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Women honored at Center on Halsted event
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer

The floor-to-ceiling windows and ballet bars lining the Melk Studio in the Joffrey Tower provided the perfect setting for the Center on Halsted's "By Women for Women: Art-Performance-Engagement" awards Oct. 25.

The event was part of the continuing work of the Women's Action Committee at the Center, which has hosted fundraisers and emphasized the exceptional achievements of LGBTQ women in the community throughout the year.

The evening recognized three community leaders who, according to host and She-100 co-founder Angela Barnes, have dedicated their lives to advancing the LGBTQ community and paving the way for its next generation.

One of those honorees was Kat Fitzgerald, who has been a photographer for more than a quarter century. Born in California, Fitzgerald moved to Chicago in 2005 where her extraordinary and celebrated ability with the camera captured the history of Chicago's LGBTQ community for organizations and businesses including Windy City Times. Fitzgerald also focused on bringing the community together through events which she organized at her home as well as donating her time and resources to organizations across the city.

Pat Ewert, community outreach coordinator for state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, presented Fitzgerald's award and recalled those parties during which she envied her staggering collection of shoes while enjoying plenty of "Sex" ( Fitzgerald's favorite brand of champagne ).

In 2012, Fitzgerald relocated to the San Francisco area, where she works full-time in the technology world, and where she continues the work of her photography company, Mystic Images. Today, she travels around the country documenting fundraisers and activities for organizations like the Human Rights Campaign. Fitzgerald told the enthusiastic audience of more than 70 that she turned down an opportunity to photograph the HRC's Washington, D.C., fundraiser in order to come back to Chicago to accept her award. "Chicago is my home," Fitzgerald said. "And that's because of people like you."

Read more story below....

Affinity Executive Director Kim Hunt presented an award to the co-founders of Executive Sweet Vera Washington and Patricia S. McCombs. Both members of the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, Washington and McCombs were celebrated for their unwavering achievements in HIV/AIDS awareness, social services, community activism, the organization of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and Executive Sweet which has been a "traveling club" for women of color since its founding in 1982. It has provided a safe space for everything from social engagement and networking events to cruises and nightclub outings.

Entertainment for the evening was provided through a provocative burlesque performance by Po-Chop while attendees also had the opportunity to enjoy and bid upon works of art provided by LGBTQ artists Sam Kirk and Andy Bellomo with all proceeds going to Affinity. Co-sponsors for the evening included CNA insurance, the L-Stop and the Joffrey Ballet.

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