CPS Lives: An A-Plus Party




By Judy Carmack Bross



Celebrating CPS Lives


Alderman Timmy Knudsen with Founder and Executive Director Suzette Bulley


School may be out for the summer but the mission of CPS Lives to create residencies in Chicago Public Schools that provide expansive experiences for students and professional artists never goes on summer vacation, as the recent A-plus party at the Arts Club proved. DJ Blesstonio kept the music going all evening for the 170 guests who included artists, teachers, principals, CPS alumni and supporters of the arts and public schools who loved the auction items including art donated by  artists-in-residence and exclusive experiences at Chicago institutions.


Perri Irmer, President and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History, addresses guests.


 Suzette Bulley, who founded CPS Lives six years ago, presented the Valedictorian Award to Perri Irmer, President and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History, saying: “Ms. Irmer’s extraordinary efforts to uplift and expand the arts as well as youth services are a testament to her incredible leadership and exemplary civic engagement.” Cyraina Johnson-Roullier served as Chair of the Gala Planning Committee. 


Jacquie Amacher of F1RST Marketer Group; Jennifer Armetta, Director of Engage Projects;  Cheri Hubbard, CPS Lives Board Member; Jennifer Armetta’s sister


Board members Cyraina Johnson-Roullier and Smita Shah with Valedictorian Award winner Perri Irmer and CPS Lives Founder and Executive Director Suzette Bulley


Bulley told the audience:


“The Chicago Public School system is one of the largest school districts in the nation. There are misconceptions of what a public education in Chicago truly is. Popular media has continued to focus on the negative aspects of public education in our city. The average person has forgotten the power and impact of school on young people today. 


“They have forgotten that each public school experience is unique. 
Every unique public school shapes the lives of thousands of students in many ways. There are visual and performing arts magnet schools, dual language schools, agricultural sciences schools, and so many more opportunities within the public school system for young people to explore their potential.  CPS Lives strives to uplift and support these incredible communities through the collaboration of local professional artists and Chicago Public School.”


Susan Johnson of Schoelkopf Fine Art Appraisals and Henry P. Johnson, of the Northern Trust, major sponsors of the evening.


The team from Ingenuity, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing arts education access, equity, and quality, gathered to celebrate their partnership with CPS Lives. From Left: Ayriole Frost, Manager of Partnerships & Learning; Courtney Cintrón, Director of Programs; Angela Lin, Director of Data & Research; Christine Ng, Data Analyst.


CCM: When you started CPS Lives, what needs did you want to meet?


SBB: The Chicago Public School system is the third largest in the nation. As a photographer and philanthropist, I see public schools as part of our shared infrastructure, along with our beautiful cityscape, our networks of generosity and our systems of government and civic responsibility; public schools create symbiotic opportunities for creativity. When creating CPS Lives I wanted to do two things: support and uplift public schools and also create opportunities for artists to connect with these communities. CPS Lives is the marriage of these two passions in my life. The mission of CPS Lives is to create residencies in Chicago Public Schools that provide expansive experiences for students and professional artists. 


CPS Lives alumni artists Doug Fogelson and Krista Wortendyke


CPS Lives Board Member Smita Shah (Left) catches up with honoree Perri Irmer (Center) and Chief Health Officer of Chicago Public Schools Ken Fox (Right).


CCM: What brings you the most joy as you think about the successes of the past six years?

SBB: I’m so proud of how many school communities and artists we have served! Over the past six years, we’ve worked within 61 neighborhoods and placed 70 artists in 86 schools, impacting 51,000 students across Chicago. From well-established artists like Edra Soto, Norman Teague, Melissa Ann Pinney, Jay Wolke and Dorian Sylvan to exciting emerging practitioners like Natasha Moustache, Miguel Limon, and Eseosa Edebiri, we’ve had the pleasure and privilege to support an incredible roster of artists. It’s even more exciting to realize how many more schools and artists with whom we will collaborate in the coming years! 


Emily Walton, Teacher at Michele Clark High School and husband James Walton, Northern Trust enjoy a sip and a stroll around the silent auction items.


Attendees applaud the accomplishments of CPS Lives


CCM:  Each year you honor a “Valedictorian” someone in the community who shares the CPS Lives values.  How did you choose Perri Irmer and what did you want most to highlight?


SBB: Perri Irmer was an obvious choice for many reasons! We are honored she agreed to be our Valedictorian this year. As President & CEO of the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, former Assistant General Counsel for Chicago Public Schools, current Board Member on the After School Matters Advisory Board, and Chicagoan, Perri’s extraordinary efforts to uplift and expand the arts as well as youth services are commendable. Those efforts are informed by her mother’s experience as a public school educator, her own experience as a student in Chicago Public Schools, and her experience as a parent of children attending public schools. Our city is blooming with inspiring artists and educators who shape the future of our communities and are vital in supporting students. Perri’s role in the cultural ecosystem of our shared city has been so important for the next generation of Chicago creatives. We are grateful for her incredible leadership and exemplary civic engagement!


Valedictorian Perri Irmer (Right) shares conversation and smiles with her nearly 94-year-old father, retired Chicago business leader Ted Manuel (Left).


CCM: Tell us a little about your plans for CPS in the coming year.


SBB: Our residency application for the coming school year closed on June 13, and the number of applications nearly doubled compared to last year. We’re thrilled to begin reviewing proposals and selecting artists. We’re working on some exciting collaborative projects with new partners that will elevate the work of our artists and partner schools to an even more prominent public stage. More details to come! 


DJ Blesstonio kept the music bumping all evening long!


Photos by CPS Lives alum Lynn Renee Persin


For More information about CPS Lives visit cpslives.org