Next Chicago speaker

Elijah McKinnon

More info

July 28, 8:30am • Savage Smyth • part of a series on Equality

Presenting on July’s theme of Equality will be artist/activist/cultural producer/marketing maven Elijah McKinnon! Elijah is the Founder and Creative Director of the independent consultancy People Who Care, “a collective of queer, femme and people of color specializing in campaign development & management, brand strategy and cultural productions for non-profits and grassroots initiatives.”

Since we can never just wait until that one CreativeMornings Friday each month, we asked Elijah a few questions prior to their talk! Check out their answers below, and join us next Friday, July 28th, at Savage Smyth!

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
I’m deeply inspired by Chicago’s rich cultural landscape and the cities commitment to exuding resilience. There is so much history rooted in the working class that motivates me to constantly push a little harder. Hanging out on rooftops in the West Loop and taking in the skyline also brings a ton of joy to me and my creative process. 

List three words that begin with the letter “E” to describe yourself/your personality.
Explicit. Empathetic. Encouraging. 

What are the top three places you find inspiration or energy?
On the Airplane. Out in nature. In my dreams. 

What was your #1 takeaway from your time in commercial brand strategy?
Less is more.

Where did the idea for People Who Care come from?
Like many other people, a majority of my concepts and strategies are created from a void. I founded People Who Care in response to non-profit organizations and grassroots initiatives constant lack of diversity. The idea actually began as an inappropriate statement made by a former colleague when I asked him why there were no people of color working on an initiative that directly targeted and impacted the black community. He smiled and told me not to worry because the team that was recruited consisted of “people who cared” about the cause. I resigned from the company about a month later and started People Who Care. It was supposed to be this subversive freelance project that quickly evolved into a consultancy powered by queers, femmes, and people of color that specialize in creative direction, cultural productions, brand strategy, and community organizing exclusively for nonprofits and grassroots initiatives.  

What is one important thing you’ve learned from the work People Who Care has done?
Treat people with integrity, compassion, and respect, but most importantly listen to them when they share the moments and experiences that bring them joy! 

How do you make time for all your commitments and responsibilities?
Can I get back to you on this? Smile. Because I’d be lying if I said that it’s simple balancing multiple hats with varying levels of responsibilities. My parents passed away at a very young age which presented me with many learning experiences and challenging obstacles to overcome. As I’ve matured, I have learned how to ask for help, cultivate joy and the difference between no(!) and no, thank you! People also fail to remember that I am just one small component of many moving pieces in the projects that I begin or am affiliated with. I’m very fortunate to work with many amazing folks that empower one another to ask for what we need and want; whether it be space, fresh fruit, a nap or window seat on the next plane leaving Chicago.  

As someone who is deeply involved in social justice/activist work, can you share one way you avoid ‘activist burnout’?
Good question! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve quite mastered how to avoid burning out. As a person who lives within the framework of multiple marginalized identities, I don’t really have the opportunity or luxury to think about those types of things. At the end of the day, I’m human. Just like everyone else in the world I’m trying to drink enough water, get enough sleep, text my lovers and friends back in a timely manner while also seeking liberation for myself and the people I share identities with — some days are brighter than others. 

June’s event with JC Rivera was held at the beautiful Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Hyde Park. In addition to hearing JC’s wisdom on June’s theme of Survival, attendees got to collaborate with the Bear Champ artist on canvases prior to his presentation. Later, everyone in attendance had a chance to win one of the canvases. 

Making June’s event extra special, we were also joined by students and instructors from After School Matters and Chicago Public Schools Career and Technical Education. 

Check out highlights shared by attendees below!

A man and his 🐻 - #bearchamp #creativemornings #cmchi #uchicago

A post shared by Danyelle Sage (@ellieismycat) on

Keep on rolling with the punches @jcrivera! Great work! #cmchi

A post shared by Chad Griffin (@chadwgriffin) on

Raffel time for the @jcrivera and #creativemornings #chicago audience collaboration pieces. #cmsurvival

A post shared by Neftali Morales (@gorilao) on

Raffel time for the @jcrivera and #creativemornings #chicago audience collaboration pieces. #cmsurvival

A post shared by Neftali Morales (@gorilao) on

We imagine a world where we’re seen and heard, respected and valued, not for our appearance and privilege, but for our work and character. A world where anyone, anywhere, has equal access to opportunities and resources to become the person they dream about. The formula for equality is a work in progress, and this work is not done from the few with power but rather through the power of community.

Equality is harmony. Harmony isn’t achieved through one instrument; it’s a collaboration, a symphony of sounds that adds richness and texture to the bigger picture. The pursuit of equality is a long-term game, an unraveling of outdated processes that no longer serves the future we imagine or deserve.

This month’s global exploration of Equality is chosen by our Johannesburg chapter, illustrated by Katt Phatlane, and presented by… Adobe! Yes, you read that correctly.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re partnering with Adobe to stretch our collective mission in connecting and empowering creative communities around the world.  

With Adobe’s indispensable tools and decades of experience in enabling creatives to bring their ideas to life, along with CreativeMornings’ unwavering commitment to unite and inspire cities with face-to-face connections, we’re honored to be partnering with another company that is eager to champion the future of creativity and add fuel to the engine of generosity. Read more about it!

