OnWord 2020

OnWord 2020 Virtual Fundraiser Showcases and Supports the Work of the American Writers Museum to Educate and Inspire the Next Generation of Writers

September 9, 2020 (CHICAGO) – OnWord 2020, the annual benefit for the American Writers Museum (AWM) brought together hundreds of supporters online this year for a virtual celebration of writing live streamed on YouTube that raised in total over $565,000 for the museum. The September 1 event, hosted by Peter Sagal of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” honored award winners for Cultural and Civic Leadership, Teacher Inspiration and Student Writing, featured insights from leading writers in the AWM’s My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today exhibit, and entertained viewers with a special reading from Chicago’s iconic newsman Bill Kurtis and a performance from the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. 

The evening opened with AWM President Carey Cranston welcoming viewers to the museum’s first virtual fundraising event, “a very different format for [them] in these trying and difficult times” and him asking the audience for any help to support their mission and what they do. “At the American Writers Museum we work hard to celebrate the great writers of the past, promote the great writers of the present and, really together, to inspire the writers of tomorrow,” said Cranston. An AWM Board of Trustees $150,000 matching challenge doubled any gifts received that night.  

Joan Clifford, AWM Trustee and 2020 Event Chair, presented the Cultural and Civic Leadership Award to Roger and Julie Baskes, who she called “true champions of the arts in every way.” In their civic engagement, Roger and Julie “care about the importance of advancing and supporting the arts in our community and, in doing so, they help enrich lives and spirits of so many people who might not have otherwise had the opportunity to enjoy a good book, see a great play, or experience the opera,” said Clifford. According to AWM founder Malcolm O’Hagan, Roger’s wisdom, council and advice were pivotal to the opening of this museum in Chicago. 

Cranston presented the award winners for the AWM’s first writing contest, tied to the museum’s special exhibit My America, which asked students from all over the Chicagoland area to submit their response to the prompt “My America Is.” The My America Writing Award winners included two 12th grade students from Niles North High School, Ysa Quiballo and Nina Artwell and Sophiya Subba, a sixth grader from Edison Middle School.  

The final award of the evening, a Teacher Inspiration Award was presented by acclaimed writer Erika L. Sánchez to Kathy Schultz, former teacher at Daniel Burnham Elementary School in the Cicero School District. Sánchez is one of 31 writers featured in the museum’s My America exhibit who delve into questions about writing influences, being multilingual, community, family, and what it means to be American. 


About American Writers Museum
The American Writers Museum is the first museum of its kind in the United States. The mission of the American Writers Museum is to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, and our daily lives. The museum is located at 180 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60601, and offers something for every age group including permanent exhibits and special galleries highlighting America’s favorite works and the authors behind them. Tickets to the museum are $14 for adults, $9 for seniors, students, and teachers. Free for members and children ages 12 and under. To inquire about discounted rates for groups of 10 or more, including adults, student travel groups, and University students, visit AmericanWritersMuseum.org/visit/groups/ or call 312-374-8770. Museum hours are Wednesday – Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM. For more information visit AmericanWritersMuseum.org or call 312-374-8790.

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