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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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Photo: Bartek Karas

For April’s theme of GAME, who better to join the CM/Chicago community than Devin Breen, founder of CHIditarod– a “1,000 person costumed shopping cart race and mobile food drive”?

  • We can’t wait to hear from him, so we reached out a little early with a few questions to help you get to know him better! Enjoy our Q&A with Devin below, and see you soon!

  • List three words that begin with the letter G to describe yourself/your personality.
  • Go!
  • What was one surprising thing you learned from the first CHIditarod you put on?
  • Police officers are fond of patches.
  • I love that you and your wife Liz built a toolkit to help other cities establish their own versions of CHIditarod. What part of the event feels distinctly Chicago to you?
  • The bribery, of course.  Jokes aside, Chicago created the philanthropic aspect.  The food drive, the fundraising, the grants, making an impact beyond the celebration.
  • What are the top three places you find inspiration?
  • Being in motion on my bike
  • Black Rock City
  • Mountains
  • Asked to define March’s theme, COURAGE, in one sentence or less, March speaker Lauren M. Pacheco said, courageousness doesn’t act alone - it works in tandem with other critical characteristics such as risk-taking, ingenuity, anger and frustration, in addition to those people and places that encourage us to act with courage.”

    On how courage plays into her own work, she added, “courage has exposed my insecurities in a way that has clearly motivated me to want to do better for my community and my career; it’s been a welcomed friend and critic.”

    Just for fun, we asked Lauren for one fact that’s not in her official bio. Her answer? “I’m the proud parent of two pitbulls.”

    Thanks to all who joined us at Schawk! for #CMCourage. Enjoy some highlights attendees shared from the event below, and see you soon for our global exploration of GAME!


    😊 #cmchi #cmcourage

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    “As a creator, curiosity makes my stories a lot stronger… Because curiosity allows us to connect with the people that we serve, it makes our work much more meaninful.” - Katherine Nagasawa

    We’re reflecting on a GREAT event last month with multimedia journalist/documentary filmmaker Katherine Nagasawa! (And do spaces get much cooler than Threadless?! We saw your photos of those elaborately-painted bathroom floors!)

    In her presentation, Katherine talked about her work at WBEZ’s Curious City, and how Curious City’s curiosity-driven model gives the public a voice in their journalism. She discussed how embracing curiosity has strengthened her work, and the incredible benefits that harnessing the power of curiosity can bring to your own work. Check out more highlights attendees shared from the morning below!

    Curiosity is many things—a trait, a mindset, and a skill. To wonder about the things you don’t know and to actively fill those gaps with knowledge is to consciously enrich your life.

    We’re so excited to be exploring February’s global theme of CURIOSITY with Katherine Nagasawa, a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker who uses her skills to dig into, and shed light on, the stories that pique hers and others’ curiosity.

    For her day job, she’s the multimedia producer for WBEZ’s Curious City, a journalism project that answers people’s questions about Chicago, the region, and its people. Outside of WBEZ, Katherine has produced several documentary film projects including Beyond the Seal, a web documentary about Fair Trade bananas and the people behind a movement to change the banana industry. Her latest short documentary, Ilse, follows an undocumented high school senior as she attempts to obtain permanent residency. 

    Eager to learn more about the creative storyteller behind this work, we reached out to Katherine with a few questions ahead of Friday’s event. Check out our Q&A below and join us this Friday at Threadless! Can’t make it? Tune in to the livestream on our Facebook page.

    See you soon!

    How would you define this month’s theme, Curiosity, in one sentence or less?

    A sense of wonder and inquisitiveness about the world that comes from being present and attuned to one’s surroundings.

    What is one of the most enjoyable surprises you’ve come across while producing stories for WBEZ’s Curious City?

    Investigating what other Chicagoans are curious about makes the city come alive to me in new ways. I notice more when I’m out and about, and am able to connect seemingly random details to specific parts of the city’s history, or to present-day policies. For example, the handwritten Chinese signs on lampposts in Chinatown have new meaning to me because of a recent question we answered about why it’s so hard to find apartment listings in Chinatown online. It turns out that these paper signs are one way Chinese landlords advertise apartments through exclusively Chinese networks, as opposed to English-language websites like HotPads or Domu. This helps explain why Chinatown has maintained its historical identity as an enclave for recent Chinese immigrants while other neighborhoods, like Pilsen and Koreatown, have gentrified or dissolved.

    Has working on stories centered on others’ curiosity changed how you approach other work or personal projects?

    Absolutely! I think it’s cemented my belief that starting with a question is one of the best ways to discover interesting stories. One of my web documentary projects, “Beyond the Seal,” follows fair trade bananas from the fields in Ecuador to grocery stores on the East Coast. The idea for it came when my film partner, Leah Varjacques, saw bananas with “Fair Trade” stickers on them while shopping at the Dill Pickle Coop in Logan Square. She wondered about where the bananas came from, and what “Fair Trade” meant in a tangible sense for all the players along the supply chain. Those initial questions jump started the project and helped focus our reporting when we were out in the field.

    What three words that start with the letter “L” would you use to describe yourself?
    Listener, loving, and lively.

    What are the top three places you find inspiration?

    In archives, out and about in the city, and in other people’s life stories.

    What’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?
    When I was in elementary and middle school, I wrote and edited a monthly family newspaper — my first foray into journalism!  

    “Remember to do what makes you feel good. Give yourself authority.” - Abena Boamah-Acheampong

    Friday morning at WeWork Kenzie was AMAZING. If you weren’t able to make it in person, you can watch video of Abena’s presentation on our Facebook page, and check out some highlights attendees shared below!