Join us this Friday at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts to hear from JC Rivera, the Chicago-based artist known famously for his character The Bear Champ. JC will be presenting on June’s theme of Survival. Check out our Q&A with him below, and grab your ticket today!

Define this month’s theme, Survival, in one sentence or less.
Roll with the punches, Continue your hustle.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
Chicago influences me every day. The People, The Culture. The way everyones work hard to stand out and leave their mark.

List three words that begin with the letter “P” to describe yourself/your personality.
Persistent, Pioneering, Passionate.List the top three places you find inspiration.
Watching Clouds, A blank canvas, Sitting on an airplane.

You’re a master of many mediums! You have a fine arts background, you’ve designed toys, collaborated with Bucketfeet on shoes, and of course you’re incredibly talented with a spray can – are there any other mediums you’ve dabbled with, or are interested in trying in the future?
Photography is always something I’ve been interested in. Something about capturing a moment that can’t never be duplicated.

You’ve mentioned wanting Bear Champ to have his own TV show. How do you see this coming to life? Are you interested in animation?
Like every kid, I spent hours watching cartoons growing up. I won’t stop until I make this happen. I’m interested in collaborating with an animator to bring The Bear Champ to life.

What is your favorite part of the mural creation process?
Knowing that people enjoy it. Seeing that is an inspiration for others.

What is one of the best interactions you’ve had with a passerby while painting a mural?
Dad jumping out of a car to take a picture with me, Getting hugged and kissed by someone that really liked my work. When someones yields “The Bear Dude” from a car or riding a bike.

We asked Billy Craven, owner and founder of Galerie F, a few more questions outside of May’s awesome event. Enjoy below, and get excited for June’s event with artist JC Rivera this coming Friday, June 23rd!

Define this month’s theme, Serendipity, in one sentence or less.
a happy accident.List three words that begin with the letter “F” to describe yourself/your personality.
1. Foundation
2. Forthright
3. Family

What are the top three places you find inspiration?
1. Walking the streets
2. Alleys, sidestreets…off of the beaten path
3. used book stores

Why did you decide to open Gallerie F? Why did you want to make it an open-door gallery?
the 2 primary reasons…
1. as an artist, I became aware that there was a great under-abundance of galleries that featured screen prints, affordable art [without being ‘crafty’] and that supported local street artists
2. as a consumer, I also realized that so many Chicago galleries were by appointment only, open once a month for 'neighborhood night’, etcWhat initially made you want to document street art and graffiti?
it might have originally been triggered by my shyness, sort of a social crutch in order to deal with being amongst vast numbers of bustling human beings in NYC! But really, while living in NYC, I became intrigued by the vast variety of art and artists, the ephemeral nature, the layers on layers, my growing awareness of graffiti and street art history while hunting for art, hunting for work by deceased artists and writers, the need to find something by someone that I felt was rare, the competition amongst artists, the competition for real estate by artists, the humor and wit and the realization that all of the little pieces of the puzzle that I was documenting were far more important the average person believed…I didn’t necessarily think of street art and graffiti as vandalization, but instead likened it to a type of folk art.Have you ever wanted to do street art or graffiti of your own?

Yes, I dabbled….but I stand by on the old cliche of 'those who can’t, document.’

Thank you to everyone who came out to Savage Smyth to hear from artist and Galerie F owner, Billy Craven! Missed May’s event? Check out some highlights below! 

Started my day off right @chicago_cm with @billycraven of @galerief #cmserendipity #cmchi

A post shared by Richard LaRue (@richard_larue) on

Did you miss our April event with photographer and designer Elise Swopes? Check out what attendees shared during her presentation on Beyond (which took place on a boat on Lake Michigan!):

Get a professional headshot taken at our April event!

Thanks to our global partner, Shutterstock, we’ll be shooting headshots for our creative community.

Dress your best, and we’ll see you at the event!

This Friday we’re welcoming Elise Swopes to the CreativeMornings stage! For April’s theme of Beyond, who better to share with us than a Chicago photographer/designer who has built her massive Instagram following and career by combining photography and imaginative editing to create surreal dreamscapes, often centered on our own city?

Join us this Friday, April 21st, at Odyssey Chicago–or tune into the livestream on our Facebook page–and check out our Q&A with Elise below! 

Define this month’s theme, Beyond, in one sentence or less. There’s way too many tools available at our finger tips to not go above and beyond. List three words that begin with the letter “F” to describe your personality. Funny, faithful, and fearless List the top three places you find inspiration. helicopter, rooftop of a building & my mind Your presentation is going to be on a boat! I’m sure many of us will be snapping more pics than usual. What’s one tip you would give to the casual/amateur photographer to challenge or push their style (whether a photography tip, a fun tool/app, etc.)? Shoot as much as possible at every angle at every moment. You’ll look back and be happy you had more images to choose from when editing. Some fun apps are Filterstorm, Artstudio, Photoshop Mix and Mextures. What is your dream shoot location right now? My dream shoot location would be in Hong Kong.

If you missed Leah Ball discussing Taboo last week, catch up on some of the #CMTakeaways the community shared during her talk! And don’t forget- we’re now livestreaming CreativeMornings Chicago events on our Facebook page. If you can’t make it to an event, tune in online and share some #CMTakeaways of your own!

Thanks for the Twister game @chicago_cm ! #cmtakeaways

A post shared by Tammy Allen (@chicagocreativechick) on

more