Chicago Academy For The Arts' Talent Show Raises Money For AIDS/HIV

Lisa Fielding
September 18, 2019 - 1:19 pm
The Academy's AIDS Benefit

Photo provided by Grania McKirdie


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- It started 23 years ago with Chicago Academy for the Arts alum and now songwriter Justin Tranter. He put together a student-run variety show that would raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS.

"It started out donating to pediatric aids, but HIV/AIDS is something so closely related to the artist community, it only felt right that we give back and help out our own," said Grania McKirdie, Senior, Chicago Academy for the Arts.

"It's so stigmatized and we really want to combat that with art, hope, and love. It's not in the news as much as it was in the 80s and 90s, but it hasn't gone away. We're still struggling with it. We're closer than ever to finding a cure."

McKirdie said the show has now grown to be the school's main event of the year.

"It's sort of our homecoming since our school doesn't have sports. It's a big deal here," she said.

Academy students from each department will present new work, under the direction and curation of student leadership.

Christian Engelhardt, Class of '20, The Academy
Photo provided by Grania McKirdie

"We hold auditions and we ask everyone to bring what they do best. We encourage everyone to participate. You can sing a song, do a dance, read a poem, anything," she said. "We like to look for variety and collaboration."

What's unique, McKirdie said, is that it's completely student run.

"There's a student director who is a senior, a student director assistant who is a junior who eventually becomes the director. We curate a team for each department, we make a schedule for rehearsals. The students are in charge of making it all work," she said.

Grania McKirdie, Director of the 2019 AIDS Benefit
Photo provided by Grania McKirdie

The Academy has a co-curricular program which gives equal emphasis on academics and the arts.

"We come here to study our craft. It's no longer a hobby or something we do as an extra curricular for fun. It's our passion. It is our drive and we hope to be doing it for the rest of our lives," McKirdie said.

The 23rd Annual AIDS Benefit will take place Sept. 20-21 at The Academy, 1010 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago’s River West neighborhood.

All proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The goal is to raise $10,000.