What happens when award-winning playwright Tony Kushner, Top Chef Rick Bayless, and TikTok sensation Shermann “Dilla” Thomas walk into a room? Join us on October 19, 6:00 pm CST to find out.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation Awards are back! This year we’ve put the spotlight on storytelling and the powerful ways that stories can nourish the soul, create connection, and inspire us to act, whether they’re told around the table, at the theater, or over TikTok.

We’re inviting all of Chicago to join us on October 19 for a free YouTube broadcast of our awards ceremony, hosted by legendary Chicago newscaster Bill Kurtis. The event will feature appearances from our honorees: local historian and social media star Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, globally recognized chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless, and acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and activist Tony Kushner, who will be interviewed by best-selling author and National Public Radio (NPR) host Scott Simon.

Courtesy Bryan Derballa

Kushner is the 2022 recipient of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, which is given annually to an esteemed writer. Best known for his Tony-award winning 1993 play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (which he later adapted for a television miniseries directed by Mike Nichols) and the musical Caroline, or Change, Kushner’s screenwriting credits include Steven Spielberg’s Munich, Lincoln, and West Side Story.

Courtesy Javier Plascencia

Bayless will receive the Arts Award, which celebrates the power and impact of Chicago’s artistic community. An award-winning author who has written nine cookbooks as well as immersive food-centric plays, such as the sensual Rick Bayless in Cascabel and the farcical Recipe for Disaster, he’s become as celebrated for his innovative approach to storytelling as much as he is for his culinary prowess.

Courtesy Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

The 21st Century Award, which honors significant achievements by creators with ties to Chicago, will be presented to TikTok sensation, urban historian, and lifelong Chicagoan Shermann “Dilla” Thomas (marking the first time the award has been given to a digital artist). Thomas has become a local pop-culture phenom through sharing stories about Chicago’s people, architecture, and impact on the world over his popular social media accounts. Through his work, he’s made the city’s rich history and culture accessible and engaging to all.

The Chicago Public Library Foundation was founded in 1986 to accelerate the potential of the Chicago Public Library system by investing in resources that transform lives and communities. “What an incredible honor to be an innovation lever for the Chicago Public Library for more than 36 years—investing resources in groundbreaking programs and initiatives that transformed lives and communities. The Library Foundation will continue to be a partner to the Library in finding new ways to serve Chicago communities,” said Brenda Langstraat Bui, president and CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation.

The 2021 Chicago Library Foundation Awards were viewed by more than 8,500 people , and raised $1.5 million to advance the library’s community programs, including free help with homework, digital courses for adults, and creative opportunities for teens.

The 2022 Chicago Library Foundation Awards are presented by BMO. Mayor Lori Lightfoot & First Lady Amy Eshleman, Governor J.B. Pritzker and First Lady M.K. Pritzker are honorary chairs. All donations help support free lifelong learning programs and resources for all at Chicago Public Library. Visit cplfoundation.org/awards to learn more.