Next Chicago speaker

Ivan Vazquez

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September 25, 8:30am • • part of a series on Spectrum

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“When in doubt, take the steps you need to follow the path of your own joy. This path is your purpose.” April is #CMpurpose. This month’s theme was chosen by @Indianapolis_CM and illustrated by @jasonratliff.

Our guest speaker for February is Marian Cook, a kickass woman who is a voice in emerging technology and innovation. Currently, Marian is a Principal at Slalom Consulting and she also leads a gubernatorial advisory board composed of heads of innovation from large corporations in the State of Illinois. 

Checkout my interview with Marian and learn how she invests in herself and why she got started in tech. Hope to see you at our #CMinvest event on Friday, February 21 at Fjord Chicago.

1. February’s theme is Invest, how do you invest in yourself? There are many ways, such as focusing on what’s next on a macro level (future trends, technology convergence, etc.), taking on new and challenging work, actively working on my thinking skills, reading, and surrounding myself with people I admire and can learn from. Foundationally, though, I invest in protecting the sovereignty of my mind.  I block off time for deep thinking, deep work and daydreaming about what’s possible in the world of ideas. 

2. What initially drew you to the tech industry? I always want to know what’s next. My father, as a mathematician and physicist, set a great example of deeply desiring to understand the universe. As a little kid I remember playing in the halls of Argonne National Laboratory, where my dad worked, so I was always surrounded by men and women who were insatiably curious..

3. Creatives often draw from life experiences, identities, communities, interests. How have your experiences or the like have shaped how you approach technology? My philosophy has always been to seek what’s next. We’re a fascinating and inventive species living in an astonishing time! Take a step back and look around you. It is thrilling. Yes, scary, but also thrilling. The world is a rich buffet of ideas, options and opportunities. I want to know what’s next!   

4. How do we create more equity for underrepresented communities to be represented in the tech industry? This is a tenacious and complex problem. One of the ways to solve this problem is by being aware of who is in the room and making sure that we invite others in. Always bring others along.

5. How do you manage your time? Science shows that handwriting makes you process information differently and remember better. I hand write my to do list daily. I don’t cut and paste it day to day. I want to think about and prioritize each item on that list and how it relates to my bigger goals. Strategically and proactively managing task lists and aligning your tactics with your strategy is perhaps the most important task you have.

6. What is your secret superpower? My curiosity! I am curious about how my brain works. I actively study how to learn and how to think.

7. Who is another creative person / organization in Chicago that we need to know about? Eva Maddox, an interior designer who is the pioneer of branded environments.

8. Where do you find creativity in Chicago? In the neighborhoods of Chicago, I enjoy photography and capturing street art such as murals and graffiti. Such powerful inspiration unleashed!

9. Lastly, what’s a dream project/ collaboration for you? I would love to put together a team for the Learning Global Grand Challenge organized by Singularity University and tackle social justice issues.

Blog post by Social Media Manager, Brenda Uribe

February’s Theme is Invest. “Convert your doubts into positive currency and bet on yourself.” Our Hong Kong chapter chose this month’s exploration of Invest and Bao Ho illustrated the theme.

October’s theme is flow and I had the opportunity to interview this month’s speaker, Ricardo Mondragon. Ricardo is a talented Mexican artist and music composer. We met at Daily Bar where we chatted about his work, where he finds creativity in Chicago, and what keeps his flow going. Read below to learn more about Ricardo’s thoughts on community, culture, and this month’s theme. 

1. October’s theme is Flow, in one sentence or less, how do you define Flow?
 A state of harmony.

2. What’s your flow? I have many flows. Music, art, food, animals, running. Nature flows with me.

3. You combine, art and music, what is your creative process like? I begin in my music studio, and look for harmonic forms that are aesthetically pleasing. I then visualize them in 2D and pass on to 3D, depending on the project. Materials and gravity mold my creative process until my eyes are satisfied.

4. How has technology impacted the type of work that you create? Technology drives the art.

5. What do you want people to take away from your work? Whatever they want, whatever they choose to take out of my work. I want to have a conversation with them through art.

6. What does your work mean to you? It is a lifestyle. It’s my way of a better understanding about the world we live in.

7. You were born in Mexico, how does your culture influence your work? I like to choose vibrant colors for my art. I also think that Mexico has molded me into who I am. I like to think that we are a collection of everyone we’ve met - where you were born and where you have traveled. All these experiences brings you to the present self.

8. Where can we see some of your work? I am showcasing my work with other artists at Hyde Park Art Center. The exhibit is called Intersectional Touch.

9. What kind of sounds represent you? I believe that we all have a frequency - vibrations that resonate to connect with others. I don’t have a specific sound that represents me, but if I had to choose my favorite sound, I would pick the chord D minor.

10. What does community mean to you?
 Individuals who help each other succeed.

11. What’s on your current playlist? 
Les Baxter, Voodoo Dreams

12. What are you reading now? I am reading Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric Kandel and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

13. What is your secret superpower?
 Being hungry for life!

14. What keeps you up at night? 
Thinking about art, my next steps, and how I can do better work.

15. Best advice you live by? I follow my gut, it’s the best flow. If for any reason you made a mistake, you will learn. But if you are right, it will only assure you that you are following the right path, which is usually the case.

