I’ve always wondered if there is a right way or a wrong way to have a successful Ideas Week because each year I feel as if I didn’t do enough or explore as much as I would have liked. In my defense, it is humanly impossible to attend every Ideas Week event. This year I did manage to squeeze in a few activities and as usual they were all very insightful and inspiring. Here’s a look at what I did for the 5th Annual Chicago Ideas Week.
3D Printing with Vis-Med
While Back to the Future incorrectly predicted we in 2015 we would be using Hoverboards, what they didn’t predict is how close we are to achieving huge medical advances from 3D printing. While 3D printing is nothing new (it’s been around for 15 years) what is new are the types of advancements we are seeing with that machine that once just made plastic little toys.
For Ideas Week, Chicago’s Vismed 3D guided Ideas Week participants through the world of 3D printing. We listened to a lecture from Dima Elissa who showed us the many ways 3D printing is being used for today. In Amsterdam, there is currently a 24-foot bridge being built with the use of 3D printed materials and we’ve already begun printing artificial body parts. But the real excitement comes when we can create 3D printed organs and parts from the use of stem cells. Just think about it, once we can successfully print these parts while using our own cells, this could possibly eliminate many sicknesses and diseases with just the creation of a new part. In fact, I wonder if this could increase our lifespan. I’m not trying to live forever, but imagine having the ability to print a replacement kidney or liver. With 3D printing, the list for those who need organs won’t be as long and people can be saved much quicker. However, with 3D printing we must figure out a way to have regulations and set some type of standard. Since it is fairly new, there’s still a lot that needs to be figured out before 3D printing becomes the norm.
After we learned the ins and outs of 3D printing, we were then guided to the 3D printing lab where we would see the process live. For this particular exercise participants were able to get 3D printed busts of themselves. We sat in a chair while being scanned, and later that scan would turn into a 3D printed replica. I haven’t received my bust yet, but I’m really hoping it’s not a lifesize replica as I have nowhere to put it. I’ve never been 3D printed before, so now I can cross that off my bucket list.
Whether we make plastic toys or 3D printed busts, one thing is for sure, we are headed to a new and exciting future.
Art as a Performance with Danny Volk
Admittedly I don’t know much about performance art. It always seemed to deep for me to grasp. Like how does a person naked painted in gold reflect the current state of humanity? I still don’t know the answer to that, but I do want to experience more performance artists. This is why I jumped at the opportunity to attend the premium Art as Performance Lab at MCA Chicago. For this lab we were going to witness a performance art piece, then we would be granted exclusive access to the new fourth-floor exhibit, The Freedom Principle.
The performance we were about to witness was Danny Volk’s “Made up by Danny Volk” During this performance, Danny interviews artists and members of the art world, while they apply makeup to his face. The artist is to go out and select the makeup products they want to use on Danny and the result is often times quite interesting. Especially since most artists aren’t necessarily the best makeup artists.
For a special premium Ideas Week feature, Danny interviewed artist Matthew Metzger whose work is currently featured in The Freedom Principle exhibit. They talked about his inspiration as well as life as an artist while Matthew tried his hand at makeup artistry. Clearly painting is different from makeup as Matthew mainly applied various oils and creams to Danny’s face. He then used an actual buffer to smooth everything out creating a very moisturized Danny. While I don’t advise trying this at home, I learned that a buffer doesn’t hurt when using on one’s face. Like I said don’t try this at home.
After the performance, we then browsed around The Freedom Principle exhibit which featured works and exhibitions from AACM (The Advancement of Creative Musician). It was like living out our Night at the Museum fantasies as the whole floor was opened just for us. With each room, there were visually arresting pieces highlighting the avant-garde side of the Chicago jazz age. From elaborate costumes to whimsical instruments this is certainly a must see exhibit.
Entrepreneurs and their Startup Stories
Since this was a week of curiosity, Chicago Ideas Week is never complete if there isn’t a conversation with the world’s leading entrepreneurs. For this year’s Entrepreneur chat we heard the startup stories from fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, Kay Koplovitz the Founder of USA Networks, Martine Rothblatt the Founder of Sirius XM, and Martha Stewart. From the conversation, we learned how they got their start and what risks they had to take to make their dreams a reality.
