Sona Wang, 58, began her venture-capital career at Allstate Venture Capital, then went on to found three independent VC firms. When the last one, Ceres, began winding down five years ago, she and a group of partners created Chicago Blues Experience, a for-profit blues museum and performance space to open in 2019. Wang and her husband, who have two grown daughters, have a home in Evanston and an apartment in the Loop.
Where did you grow up?
I spent my first five years in South Korea, at that time still devastated by and recovering from a civil war. My family immigrated to the United States and ended up in South Central Los Angeles. None of us spoke any English. To say that I experienced a series of culture shocks would be an understatement. You learn resilience and optimism.
How did you get interested in the blues?
On our first date, my husband took me to Blues on Halsted. He plays guitar, and that night, he wrote out on a napkin the 12-bar blues structure for me. That was my first lesson in the blues. One of my favorite blues singers is Etta James. She could melt your heart singing blues, jazz, R&B, rock or pop. When I listen to Adele, I hear Etta.
Have you met Buddy Guy?
It was in a roomful of people in 2012. We presented our plan. He said, “Wait a minute,” and we stopped in our tracks. He said, “I’ve been waiting 25 years for you folks to walk into my office and tell me we are finally going to do this.” It was such a seminal moment.
Any other famous people?
Mick Jagger, last year in London at the opening of “Exhibitionism.” I thanked him for agreeing to be on the Chicago Blues Experience Artist Board. He was very gracious. The second was Sharon Stone. She was in town for President Obama’s farewell address. We had this long lunch with a mutual friend at Cafe Spiaggia. At one point we were discussing Chicago Blues Experience. She said, “Did you talk to Marty about the project?” And then, right there, she started texting Martin Scorsese. I am rarely starstruck, but that was a wow moment for me.
What comes after Chicago Blues Experience?
I have two things on my bucket list. One is cooking lessons in Kyoto and Paris. The second is creating a very large painting. The title will be “An American Dream.” It will be a bit of a montage, depicting the most salient moments of my most fortunate life. I expect it will take years to finish, and it will start with learning how to paint.
Mick Jagger collects art. Maybe he’ll want to buy it.
Oh, that would be wonderful. I don’t know that it would be for sale, but that’s a nice thought.