Next Chicago speaker

Hosted by CHI & IND: Chris Mosier

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• EDGE Athlete Lounge • part of a series on Divergent

February’s Theme is Divergent Technologist, author, and designer John Maeda explains, “A divergent thinker takes an idea and expands it. They look for new ways to connect it with other diverse things […] I’m in favor of a synthesis to connect the convergent and divergent.” As creators, builders, and thinkers, how can we get better at solving complex problems? A promising starting point is for us to be in the same spaces with those we’ve traditionally deemed different. Moments of divergence can create beautiful futures when we are willing to leave space for change. Take a step back to reflect on what winds of change you want to welcome into your life today. Our Valencia chapter chose this month’s exploration of Divergent and Núria Tamarit illustrated it. It is presented Globally by Basecamp and HEY

On Friday January 29, Englewood artist Tonika Johnson shared the vision behind her project, Folded Map!

On Friday, we talked about grocery stores. Yep, you read it right! Visual artist and photographer Tonika Johnson has a creative knack for sparking important conversations. She got us thinking about segregation in Chicago with the Folded Map pledge:

I, [insert name here] promise to visit a grocery store in a neighborhood different than my own.

Johnson is a visual artist and photographer, and also a co-founder of R.A.G.E. and Englewood Arts Collective. Her art and active role in her community is what earned her a spot as a 2017 “Chicagoan of the Year”.

The grocery store pledge came as part of her talk about Folded Map - Johnson’s renowned multi-media project which explores the differences of Chicago neighborhoods (she pointed out: it’s America’s #1 most segregated city). Folded Map brings together “Map Twins” - folks living on the same street on different sides of the city - to meet each other and talk about real estate, economics and stories of their neighborhoods. She asks her participants questions like:

  • Why did you come to your neighborhood?    
  • What’s missing in your neighborhood?    
  • Is your place of peace in your neighborhood or somewhere else?    
  • How much do you pay to live in your neighborhood?

She starts these conversations through everyday actions (like groceries!). Her goal is to foster intentional and introspective real-world experiences of different neighborhoods. It’s an idea sparked from her own high school commute, which started at 5:45am and took her thirteen miles north on the bus every morning. The project is personal, profound and action-based. It’s no surprise it’s been featured in museums and publications across the city. Tonika has big plans to expand the project to more cities. We had guests hailing from other cities like Indianapolis, Milwaukee and LA - all curious to meet their own “Map Twin”. Wanna find yours?

Download the Folded Map Action Kit and learn how to find yours in any city!


CMChi encourages everyone to take the Folded Map Pledge and share it to social media. #CMPromise #CMCHI #FoldedMap Learn more about Folded Map website, and sign up for updates on the project.

Alina Celeste Hevia is an educator and fellow at the Jubilation Foundation and musician and creator at gocreativeprograms.com. Her talk was about children and how they learn about their human connection to the world around us through animals and plants. She also brought her ukulele and a little music moment to our morning with a song called “If I Had A Rooster”.

Britt Hankins is a Logan Square resident and an SEO analyst at VMLY&R, and she shared what she’s been doing to bring nature into her orbit during quarantine. Through her talk about the little ways to find nature in your day and space, she helped us reframe what “connecting with nature” can mean. Her top tips: fresh air, plants, pets, and biking!

Ozzy Gámez is a plant extraordinaire and a co-founder of The Plant Shop on Elston. He talked about how his passion for plants developed in his home country of Belize and how he brought that influence to Chicago - and we’re so grateful he did! We learned of the therapeutic effects of plants, and the way they shaped his life growing up alongside clear waterfalls, lush leaves, and his grandfather’s farm. He also brought a few do’s and dont’s on raising plants. With Ozzy’s help, Chicago will soon become a jungle of houseplants!

  • DO give them quality sunlight, let them breathe, learn about their home climates and find the right spot in your home for them.
  • DON’T over-pot, over-water, or put them through too many changes.

Digital Illustrator* Kiyomi Negi-Tran (@letskeepdrawing) created beautiful live sketches as Alina Celeste, Britt, and Ozzy presented to our audience.

A promise is doing something “because I said I would.” Promises can come in all shades, depths, and forms: appointments, acts of kindness, creating and quitting habits, agreements, and resolutions. Thanks to life’s unpredictability, we make and break them all the time. But what is the value and impact of being individuals of our word? In the Albanian culture, the word “Besa” means a code of honor and faithfulness. It exceeds the meaning of merely keeping a promise, thus becoming mythologized in its divinity as a solemn oath. Promises that are made and kept are exchanges of power We invite you to make and keep one promise to yourself and one promise to others this year. When applied towards positive impact, even the smallest fulfilled promises can create meaningful ripples of change. Our Tirana chapter chose this month’s exploration of Promise and the talented Jolin Matraku illustrated the theme.