16. Where do you find creativity in Chicago?
 Museums, art centers, restaurants, breweries, architecture, everywhere.

17. Who is another creative person / organization in Chicago that we need to know about?

Bauhaus Meets Chicago

As CreativeMornings’ Features Writer, I was able to attend City As Lab, an interactive two day experience led by Ashley Lukasik, former CreativeMornings speaker and co-producer of The New Bauhaus documentary film. City As Lab is a celebration of the Bauhaus 100th anniversary and its influence on Chicago's experimental, creative legacy of "making as thinking". Below are my most memorable experiences and what I learned from the event. 

Opening day began at Boxville, Chicago’s first street food market and container mall located in Bronzeville. It was chosen as one of the most provocative examples of creative entrepreneurship in the city today. Seeing Boxville for the first time I was captured by the bright colors of the shipping containers, live music, and energetic vendors. We met with the founder, Bernard Loyd, and learned about his mission to make Bronzeville a hub for black cuisine. His focus is to use culture and commerce to revive his community. 

We also met with Chicago muralist Sam Kirk. Sam spoke to us about her mural, “Bronzeville Beauty” and the importance of creating art that celebrates individuals who are underrepresented. As I gazed at her mural I saw the image of a young brown girl with lush hair and full of possibilities. Her mural celebrates the young women who live in Bronzeville. 

Afterwards, we got to explore Boxville and mingle with vendors. One of the things that stood out to me was how engaging the space was. The size of the shipping containers made the space intimate, thus I was made to interact with the people and objects around me. For example, I met Edo, co founder of Be Creative, who shared his clothing line and artwork with the group. 

We concluded the evening with a Bauhaus-themed experiential designed by Filigree Suppers. The dinner party was full of surprises and creative freedom. We were asked to set the table and select our plates made my ceramic artist, Asley Lin Ames. We were also given markers and encouraged to draw on the table cloths designed by Edo. At the end of the night we were allowed to cut our table cloth art pieces and take them home with us. The hands-on and personalized experience amplified my connection to the event because I was able to keep physically pieces of the event and thus remember the people I met and the spaces I was a part of. 

City As Lab taught me that it is essential to design spaces that bring individuals from different backgrounds together in order to build meaningful and genuine connections.  

You can catch the New Bauhaus film at its premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival on October 17th and 18th.

Photo credit to photographer Jacqueline Trezzo.

Hi Chicago pals,

We have a special treat for you this month. I had the opportunity to interview Rachita Vasan, our very own CreativeMornings’ volunteer member. Rachita is a Junior Strategist at Leo Burnett and is currently leading some meaningful social justice projects at her work space. Check out the full interview to learn about her favorite books, current playlist, and the best advice she has gotten.

1. What have you gained from being part of the CreativeMornings volunteer team? I have learned so much from multiple disciplines that I am not exposed to on a day to day basis.

2. The projects that you’ve worked on have focused on social justice issues. What approach did you take to make sure that the projects stayed true to the mission? I work at Leo Burnett and we have a diversity and inclusion platform called Create Greater Than which centers on the idea that conversations create change. One of the projects that I co-lead is Create Greater Than Fridays where we bring in speakers. I spoke at one of the events about unconscious bias. I focused on how it impacts the work that we do.. in order to educate and empower everyone that I work with.


3. August’s theme is Justice, in one sentence or less, how do you define Justice?
 Justice is not just evening the playing field but understanding where people come from and understanding that everyone’s story is important and unique.

4. Who is your social justice role model? Jameela Jamil, actress from The Good Place, because she owns up to her mistakes and is an outspoken advocate for body positivity, representation, and transparency.

5. What does community mean to you?
 Community is a gathering of people who are motivated by the same things. The communities that enrich me are my strong female friends, CreativeMornings, and Sofar Sounds.

6. What’s on your current playlist? 
Sylvan Esso, Lizzo, Vampire Weekend, The Beach Boys, Local Natives, Brockhampton, Tennis, Maggie Rogers, Tyler the Creator, Death Cab for Cutie. A little bit of everything, really.

7. What keeps you up at night? 
When I’m in the middle of a book and I can’t put it down. Also, the fact that the bees are dying.

8. What are you reading now?

  1. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
  2. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
  3. Educated, Tara Westover
  4. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  5. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  6. Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

9. What is your secret superpower?
 The ability to make a good pun; my constant need to ask questions and question everything while still trying to maintain empathy.

10. What do you do when you feel creatively stuck?
 I read, wash dishes, and do yoga.

11. Where do you find creativity in Chicago?
 The events that I attend such as CreativeMornings.  

12. Best advice you live by? Live life like a middle age white men in congress and just assume you are entitled to everything and deserve a seat at the table. Also, ask for forgiveness, not permission.

