Pictured (L to R): Dr. Ralph and Marta Nicholas, 2016 Chicago-India Cultural Connection Award recipients; and Anuradha Behari and John Green, professor at Columbia College and the 2015 Cultural Connection Award recipient (photo by Photographic Art by Inell).Chicago Dancing Festival at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion (photo courtesy of The Chicago Dancing Festival).

Around 200 guests gathered at the Bridgeport Arts Center, 1200 W. 35th St., and raised $32,000 to support Eye on India, a not for profit organization with a mission to provide a platform for cultural, artistic and educational exchange, collaboration and understanding between India and the United States. The evening was an exclusive preview of the fall festival and featured music, visual art, dance, film, fashion, food and more. Dr. Ralph and Marta Nicholas (Hyde Park) were honored as recipients of The Chicago-India Cultural Connection Award. Funds raised from the gala will help the newly created outreach efforts to connect visiting artists with Chicago nonprofits, schools and community centers.

"Eye on India Festival was founded to provide an opportunity to bring the best in Indian art, literature and culture to U.S. audiences while showcasing the work of local artists. This year, we want to expand those efforts by bringing Indian artists into the classroom, community centers and beyond," said Eye on India founder and president Anuradha Behari (Burr Ridge). "Our wonderful cross-cultural partnerships continue this year with acclaimed institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum and Old Town School of Folk Music. This year, we are pleased to partner for the first time with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Poetry Foundation, Chicago Public Library and the Chicago High School for the Arts."

​Dr. and Mrs. Nicholas were awarded The Chicago-India Cultural Connection Award for their ongoing support of Eye on India and their commitment to forging a deeper understanding and stronger partnerships between Chicago and India. Dr. Ralph Nicholas is a professor emeritus from the University of Chicago's Anthropology and Social Sciences department. He is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Institute of Indian Studies. His research focuses on South Asian societies and cultures with an emphasis on Bengal. His wife, Marta Nicholas, hosts the radio program "Music Around the World" broadcast on WHPK (University of Chicago).

​The gala evening featured a virtuosic musical performance by 15-year-old Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) pianist Rupa Elizabeth Sprecher (Jefferson Park, Chicago, Ill.). Born in Bengaluru, India, and blind from birth, Sprecher was adopted by a Chicago couple when she was 7-years-old. She studied piano at DePaul's Community School of Music and has received many accolades and awards including the 2013-2015 DePaul Division Concerto Festival Winner and the Superior Honors Medal at Chicago Public School's Piano Festival (2016). Sprecher performed pieces by Schumann, Moritz, Moszkowksi, Bach, Mozart, Alissa Milne and Louis Kohler. In addition, the gala wall was adorned with photography, painting and 3D works by ChiArts students.

Attendees were also treated to a performance by Natya Dance Theater.

Gala attendees also enjoyed the fashion show "Zero Waste Sari Project," a collaboration between Eye on India and the fashion students and faculty from Columbia College Chicago. Four of the strongest pieces were selected by Eye on India fashion director Shruti Kirti and Visual Arts director Tanya Gill to be modeled live at the gala. Attendees were able to vote on the design they felt best captured the idea of what it means when the traditional and contemporary intersect. The winning student, Rachel Hentrich (Florida), received a cash prize for continued studies from the Chicago Indian boutique, Sahil.

Food was provided by Wendy Pashman's The Entertaining Company and allowed guests to sample cuisine from different regions in India, including the Streets of  Delhi, Jama Masjid-Muglai Food, Streets of Punjabi, and Delicacies from South India.

 The 2015 Eye on India Festival runs September 15 through October 2, 2016. Many events feature conversations with the artists and local authorities on Indian art, providing opportunities for the exchange of ideas and cultural understanding.

​For a full schedule of events and information, visit www.EyeOnIndia.org.

Eye On India Gala Raises $32K for Program Initiatives