December’s Theme is Biophilia Appreciate living things.
Commune with nature.
Bring the outdoors in.
Coined in the 1960s by Erich Fromm, “biophilia” refers to a beautiful idea: Whether it’s a human, an animal, a plant, or in the wild, humans have an innate desire and instinct to want to connect with nature and other living systems. The increasing hum of busy neighborhoods and cities, heavy traffic, and superficial reading on our devices can numb our natural senses. However, even in the most urban environments, we express our biophilia by placing a newly potted plant in the corner or allowing greenery to grow organically up concrete walls. Every day, we have the opportunity to grow into relentless stewards and protectors of our living environments, and not just lovers and beneficiaries of it all. Together, we exist. CreativeMornings speaker Missy Singer DuMars aptly said, “The nature around us is the nature within us.” Our Düsseldorf chapter chose this month’s exploration of Biophilia, Lara Paulussen illustrated the theme, and our new Global Partner Skillshare is presenting the theme globally!

When we embrace radical ideas for positive change, we must be willing to reconstruct what we see and act otherwise. Better doors and realities can only open when we collectively start to move differently. “In the space of ‘ideas’ is where we can radically change systems,” explains artist and cultural organizer Favianna Rodriguez. “And that is, how do we completely re-envision our society?” Being radical can also be as simple as exercising a new level of hospitality and generosity. Entrepreneur and activist Tanya Torp shares, “It’s radical when you let other people lead, and you get out of the way. I define radical hospitality as ‘transformational connections through welcome.“ This month, we encourage you to quiet your mind and think about a few areas you’re willing to shake things up. Together, let’s create more radically profound, kind, and welcoming rooms. Our San Diego chapter chose this month’s exploration of Radical and Maheswari Janarthanan illustrated the theme. Mailchimp is presenting the theme globally! 

“Community is not bound by physical space..”

On Friday, CM/Chi partnered with chapters in Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Toronto to come together and speak to this month’s theme of Transit, chosen by CM/Cle. Dubbed CM/Great Lakes, it was a morning of poetry, music, art, and thoughtful conversation with dynamic speakers, proving the community is not bound by physical space. 

Attendees heard a stirring poem by Julio Montalvo Valentin and a song by Jan & Greg Thompson of The Human-Kind Quest, written especially for the CM/Great Lakes event, celebrating and referencing the beauty of the Great Lakes Region.

Dr. Chris Bobko shared his thoughts on hyperloop technology, introduced by Elon Musk. With his team at Hyperloop TT, he is focusing on bringing this new mode of transportation to life. “We can shrink distance measured by time… Techonolgy can help bridge the gap.” Chris shared how hyperloop technology can completely re-imaging the passenger experience, eliminating travel delays we see today journeying by car, airplane, railroad. The Midwest region is the perfect testing ground for hyperloop technology after the Great Lakes Feasibility Study showed current modes of transportation are outdated and inefficient. This technology would introduce high speed rail with point-to-point travel and would be environmentally friendly. 

Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, spoke with passion on her belief that now is the time to engage in city building and take ownership of our shared future. “We should use transit as a tool to evaluate what we are doing… in our best moments we need to make sure everyone has the opportunity to thrive.” Drawing from the documentary, The Social Dilemma, Jennifer said it influenced her to be aware that something invented for positive impact and use can turn into disastrous catalysts of division. She encouraged the audience to stand your ground and do what you can for your own community and be an advocate, especially in this time of pandemic. “Governance, inclusion, and human lives… make sure all voices are heard.” 

Musician Ernie Adams, an international touring drummer and professor, shared that his life and career are always in transit. “I am in constant transit…constantly moving, even as an infant.” Constantly surrounded by music, thanks to his father, Ernie got his first musical gig at age 15 and immediately found his calling. “[Music] gave me new opportunities and musical connections… and I felt like I started to belong.” For Ernie, transit also meant travel, locally and internationally, touring with some of the biggest names in music. He encouraged the audience, “When it is safe to do so, travel and explore. Get lost. See different parts of the world, as we explore, we also explore ourselves. Embrace those differences.” He closed by encouraging the audience to stay grateful and inspired. 

Digital Illustrator Kiyomi Negi-Tran (@letskeepdrawing) created beautiful live sketches as Dr. Chris Bobko, Jennifer Keesmaat, and Ernie Adams spoke to our audience.

We would like to thank EVERYONE who made this inaugural event possible:

  1. Deaf Access Services for providing ASL interpretation for this event. 
  2. The Great Lakes CM Chapters and their AMAZING hosts: Kelly Atkinson (CM/Buf), Marlene Paez Dukes (CM/Chi), Thomas Fox (CM/Cle), Anne Marie Sumner (CM/Det), Emily Scholl (CM/GR), Paul Oemig (CM/Mke), Mar Reyes and Ivan Wanis Ruiz (CM/To)
  3. Our amazing speakers: Dr. Chris Bobko, Jennifer Keesmaat, and Ernie Adams
  4. Michelle O’Sullivan and the team at Trope for allowing CM/Chi to utilize the beautiful gallery space located in the Wildman Boiler & Tank Co. building on Chicago’s West Side.
  5. All of our incredible sponsors!

