Next Chicago speaker

Saya Hillman

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October 27, 8:30am • Savage Smyth • part of a series on Pioneer

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November’s theme is ‘Work’ and we’re turning the camera on BRAIN KILLER™—aka Brian Keller—the super talented filmmaker and visual artist. Drawing inspiration from science fiction, Japanese horror, 50’s monster movies, 80’s skate culture and fashion, his work on screen is just as notable as his art on the streets. 

Q+A time!

What drives your desire to create?
The drive and desire to create is just there. It’s always there. My brain only works this way, it’s not really something I consciously think about. It’s instinct, it’s just what I do.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
I’m a native here so it’s kind of a double edged sword, it inspires me and repels me at the same time. I’ve seen the city change and the people change, from one day to the next it can be different how I feel about my city. Chicago is a creative city, buts it’s also a hard city and that in itself can be inspiring, the contrast of light and dark is ever present. Both of those energies can be seen in my work. I walk the line of disturbing and whimsical and I’m always fighting an internal battle of what my work is. Do I hate it, do I love it? It just depends on the day.

What are you most proud of, professionally or otherwise?
There isn’t one thing I’m particularly proud of, it’s rare that I look at my work and say YES!!! For me it can always be better and going back to what drives me, the need to make things better is a huge driving force. All that said, the fact that I do this for a living makes me proud, the fact that I feel like I haven’t had a real job most of my adult life makes me proud…and of course my children make me proud and that pushes me to be better everyday.

What is your dream creative project?
Recently I’ve been focusing mainly on the art side, after the past year at Onion Labs I feel like I needed a break from production life. But I think my dream project would be to adapt and direct a live action version of a childhood book I have. It’s called Monsters, Ghoulies and Creepy Creatures. I checked it out from the library when I was in kindergarten and I never brought it back. To this day it’s my prized possession. It’s this great collection of weird, beautiful and creepy short stories and poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins. It would be incredible to see it become a reality, design the creatures, direct the scenes and just breathe life into it.  

How does this month’s theme – work – mean to you?
It’s pretty spot on, this whole summer and autum have been jam packed, all leading up to Art Basel in Miami to cap off the year. November has been the busiest month so far. This whole month you’ll hear from me…no I can’t do that, I have to work, no sorry I can’t make it, I work…where am I? I’m at work! This month is all work for me.

Registration opens next Monday for Brian’s talk on November 20th at the brand new ArcLight Cinemas in Lincoln Park.

Shock is commonly defined as a sudden upsetting or surprising experience. Shock forces us to question our perspectives and confront new information. And that’s exactly what Rashalya Marie Brown evoked in the entire CreativeMornings last Friday. Her talk detailed the innerworkings of her creative process and explored the many themes that her work examines, all while reminding us that the “personal” always is – and will always be – “political.” In addition to fueling our creative palettes for the day, Rashayla engaged in a highly interactive Q&A that led us all into a deeper conversation about authenticity, reality and cultural expectations. Keep a look out for the video in the following weeks. Til then, explore some of the shocking #CMTakeaways below!

Gosh! I have so many feelings about today’s @chicago_cm! And not only because the speaker was a dear friend and collaborator of mine but because their experience and candor exemplified the notions that we all go through as makers, designers and thinkers. I’m so grateful to be able to sit next to people who are actively concerned with reframing narratives and challenging the systems we have learned to be untrue and invalid. Thank you, @rmbstudios for being a beacon of light and vulnerability. Thank you @swissmiss for creating a platform that allows people to speak freely about their creative pursuits. And most importantly, thank you to the Chicago #creativemornings community that asked some incredibly relevant and challenging questions this morning. Pure magic ✨

A photo posted by Miss Demeanor (@elijaa_) on

The hustle continues @jamestgreen_ #cmtakeaways

A photo posted by @rustyccook on

Next up: visual artist BRAIN KILLER (aka Brian Keller) chimes in on our Work series on Friday, November 20th. Come for the free coffee and breakfast but stay for Brian’s talk towards his solid grassroots and guerilla foundation. Tickets available Monday, November 16th at 8am. Mark your calendars! This is definitely a morning of creativity you won’t want to miss! See ya soon!

Have a powerful month!



If this image caught your eye on the cover of the Reader a few weeks back then you’re already familiar with the work of Rashayla Marie Brown, this month’s speaker. Rashayla’s prolific creative practice isn’t bound by theme or medium. She engages installation, storytelling, video projection, lecture, dance, and audience interaction—sometimes all in one performance—to explore themes of race, sexuality, spirituality, culture, and subjectivity. If that’s not impressive enough, she also writes, curates, and fosters community as SAIC’s Director of Student Affairs for Inclusion and Diversity. 

Q+A time!

What drives your desire to create?
The desire to be free. To be anything. Artists can be whatever they want.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
The sense of collaboration and community and the numerous opportunities to show work keep me on my toes. I can never say I’m bored or alone.

What are you most proud of, professionally or otherwise?
The fact that I have consistently stayed an artist no matter what obstacles come my way. Also, that I have a solid reputation as one of the hardest-working emerging artists and Renaissance people out there. No one can take my work ethic from me.

