When the Bowling Shirt is a Work of Art



By Judy Carmack Bross



When an abstract painter, curator, gallerist and photographer got together they quickly discovered that contemporary art wasn’t their only commonality. A bond over bowling took them into benefit mode.

Our vote for the cleverest fall benefit—A Bowling Fundraiser for the Renaissance Society on November 15—was born, followed immediately by the design of a super chic blue and gold bowling shirt for all guests. The striking evening benefits the contemporary art museum on the campus of the University of Chicago open free to the public.

Current exhibition Adonis River by Dala Nasser at the Renaissance Society,

Jessica Cochran, Deputy Director, told us how the fall benefit’s premise began:  “In trying to come up with a fundraiser that would be fun, we batted around ideas like karaoke and bowling. In talking with our friends and supporters about the ideas in play, we realized quickly how many bowling fanatics are out there—who knew? So, it became clear that we had to do a bowling tournament, and our host committee are all amateur enthusiasts.”

 Abstract painter John Henderson, Art Institute Curator Giampaolo, gallerist and curator Jim Dempsey and photographer and sculptor B. Ingrid Olson will be welcoming guests to the Seven Ten Social eight-lane bowling alley on the campus of the University of Chicago. All ticket buyers will receive a Ren bowling shirt and the opportunity to bowl on a team. Lane sponsors can bring their own teams. All proceeds go to critical support for the Ren’s exhibitions, performances and concerts.

Speed skater Jeffrey Swider-Peltz at last Spring’s Ren Ben.

The fundraiser proves that the extraordinary Spring RenBen is not the only trick up their sleeve.  While speed skater Jeffrey Swider-Peltz circled tables at last Spring’s gala, this fall is all about strikes and spares, suds and sliders.

 Myriam Ben Salah, Executive Director and Chief Curator told us:

“We have been trying to tweak the format of fundraising events for the past few years. The formality of conventional black-tie events simply doesn’t match the ethos of the Ren which is artist-driven, experimental and unceremonious. The bowling tournament is a way to gather our community around something fun while raising critical funds for our program and the artists that make it up.”

Guests at the 2023 RenBen

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, accompanied by Mark A. Shuldiner, performing at RenBen 2023.

Guests at the 2023 RenBen.

The Renaissance Society was founded in 1915 by a group of University of Chicago faculty who chose the name to reflect their intention to create a space to foster engagement with new ideas and culture.

In the early 20th century, the Renaissance Society played a key role in bringing European and other avant-garde practices to Chicago through presentations of Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Mies Van Der Rohe, Käthe Kollwitz, and Joseph Cornell, among others.

Myriam Ben Salah, who was appointed the next Executive Director and Chief Curator in 2020, is leading multiple new commissions and debut exhibitions for a new generation of artists, expanding the Ren’s legacy of offering artists the time, space, resources, and freedom that are vital for ambitious experimentation and risk-taking.

An exhibition from 1934.

Joshi Radin Flores, the Ren’s Manager of Development, described the appeal of the Museum:

“Located at the end of the hall on the 4th Floor of an academic building, Cobb Hall, it’s not at all obvious there is a storied and influential museum here. Over many years, the Ren has built up a dedicated public, but it is effectively tucked away such that it would be difficult to stumble upon. “The physical space itself is a small revelation, since you walk through a standard set of doors into a cavernous room with vaulted ceilings and angular nooks unlike any typical gallery. The height, angles, light, and versatility of the space lends itself to creative interpretation and has spurred artists to make highly innovative, site-specific works.”

For further information visit the renaissancesociety.org

To buy the bowling shirt go to:  https://store.renaissancesociety.org/collections/new/products/bowling-shirt

Photo credits: Dala Nasser Exhibition photo by Bob. RenBen 2023 photos by Noah Sheldon. RenBen 2022 photos by Adrianna Glaviano.