was one of the founding members of the group and said this first event sold out in about half an hour. It shows the popularity and need within the two communities and its potential to address important career issues while also serving as a social space, she added.
"We are trying to define something that is filling that gap of a forum for LGBTQI community in the architectural field," Wolf said.
The alliance plans to host panels around diversity, business partnerships and networking events like the reception to foster connection and community. Its first event will be a panel discussion on May 7 about business certification programs that foster diversity in the design and construction industries.
For more on AIA, visit www.aiachicago.org/ .