A sold-out audience raised nearly $20,000 for LGBTQ refugees and immigrants Aug. 26 at the Center on Halsted.
The featured performer and beneficiary was violinist Artem Kolesov, a 23-year-old gay man who caught the world's attention when he came out earlier this year on YouTube as part of a Russian "Children-404" project, which invites teenagers to share their stories and discuss LGBT issues in Russia.
Special guest performer was internationally acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine. The Yas Quartet also performed, along with pianist David Schrader and Kolesov's violin instructors.
While Kolesov's move caught international attention, it also means that he can never return home. His dream, therefore, is to insure his safety by obtaining U.S. citizenship. Kolesov now lives in Chicago, where he is first violinist in the Yas Quartet, which is in residence at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts. He will soon be moving to California, to be with his husband, Lalo Diaz, who was at the concert.
The event was sponsored by Windy City Times, Center on Halsted, Barnes and Thornberg LLP, Chicago Antique Market Randolph Street, Fifth Third Bank, Lives Oak, Inc., and Poetic License, Inc. Many individuals and businesses donated time and materials to the event.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, honorary chair of the host committee, spoke to the audience about LGBTQ refugees, and also the problems facing LGBTQs in the U.S.
Bruce Koff and Lori Cannon, co-chairs of the host committee, also addressed the crowd.
In addition to benefiting Kolesov's legal defense, the event raised funds for two other LGBTQ refugee groups, Chicago LGBTI Asylum Partners ( CLASP ) and Rainbow Railroad, a Toronto-based group helping save LGBTQ lives.
John Ademola Adewoye, a Nigerian refugee from CLASP, addressed the crowd at the VIP reception after the concert, as did Michael Murphy, director and chair of Rainbow Railroad USA.
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