What is your dream creative project?
To direct a film or TV show with a mixture of pop culture and academic figures and artists. I want it to be bigger than Lena Dunham when it comes to feminism in the public sphere and bring an element of satire to contemporary feminist scholarship.

What is the relationship between this month’s theme—shock—and your work?
I don’t really seek to shock people necessarily. I like the word provocative better. I make work that makes people think about their position in society, and if they are shocked by the strong emotions this brings, then I hope they are driven to process that and take ownership for their own experience.

Rashayla will be repping CreativeMornings next Friday, October 16th during Chicago Ideas Week. If you look to CreativeMornings for your monthly dose of inspiration, Rashayla will surely deliver some fresh perspectives.

I’m already pumped for Friday! Hope you are too!


Although there are many ways to understand empathy, most would agree that it is the rooted in the ability to understand and share the feelings of another individual. Last week, Antonio García, a strategist and storyteller, graced the stage to share some lessons learned on the intersection of empathy and design in his work at Firebelly and gravitytank. Antonio is firm believer in challenging oneself to be open to other individual’s perspectives. He recognizes that “empathy is an act of vulnerability” within itself. Go forth and explore some of the #CMTakeaways that were captured below!

Next up: Lifelong nomad, artist and scholar, Rashayla Marie Brown will be bringing her perspective to our Shock series on Friday, October 16th. Rashayla’s multi-disciplanary work work exploits the role of the artist as both an agent and an object of desire. This is a morning of creativity you definitely won’t want to miss. See you in a couple of weeks!

Double high five + the crisp air of fall!



Joining us this month to share his insights on the intersection of empathy and design is strategist and storyteller Antonio García. His career in socially-responsible and user-centered design has included holding posts at Firebelly and gravitytank, where he currently guides interaction design and social innovation as an Associate Partner.

If you were fortunate enough to snag a ticket to Friday’s talk, here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store!

What drives your desire to create?
Personally, it’s seeing other people’s work and getting excited and motivated to join them. I get lots of inspiration from within design and illustration but also from outside our industry: technology, streetwear, toys, video games, movies, animation, signage, stories and so on. Professionally, I’m driven to make complex things more clear. To make people care. To motivate them to take action. To spur transactions and exchange. To fight for the user. To champion the cause. To help organizations grow. To create value and push things forward.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
I fall madly in love with our skyline every single time I see it. Doesn’t matter the time of day or angle I see it from, I’m filled with energy and excitement. I love our parks and lakefront. I love riding the train and people watching. I hate our segregation but I love our ethnic enclaves and the food and culture you find in each one. When it comes to creativity, Chicago’s midwest work ethic is unparalleled—no place hustles heads-down like we do. I love following my favorite Chicago artists and auteurs on Instagram (Kyle LaMere, Brandon Breaux, Chad Khouri, Chuck Anderson, Czr Prz, Paul Octavious, Will Miller, Andy Luce…) I’m proud of Chicago’s emerging rap talent (Chance, Saba, Taylor Bennet, Mick Jenkins…) I love our indie filmmakers like Strange Loop Studios and Kartemquin Films. There’s so much to experience and be influenced by.

What are you most proud of, professionally or otherwise?
I’m proud of the interaction design team I have the honor of leading at gravitytank. We’ve got some of the brightest, most thoughtful people working on really gnarly technology and design challenges. Everyone’s super committed to each other and the work. It’s awesome to be shoulder to shoulder with such good people who care deeply about the end-user experience and like to define the future together.

What is your dream creative project?
Creating an entire universe of illustrated characters that teach kids how to be better humans through interactive play, exploration and discovery. Basically a scenario where I get to draw a lot of cute things, talk in different character voices and work with animators, motion designers, developers and early childhood development experts to make awesome immersive experiences (digital and IRL!) for young people.

What does this month’s theme—empathy—mean to you?
Empathy is recognizing yourself in other people.

See you Friday at Leo Burnett’s Department of Design!

Last week, Jim Bachor—the artist behind the delightful pothole installations around Chicago—joined the Creative Mornings family to share a few perspectives towards our Action series. Jim strongly believes that trusting in our experiences and relying on our instincts can lead us to impactful opportunities. As he eloquently stated, “asking for permission is often overrated.” Sometimes it’s important to follow your instincts and not ask for other’s opinions. Dig into some of the #CMTakeaways that were captured below!

Mark your calendars! Our next talk will be on Friday, September 25th. We’ll be exploring the empathetic process of Antonio García, Associate Partner at gravitytank. Not only does he believe that design’s sole function is to create change, he often participates in community conversations on the topics of diversity, culture and creativity. See you in a couple of weeks!

High five!

Joining the Creative Mornings community this month to speak to the theme of Action is mosaic artist cum street artist Jim Bachor. From bomb pops to Blagojevich, Jim’s subject matter is a reflection of American—hell, Chicago—culture. And you’re most likely to stumble across it in the most unexpected of places—our potholes.

Let’s get to it and get to know Jim.

