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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. https://www.thenewbauhaus.com/

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.

VIDEO OF CREATE GREATER THAN FRIDAY link - https://open.spotify.com/episode/6HVcayxXHEEdE6MpB0EsUV?si=3wbDX6zXTa6QJptqEtt3Fw

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.

When we asked her what motivates her creativity, our July speaker Sam Kirk responded, “I am motivated by people working to overcome current issues, stories of strong women, and the LGBTQ community. I believe art can help to change perspectives and I am curious to see the effects of the work I create on society.”

“As an artist, it’s my responsibility to push back. If I want to see something different, I have to create it.”

July’s event on “Intention” was amazing. Artist Sam Kirk spoke about how she uses her work to celebrate the lived experiences of underrepresented communities. Then, members of our community stood up and shared their personal intentions for a goal or project they’re going to commit to in the next 6 months. Needless to say, it was an inspiring morning. 

We’ll have the full video up on our site soon, but in the meantime, enjoy a few more words from speaker Sam Kirk in our speaker interview below, and check out highlights attendees shared from the event!


Q & A with artist Sam Kirk

I understand you previously had a career in advertising. While the intention behind your work may have changed, I imagine there are many ways the two paths are complementary. What is one lesson or skill you learned in your time in advertising that has transferred over to your career as an artist?
The biggest lesson that has transferred from my advertising career to my art career is having the ability to work well under pressure and to trust your ability to deliver no matter what the challenges are.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
Chicago’s soulful character and charm fills my work. I grew up playing in water pumps, watching my cousins break dance on cardboard, and racing my friends to the corner store for penny candies. I’m most interested in the activities that happen deep in the blocks of our neighborhoods; street vendors hard at work, alley mechanics, and summer block parties filled with Chicago accents, dance moves, and culture.

What are the top three places you find inspiration?
I am mostly inspired by people, so I often find myself in public spaces for inspiration or go for a bike ride, but I also escape to nature when I need to recharge my imagination.  

Lastly, what’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?
I’m a chocoholic. I have chocolate at least once a day… usually several times a day.________________

“Your craft isn’t always the calling that you thought you had, but when the opportunity presents itself, you have to be open to exploring it.” - Adé Hogue

June’s CRAFT event with Adé Hogue was fantastic! Not only was his presentation humorous and inspiring, as evidenced by the posts from attendees below, but this event also marked CM/Chicago’s 7th birthday! 

We had a packed house at Morgan’s on Fulton, giveaways (including pins designed by Adé and works by previous CM/Chicago speakers such as JC Rivera and Swopes), all CM/Chicago hosts past and present in attendance, a celebratory photobooth with birthday hats and more! We’re more energized than ever about the magic of this community and can’t wait for our next event!

Enjoy some highlights from June’s event below and join us for July’s event on INTENTION with artist Sam Kirk coming up July 27th at Edelman! 

CM/Chicago hosts, past and present, including (L-R): Jen Marquez Ginn,  (founder) Mig Reyes, Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed

From the community:

I’ve had a few good weeks of "showing up” for my shows, as far as playing at the top of ability and compartmentalizing the world burning around us. I don’t consider myself a strong improviser, hence my heavy investment in my growth as a solo sketch artist. In the last three days I’ve been invited to audition for a commercial gig based on seeing me perform in @generationlatinx and this morning at a #design community event someone recognized me from last night’s @triggerhappyimprov at @the_annoyance (they really enjoyed our show). This morning, I attended @chicago_cm , where the speaker @adehogue , spoke on the theme of Craft. He broke it down to three things. 1) Define what you want to be 2) Develop it by putting in work 3) Sharing with others, by putting yourself out there no matter how rough you feel your art is. The job is pushing through the hills and valleys. This week is a good, next week could be very different. “Just keep swimming.” Thank you to all my friends and family who always “show up” for me. You’re my greatest teachers and inspiration. #cmcraft #cmchi @creativemorning

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#cmchi #cmcraft define what you WANT to be good at!

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This month’s event marks CM/Chicago’s 7th birthday! Making Friday’s event extra special is that our incredible speaker is a member of our volunteer organizing team.

Adé Hogue is a designer and letterer specializing in hand-created type. He has worked with creative firms in Chicago as a designer and art director with brands such as PayPal, eBay Inc., Nike, ALDI, Ocean Spray, Teavana, MilkPEP and more. Currently, Adé freelances full-time for a range of clients while teaching lettering at DePaul University.

Adé has presented his personal work in exhibitions such as Typeforce, an annual juried showcase of typographic artists in Chicago. Further, he has been an invited speaker at design and creativity conferences, such as Top Con 2015 and Creative South 2017. In the fall of 2017 he was selected as one of PRINT Magazine’s New Visual Artists—an annual roundup of 15 of the best creatives today under 30.

We’re thrilled to have him take the mic this Friday as we explore June’s global theme of CRAFT. Learn a little bit more about Adé with our Q&A below, and we’ll see you soon!

In one sentence or less, what does “craft” mean to you?
Taking the time to work on the little things in whatever it is that you find yourself passionate about. 

How does Chicago influence you/your work?
Well, I think it does in a figurative way as well as a literal one. Literally, Chicago influences my work because I often find myself working on Chicago-centric projects. When I get a lettering assignment for a company or event here in the city, I seek out specific typographic references here in Chicago. In a figurative sense, Chicago influences me and my work by instilling that work ethic that you have to have to live here. It’s the city of broad shoulders, so when things get tough, or you ever get stuck, you just have to put your shoulders up.

List 3 words that start with the letter C to describe yourself/your personality.
Man, this is deep. I’m going to go with “creative,” “caring,” and “capable.“ 

What are the top three places you find inspiration?
I have a couple of vintage style lettering books that are super helpful, but otherwise I’m lame and I just find inspiration through Instagram and/or Dribbble.

You’ve been to a bunch of CreativeMornings/Chicago events… what has been your most memorable CreativeMornings experience to date?
I’d probably have to say my very first one back in 2013, Will Miller. I would consider Will a friend today, and I’m not sure if he knows this, but he is one of the reasons I actually started lettering. His talk was in September of 2013. In October of that same year I started a daily lettering project and the rest is history.

What’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?
I have the incredible (and absolutely worthless) ability to remember and recite lyrics to almost any major rap/hip-hop song from the late 90s to early 2000s. It’s brain space that I don’t think I’ll ever get back. 

“Being committed means that you have to live, demonstrate and prove that commitment everyday. When you do that, everyone else will sign on to your dream.“

Thank you to all who joined us and sponsored us for a fantastic event with former 1871 CEO, Howard Tullman! Howard explored May’s theme of COMMITMENT, sharing thoughts and stories around the role commitment plays in motivating ourselves, inspiring people around us, creating a hardworking and ethical workplace culture and more. Couldn’t join us at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts? Check out the livestream video on our Facebook page, or hold tight– we’ll have formal video of Howard’s presentation up soon!

Had a great time @chicago_cm today listening to @howardtullman talk #commitment

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