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Elizabeth Glassman and Amy Zinck

Elizabeth Glassman (from left) and Amy Zinck launched Art Design Chicago this year.


Lending Hands

By Elle Cashin, Ariel Cheung, Laura Hine, Jaclyn Jermyn & Andrea Mills

Photography by Katrina Wittkamp


These inspiring Chicagoans are making it their life’s work to make life better for everyone.

Elizabeth Glassman & Amy Zinck
Two powerhouses are sharing the energy of American art with Chicago and beyond.

For 40 years, the Terra Foundation for American Art has been sharing its extensive art collection and offering financial backing to institutions around the world. But of late, its attention has focused on its hometown. This year, President and CEO Elizabeth Glassman and Executive Vice President Amy Zinck partnered with more than 75 cultural organizations to launch Art Design Chicago, a yearlong celebration with more than 30 exhibitions dedicated to the city’s artistic past, present and future. “One of the through lines for the foundation is the belief that art can distinguish cultures and unite them,” says Zinck. Glassman and Zinck have been thrilled to facilitate new discoveries—Chicagoans delving into their city’s art scene, and curators attending shows and thinking about what comes next. “One of the reasons we did this was to be the beginning of the conversation; to inspire more stories of Chicago’s great artists,” says Glassman. For instance, the Charles White retrospective that closed at the Art Institute in September will make its way to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next year. “Someone had that exhibit idea in a drawer for years,” says Glassman. “But it’s when someone like us says ‘Now is the time!’—I think that’s important. The discovery is so exciting.” –JJ

Michael Klein
This CEO is as results-driven in his philanthropy as he is in his businesses.

“I’m a cause-and-effect person,” says Michael Klein, CEO of remodeling firm The Airoom Companies, who has been on the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation board of directors since 2005. “We used to give more generally, but now our giving targets valve replacement and stem cell research.” Klein developed this laser-sharp focus when his then 2-hour-old son started to turn blue because of a congenital aortic valve defect. His son is now a healthy 22-year-old, but Klein knows that many other children face the same diagnosis with fewer resources. Klein started his involvement by funding the installation of a much-needed image and record system at Lurie, and now focuses on funding research that will show results in the near term. Situations like his son’s “wake you up to the realities of life, especially when young kids are involved,” he says. “You want to solve some of the world’s inequities.” This year’s Children’s Ball, which raises funds for innovative biomedical research at Lurie Children’s Hospital, is set for Dec. 1. 6:30pm, tickets $1,000, Hilton Chicago –LH

Glassman and Zinck hair and makeup by Rachel Leipzig

Caleb Gardner

Caleb Gardner

Caleb Gardner
The entrepreneur and one-time Obama staffer is putting his digital prowess to good use—literally.

Having worked for Barack Obama for three years—running the former president’s Twitter account with Organizing for Action, no less—Caleb Gardner is no stranger to mission-driven work. But in recent years, he felt that digital efforts in that realm had sometimes been misguided. With his startup digital consulting firm 18 Coffees, he is “hoping to blow up the way people think about how digital problems are solved,” he says. The catch? He only takes on clients doing purposeful work. In his inaugural year, he’s worked with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center on its New Americans campaign, teamed up with an advocacy group based in the African Union working to end female genital mutilation and consulted for the Social Innovation Summit, as well as partnered with some early-stage entrepreneurs and innovators reimagining the way business is done. And that’s just what Gardner and his small-but-mighty staff are doing. “I’ve found that people who are there for the cause are really not selfish people,” Gardner says. “When people believe in the work, they will tolerate a lot of insanity.” –EC

Shot on location at FieldHouse Jones

Gild Foundation 
As interior designers, the partners of Studio Gild didn’t feel like they were saving the world. So they started Gild Foundation to help make a difference.

“In the world of luxury design, you sometimes don’t feel like you are making a difference to anyone beyond those who have been very successful,” says designer Kristen Ekeland, who, with Jennie Bishop and Melissa Benham, is part of the dynamic trio that runs design collective Studio Gild. Each has had a family member or friend affected by cancer, and they decided early on in their business to give back. Today, a portion of all profits from their design boutique, Gild Assembly, goes to Gild Foundation. Scattered throughout their studio on Damen Avenue are hot pink business cards that say “F--- Cancer” in a beautiful font. Among the causes they support are the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the American Brain Tumor Association and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The group recently supported the American Civil Liberties Union as well. “Cancer will always be at the forefront,” says Bishop, “but we would love to F a few more causes down the road.” –AM

Nicole Williams

Nicole Williams

Nicole Williams
Helping women around the world and at home, this gynecologic surgeon is changing lives with her charitable travels.

Dr. Nicole Williams was a medical student at Loyola University when she overheard two male residents discussing the physical attributes of a black female colleague. “They were her contemporaries, referring to her as a piece of meat,” Williams says with a shake of her head. “I didn’t want to be around people like that, and obstetrics proved to be woman-oriented and a totally different situation.” Now Williams runs her own practice, The Gynecology Institute of Chicago, where she does everything from giving free—and sometimes life-saving—pap smears to women who can’t afford them to vaginal laser therapy meant to rejuvenate and empower. But it’s her frequent self-funded medical trips to countries like Haiti, Guyana and Ghana, where she provides services like cervical cancer screenings and fibroid surgery, that mean the most to her. “If we weren’t there, these women wouldn’t have the surgery, and they could die,” she says. “I grew up right next door to poverty, and if I don’t help people now, then shame on me.” –AC