What drives your desire to create?
I think some folks are just pre-wired to want to. One of the things that drives me is to leave a mark on this world while I’m here, however minor. I’m pretty sure my 9 year-old twins aren’t going to be building a pyramid in my honor so I think that’s part of the reason I was drawn to such a durable art form. Another motivating factor is the need to just get thoughts out of my head and documented.

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
With the pothole campaign, Chicago certainly was an influence by just being what it is—a midwestern city with some wear-n-tear along it’s edges. For all of its problems I still love the city. I like the idea of a Chicagoan being proud enough of his town to brand it’s plentiful potholes as our own.

What are you most proud of, professionally or otherwise?
The obvious/required answer is my twin boys Ajax and Henry but that’s probably not the answer you’re looking for. I think I’m most proud of making people rethink what a mosaic can be. The art form comes with a ton of baggage (think your aunt’s mosaic flower pots or mirror frames). Hopefully I’ve started to make people reconsider preconceived ideas of what a mosaic is.

What does this month’s theme—Action—mean to you?
Taking risks without over-thinking what people’s reactions might be or what the ramifications might be.

What’s the best reaction you’ve received to one of your pothole installations?
My favorite reaction was the guy that stopped and chatted with me as I finished up an installation on a cold morning back in 2014. He left and came back in 20 minutes with a coffee and danish for me to thank me for helping beautify his neighborhood. 

Join us on August 28th for your monthly dose of creative inspiration as Jim shares with us how he took to the streets to find a place for his art while sprucing up our fair city.

See you next week!


As creatives, we all know it takes a lot of effort and energy to successfully collaborate. There are so many elements involved in making sure a balance is maintained and that all voices are fairly represented.

Last week, Sandra & Mathieu Holl—the masterminds behind local café and bakery Floriole—graced the Creative Mornings stage to chime in on our collaboration series. They reminded us that collaboration starts with “being open to working as team and recognizing that we are more than the sum of our parts when we work together.” Explore and engage in some of #CMTakeaways that were captured.


Make sure to save the date for our next talk on Friday, August 28. We’ll be diving in to the world of Jim Bachor at Motorola as he sheds light on our Action series. Don’t miss out! And as always, a special thanks to everyone that shared their #CMTakeaways from this month’s talk.

Chicago’s creative community is overflowing with collaborative couples whose partnerships traverse life and work. Since July’s theme is Collaborate, we asked  Sandra & Mathieu Holl, the tastemakers behind local café and bakery Floriole to grace the Creative Mornings stage.

Here’s a few tidbits about the pair from Sandra to whet your appetite. 

What drives your desire to create?
Creating new items keeps my job interesting and challenging. It is an outlet to challenge myself, try new flavors and combination. I am also competitive with myself (and others) and enjoy creating a better version of a pastry. 

How does Chicago influence you or your work?
Chicago has a strong food scene with a lot of heavy hitters but still seems to lag behind in terms of pastry. By no means am I stating that Chicago does not have amazing pastry chefs and bakers—I just don’t feel like Chicago is a town that loves and appreciates pastry.  I hope to create great pastry and desserts that remind people that there is more to eating than just meat and potatoes. I want Chicagoans to get comfortable with making pastry an affordable little luxury in their lives. 

What are you most proud of, professionally or otherwise?
Mathieu and I are so proud that we started our business as a stand at the Green City Market and were able to grow it into what it is today. We are happy that we are a place where people are proud to work, a place where people can learn and grow. 

What does this month’s theme—Collaborate—mean to you?
Collaborate has so many meanings at Floriole. Mathieu and I collaborate on many projects at the bakery, we collaborate with our employees, with the farmers we work with, and with other businesses. Collaboration is being open to working as a team and recognizing that we are more than the sum of our parts when we work together. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of the kitchen?
Outside of the kitchen, Mathieu and I love working in the garden, riding bikes with our daughter and relaxing at home.

Join us on July 24th to hear Sandra & Mathieu share their story—and some of their delicious pastries!


For our 42nd Creative Mornings in Chicago, we invited the witty Kevin Lynch to chime in on our Revolution series. Not only was his talk jam-packed with hilarious stories from his self-initiated projects, he also shared many poignant, yet often overlooked, truths. Kevin continued to remind us that if you look too far ahead in life you’ll ruin the surprise. We’re delighted to share with you some of the wonderful moments captured from his talk hosted at Gene Siskel Film Center.

“Let’s revolutionize the way people #sharewithintenet” -@elijaa_

Wise words from Kevin Lynch. #cmtakeaways @yearbnb @chicago_cm

A photo posted by Stephanie Strauss (@straussphotography) on

#cmtakeaways: I’m so grateful to be involved with this wonderful community month after month 👌

A photo posted by goldi koxz (@elijaa_) on

Save the date for our next talk on Friday, July 24. We’ll be exploring the world of Sandra and Mathieu Holl of Floriole at Cards Against Humanity. The Chicago-based pastry chefs will shed some light towards our Collaborate series. Registration opens on Monday, July 20 at 11am CDT. Don’t miss out! And as always, a special thanks to everyone that shared their thought-provoking #CMTakeaways from this month’s talk. Please do keep em’ coming!

Cheers to summer! Make it a great month!