13. How does Chicago influence you or your work?
 Chicago influences my work because Chicago’s creative community is inclusive and incredibly collaborative, more so than a lot of other cities I’ve lived in.

14. Who is another creative person / organization in Chicago that we need to know about?
 826CHI, a non-profit creative writing, tutoring, and publishing center dedicated to amplifying the voices of Chicago youth.

15. What advice would you give to someone going to their first CreativeMornings event? Come with an open mind and talk to people, because everyone is hungry for that connection.

16. Lastly, what’s one fun fact about you that’s not on your official bio? I usually read 100+ books a year.

Join us on Friday, July 26 to learn about John Edel’s experience in eco and social entrepreneurship, and enjoy our pre-event interview with John!

1. How would you define this month’s theme, End, in one sentence or less? End is the looming problem of climate change. For me, End is about finding new ways of thinking about climate change.

2. What does community mean to you? Community means the larger whole, not just our neighborhood but the people who have the power to make a difference, such as politicians and designers.

3. What are you currently reading? The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek. Highly recommend.

4. What is your secret superpower? Pragmatism. I am able to breakdown a problem and think of different ways of solving it. Also, I do not get discouraged. I look at the bright side.

5. What advice would you give someone who wants to go green? Look behind the green rush. Understand where things come from and where they go. Do your research!

6. How do you like to approach a creative problem? I like to break things down into pieces to help eliminate steps.

7. What do you do when you feel creatively stuck? Move to the next problem on the list! There are plenty of other things to work on. I also like to come back to it with fresh eyes.

8. What was the most surprising part of starting The Plant? All the support and help that come from many people with different backgrounds. For example, engineers, architects and linguist brought their skills and support.

9. Where do you find creativity in Chicago? Neighborhoods, I love to eat! I enjoy non-chain restaurants because I find inspiration from the food and decor. I also like to ride my bicycle and absorb the outdoors.

10. How does Chicago influence you or your work? I am influenced by Chicago’s industrial history since Chicago is the food manufacturing capital. There is a lot of innovation. I also like looking back through the rich history of food and design. 

11. Who is another creative person / organization in Chicago that we need to know about? Advocates for Urban Agriculture, is a coalition of urban farms, community and school gardens, individuals and businesses working to support and expand sustainable agriculture in the Chicago region.

Jana Kinsman a former graphic designer turned beekeeper.

12. Lastly, what’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio? I like to ride my high wheel bicycle. I once biked 100 miles on it! 

August’s theme is perhaps the most central to the mission of CreativeMornings: COMMUNITY. We couldn’t be more excited and interested to hear from our speaker this month, Jenna Benn Shersher, the Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer.

Jenna is a 36 year old cancer survivor, civil rights advocate, world traveler and tiny twister who dreams big. In December 2010, Jenna was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Grey Zone Lymphoma that at the time affected fewer than 200 people. Instead of surrendering to cancer, she was determined to find meaning in her suffering. In the course of her fight, Jenna figured out creative ways to leverage social media to process her experience, and in turn create a community that became invested in her fight. In the course of a year, Jenna battled cancer and founded the nonprofit Twist Out Cancer.

Join us on Friday, August 24th, to hear about her journey and creative, community-building efforts in-person, and enjoy our pre-event interview with Jenna below! See you soon!

How would you define this month’s theme, community, in one sentence or less?
I define community as a place where you can be vulnerable, ask for help and connect with others.

What are three words that start with the letter C (for community, Chicago and CreativeMornings!) that describe yourself/your personality?
Courageous, Caring, Creative.

I read that Twist Out Cancer began with you sharing a video of yourself dancing on YouTube. Twist Out Cancer was launched and then used social media to develop and foster the community in existence today. What inspired you to bridge this amazing online community you created to in-person events and programming like Brushes with Cancer?
That is a great question! When I first created Twist, I had spent the last year in and out of lockdown. With a compromised immune system, I had no choice but to retreat to the online world- as it was too dangerous to be around family and friends. I saw the value in social media and creating community online but realized fairly quickly that it could not and should not replace face to face interaction. As I started to heal, and get stronger I started seeing more people and realized how much I missed being able to look into the eyes of those I love. Twist now utilizes online and community wide events in order to meet people where they are at (in treatment, post treatment and throughout survivorship).

What was the most surprising part of starting Twist Out Cancer?

That we were able to transition it from a grassroots movement into a viable nonprofit (that still exists 7 years later!).

What are the top three places you find inspiration?

My daughter is a constant reminder to savor each moment and marvel at the gift of life. I find inspiration through the stories of our Brushes with Cancer participants, who agree to make themselves vulnerable and join us on this new journey of storytelling and healing. And finally, I get inspiration from pushing my body and mind to new limits. The fact that I am here is a miracle, and that my body and mind have recovered is truly a blessing.

With all the creatives in our community, how can people get involved and support the creative and healing mission of Twist Out Cancer?

Join us on November 3rd at Brushes with Cancer in Chicago, consider participating as an artist or inspiration, and help spread the word about our mission and work to individuals touched by cancer.