“How can we make space for new ideas and creative energy while staying in place?” Our @creativemorningscleveland​ chapter chose this month’s exploration of Transit and Aleea Rae (aleearaeart.myportfolio.com/) illustrated it.

“During these tough times, they can’t cancel our creativity”

At the newly opened creative maker-space and social club Guild Row, Ivan Vazquez shared his experiences as a Mexican-American man growing up in Chicago’s Little Village and how loss, his best friend’s death at 17, and a traumatic experience with the police at age 11 ultimately lead Vazquez to step out of the grey and into the spectrum to be a renowned visual artist recognized locally and globally, creator, musician, and DJ with a lifetime love for Hip-Hop, Graffiti art, and Chicago’s breakdance/beat box scene. 

Presenting his painting La Princesa Mononoke ( The protector of the urban jungle), Ivan talked about being full of fearlessness as a young boy in Chicago, spending time with his crew breakdancing, going to school, and spending time with his best friend, Luis. Breakdancing on the corner with friends, they were approached by a police officer. Exclaiming, “We are just dancing!” Vazquez recalled a swift punch to the stomach and on the ground in tears. “I had the fearlessness knocked out of me.. And I retreated to the grey area, the safe space in the spectrum…[in the end] I used art as a weapon to combat fearlessness.”

Coping with this trauma, Ivan stopped B-Boying and dancing and became an indoor hermit focusing on high school studies and video games. He discovered music production as a safe route stating, “I knew I had talent and potential, but I was afraid to go all in.” Citing major influences such as Sade, De La Soul, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Frankie Knuckles as inspiration for his music, ultimately the music of Sade inspired Vazquez to later create his Queen of Diamonds street art graffiti series. This series would come to represent the teachers, activists, and people in the community that he considered heroes. Tied in with Hip-Hop, Sade became a symbol of femininity, compelling Vazquez to engage and contribute to the feminist movement to combat misogyny and gender inequality in today’s society. 

Having lost friends to senseless gang violence, including his childhood best friend murdered at age 17, he stored this pain away for over 15 years. Discovering an old photo from junior high graduation, Ivan had an epiphany. “It was seeing Luis’s heavenly smile and feeling his hand on my shoulder that I had my revival…Art was my way to heal. I turned to art to channel grief and pain.” It became Ivan’s mission to empower and educate youth with positive, relatable, and alternative lifestyles away from violence and gang culture, citing his work with The Simple Good.

His work celebrates Chicago, a deep spiritual connection to his Mexican heritage and the indegenious Aztec culture, and a connection to the Earth. “Chicago is all about the unity.. the solidarity.. All that love I received as a kid.. I am so excited to give it back to the community.” In the last few minutes of his talk, he emphasized the need to come together and unify as a city and community, to help create a strong foundation and balance in a constantly changing world.

Digital Illustrator Kiyomi Negi-Tran (@letskeepdrawing) created a beautiful live sketch as Ivan Vazquez spoke to our audience. 

“Stress can either destroy us… Or it can create the opportunity to do something bigger”

At her Avondale restaurant Wherewithall, James Beard Award winning Chef Beverly Kim spoke about the vulnerabilities of stress while demonstrating kimchi jeegae taught by her grandmother, who recently passed from COVID-19. Its intricate flavors became more than just a dish to pass down, but robust layers that reflected Beverly Kim’s life as a Korean woman, domestic violence survivor, mother, Top Chef contestant, determined to kick down gender walls in the culinary industry, and to rise again through the challenges of the pandemic. 

“Fighting for the truth makes you strong,” she claimed while adding pork belly and sesame oil to the steaming pot.  

Coping with ill family members and sharply pivoting Wherewithall and Parachute into to-go ventures with her husband and restaurant co-founder, Kim had to hit the reset button.  She found peace in waking up and watching the sunrise journaling. Reading her news feed became a second priority. She let go of what wasn’t important and urged the audience to do the same. 

“Treasure what is important to you, connect with your inner self, but also connect with others,” Kim said. 

Through daily gratitude practice, she emphasized passing on positive energy and giving to the world in your own way is crucial.  “We should all keep dreaming. Don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you [that] you can’t dream big. Let’s dream about making a world more socially equitable… a beautiful place to be.” 

In the last few moments of her talk, Beverly asked the audience to support local restaurants in their neighborhood. “Do not forget them. They need us.”

Beverly recently began The Abundance Setting, an initiative to help support working mothers succeed in the culinary and hospitality industry. She said, “Stress can either destroy us… or it can create the opportunity to do something bigger.” 

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