2016 Essay | LIFE : FIGHT : LOVE

2016 Essay | LIFE : FIGHT : LOVE


Jim Petrakis

AIDS survivor Jim Petrakis and his battle with the disease are at the heart of the message delivered by the DIFFA Chicago living art installation at SOFA CHICAGO 2016. From Jim’s perspective, his years as a DIFFA Chicago board member, contributor and ambassador not only earned him the organization’s Unsung Hero award, but provided him insights, support and resources to fight for his life –– and win.

In his professional life, Jim is an icon of the Chicago creative and event production community. But he believes he is really in the business of building partnerships: he finds new partners within every event, every non-profit campaign, every annual meeting he produces. It seems that each program he creates introduces him to another potential partner. And another. He refers to these rolling opportunities as “creative collisions”.

Case in point: When one of his early ventures was production of a corporate event as theatre, a newly-minted partner led him to a project for the fashion industry. His charge was to introduce a new designer to U.S. audiences. That previously unknown designer was Gianni Versace. Then it was on to collection presentations – live and broadcast – for Armani, Sonia Rykiel, Laura Ashley, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tory Burch… and the A List goes on. Jim’s current A List stars philanthropies, as he forges partnerships that boost the muscle of charities and the reputation of corporations who sponsor them and their events.

With all that creative energy as background it comes as no surprise that he has a next-generation corporate entity in the works. The first initiative to be tackled by Jim’s new Collaboration Laboratory, Inc. is a television program titled Test Drive. It is aimed squarely at raising revenue for Chicago Public Schools at the same time it shines a light on the academic excellence that can be achieved.  

It seems Jim Petrakis just can’t stop moving forward, proving the power of 
partnership –– and DIFFA Chicago.

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