Art of the Matter Live—Chicago Alumni Event

Thursday, February 13, 2020

FAA alumni: join us for a unique evening celebrating the arts and creative camaraderie in River North.

In a series of short presentations, alumni speakers will bring to life arts-related topics from their current creative pursuits, careers, and communities.

Connect with fellow FAA alumni and enjoy great food and a custom cocktail by Sunda New Asian restaurant, which was named one of the top 10 hot spots in Chicago.

Thursday, February 13, 2020
5:30–8:00 p.m.

Sunda New Asian
110 W. Illinois St.
Chicago, IL 60654

Registration is required. RSVP by February 11.

Speakers and Topics

Edward BrennanEdward Brennan

BME '15 Music

Presentation: "Making the Moment"

Edward Brennan is a young tenor entering the world of opera performance. Since graduating from the University of Illinois in 2015 with his bachelor's degree in music education, he has made his debut with opera companies across the country, including the Utah Festival Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera Theater, and Opera MODO in Detroit, Michigan. Edward has also been a celebrated soloist with orchestras and choirs around the Midwest and the East Coast. He currently resides in New Lenox, Illinois.


Steph CharaskaSteph Charaska

BFA '09 Theatre

Presentation: "I Paint with Magic"

Steph Charaska is a freelance scenic artist and resident jill-of-all-trades hailing from Chicago. After graduating with her BFA in theatrical paint and design, she got her start professionally painting a slew of shows in the storefront theatre scene. She now works on large-scale installations including most recently the Hamilton Experience and Nevermore Park in Chicago as well as taking her painting talents on the road and across the country.

You can also find her treading the boards onstage performing stand-up comedy. She is the producer, creator, and host of Steph’s Darling Parlour, a monthly variety showcase, and a producer at iO Chicago. You can catch up on all of her adventures in painting and comedy on Instagram or at


Billy DecBilly Dec

BA '95 Economics

Presentation: "Food. Roots."

Billy Dec is a two-time Emmy Award–winning TV personality, actor, attorney, and restaurateur and the CEO/founder of Rockit Ranch, a hospitality and entertainment company that owns and operates celebrated restaurants like Sunda New Asian (Chicago and Nashville) and The Underground. Most recently, Dec founded a new cutting-edge marketing agency called Coact and an HR firm called HR Pro, both built on leveraging growing communities of top independent talent in their respective industries to align strengths, lower costs, and increase returns.

Dec can regularly be seen on NBC's Today Show; acts in films and on TV shows like Criminal Minds and Empire; hosts his own podcast, The Meal of Your Life; and is producing a new documentary for PBS he recently shot in his mother's native islands of the Philippines with his company Elston Films. Dec was a presidential appointee for five years, serving on the White House Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the White House Bullying Prevention Task Force, as well as serving on many local committees, boards, and commissions to address social issues.


Cris GravesCris Graves

MFA '96 Theatre

Presentation: "No Permission Necessary"

Cris Graves is an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker who has worked across platforms, from film to television to online content. She has worked across the globe filming in some of the harshest and most remote areas on our planet. Her credits include The Amazing Race, Whale Wars, and Living Undocumented. She is also an award-winning narrative filmmaker and has had her work shown in various film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival, and Hamilton Film Festival to name a few. Most recently, her feature film script "Alone Girl," which Cris plans to direct, was selected as a semifinalist in three categories of the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition.


Marc RutzenMarc Rutzen

BS '10 Architecture

Presentation: “From Artist to Tech Entrepreneur in 20 Easy Steps.”

Marc Rutzen is the founder and CEO of Enodo, an automated underwriting platform for multifamily real estate. Founded in 2016, Enodo utilizes machine learning to help users identify investment opportunities, analyze market data, and predict investment performance. The platform collects, cleans, and analyzes real-time multifamily rent and availability data from over two million properties nationwide and is used by hundreds of underwriters and analysts every day to source, analyze, and execute multifamily deals.

Marc directs Enodo's data science, engineering, and business teams to continually develop and release industry-changing features. In 2019, he led the company through a successful acquisition by national multifamily lender Walker & Dunlop and continues to serve as the CEO of Enodo and senior vice president of information technology at W&D.

Marc is a licensed managing broker in the state of Illinois. He earned his BS in architectural studies from Illinois in 2010 and his MS in real estate development from Columbia University in 2011.

A. Raheim WhiteA. Raheim White

BFA '11 Dance

Presentation: "Sustaining Creativity through Healing"

A. Raheim White earned their MFA from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and their BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both in dance performance and choreography. They are a researcher, an educator, a spiritual guide, the designer of RahCrystals, and the cofounder of The Healing Home Chicago.

Updated February 10, 2020