By Danielle Masterson
While many students across Chicago are gearing up for Halloween, Beverly area adults are preparing for a different kind of costumed event — the third annual Criu de Sheela Masquerade Ball.
The scholarship fundraiser, October 7 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Nativity, 9300 South Pleasant Avenue Chicago, IL 60643, is a colorful Mardi Gras-themed event that “highly” encourages attendees to don costumes, masks and headwear. The event promises to engage all senses with hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, live music and vibrant ensembles. The 21+ event also features unique and one-of-a-kind silent auction basket offerings.
“The reason it’s a masquerade ball instead of just your typical fundraiser is because in everything we do, we want to encourage our community to be more creative than they are in their day-to-day,” organizer Rita Walsh James said. “So the opportunity we’re setting up for the children, we’re also trying to set up for the adults.”
Tickets are $75 and go toward three arts and social sciences scholarships for Morgan Park High School students attending college in the fall of 2024. Described as “gap scholarships,” the money helps fund expenses such as cameras, laptops, books or even transportation — things that a traditional scholarship might not cover.
James told us that the first year, Criu de Sheela Masquerade Ball raised $4,500 and $5,500 last year. This year she hopes to bring in nearly double.
“It all has to do with how much money we make at the masquerade ball and how many people decide to partner with us,” she said. “I mean, we would love to make it to $10,000 so that we can offer multiple scholarships and ultimately extend this to the other CPS high schools in the ward, like Julian and the Ag School.”
James said the scholarship is for students pursuing the arts or social sciences in college because both areas are equally underfunded. “Art departments are straight up closing, as are social sciences. People can’t find an anthropology or soc major anymore because they’re not funded. STEM gets all the funding because for so long, we were behind internationally. And in the name of that, the liberal arts and the people arts and visual arts are often left behind as a result. They meant well–but they were a little bit shortsighted.”
The first year scholarship winner was a young woman studying to be a human rights lawyer following her family’s experience as Nigerian refugees and immigrants. Another winner was a young man who, while a student in Evergreen Park, was running a school TV show and multiple school newspapers. James said at this point, “he’s basically a media mogul.”
Last year’s winner was a visual artist who draws and paints and is exploring graphic design. And the second winner, who won two scholarships, is a young musician studying environmental racism.
Reflecting on past winners, James can’t help but smile. “They’re really cute,” she said. “They follow us on social media and we follow them back. So we’re watching their lives unfold and they’ve done really well so far — we’re really proud of them.”