Cynthia Rowley shared how she was riding the train wearing one of her designs when a woman who happened to be a buyer for Marshall Fields asked who made her jacket? Cynthia proudly proclaimed that she was the designer of that jacket. The woman then asked if she had her own line and samples, and even though Cynthia was inexperienced she created some looks and seized the opportunity. Her collection was a success and she continues to leave her mark on the fashion world.
Then there was Kay Koplovitz who attended a lecture on satellites almost twenty years before there were satellite television networks. Her thirst for knowledge is what lead to her creating one of the first networks of its time; USA. Now she serves as a mentor to young women entrepreneurs and she guides them on their entrepreneurial journey.
With Martine Rothblatt, she wanted there to be a way for listeners to enjoy the radio without the static and interference of AM/FM networks. She wanted there to be a higher quality of sound with an expansive selection of stations. This need to solve a problem is what lead to the creation of Sirius XM.
What all of these stories have in common is that all of these fearless entrepreneurs were incredibly curious individuals. They didn’t remain stagnant and they wanted to expand their knowledge and skills sets. Martha Stewart is a great example of this as she’s built her empire beyond recipes and homemaking tips. She has a full blown empire as she continues to dominate the lifestyle industry with her own production company Omnimedia. She shared with the audience how she and her team also stay on top of all of the social media trends. Martha knew that social media would be the way to get a new audience of fans by attracting them to visually appealing content online. She has created an empire that spans many generations of curious individuals who want to know more about the Martha Stewart brand. It’s safe to say she has no intentions of going anywhere anytime soon.
However, the story that really resonated with me was Martine Rothblatt. What I truly admired was while she was knowledgeable on the tech side of things, she didn’t let this stop her from exploring the medical world. Her career took a shift when her daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Like any mother, she wanted to stop the pain so the wheels in the entrepreneur brain of Martine started spinning. Her daughter had less than a year to live so Martine knew that it would be up to her to find a cure. Through countless nights in the library researching biomedical technology, Martine was able to save her daughter’s life by developing a cure for that life threatening illness. This resulted in the creation of United Therapeutics. When she shared this story with the audience, she mentioned how it was love that led to this miraculous discovery. Not only did this help her daughter, but she was able to find a cure for anyone impacted by that illness.
My takeaway from all of the entrepreneurs that spoke that night is that there needs to be curiosity and a sense of fearlessness for one to be a successful entrepreneur. They all wanted to explore various topics and provide a solution to problems. What I also liked is that none of the speakers put themselves into a box. They allowed themselves to grow in various fields that interest them, even if that’s not where they began. A curious mind and a determined individual can make all the difference in the world.
Graffiti Art with Havas Worldwide Chicago
My first thought when I imagine the environment of ad agencies is something that looks like a scene out of Mad Men. However, my perception quickly changed when we visited Havas Worldwide for a Graffiti presentation. Instead of suits and ties, people were dressed in either leather or flannel. Outside of the office space were giant walls that served as blank canvases for the artists that reside there. Based on the space alone, we knew we would be in for quite a treat.
We are then lead to a conference room where the sounds of Afrika Bambaataa are blasting throughout the speakers. There are tubs of beer waiting for our consumption even though it was early in the afternoon. Our host of the afternoon was Chief Creative Officer of Havas Worldwide Jason Peterson. He reiterated what we could already see, that Havas Worldwide was by no means traditional.
Once we popped open a bottle of beer, and got comfortable, it was then time hear from the famous Chicago artists that make Havas Worldwide such a success. For our afternoon, we would get to meet JC Rivera who is famous for his Bear Champ, Sentrock who’s known for his Bird City Saints designs, and Matthew Hoffman of the You Are Beautiful campaign. Their images have left such strong lasting impressions in Chicago communities, making them instantly recognizable for residents as well as visitors. In order to aid the flow of the discussion, Chicago Ideas Week participants were encouraged to ask a wide range of questions ranging from how they got their start and where do they find inspiration.
What stood out to me was the conversation regarding the difference between tagging and graffiti art. One of the artists shared that there is no difference, as both individuals are showing to the world they exist. Graffiti is no higher of an art than someone who just tags their name. I thought that was an incredibly powerful statement, and it will force me to look at all street art a little differently.
In true ideas week, fashion we weren’t just going to sit around and listen to artists. After the discussion, JC, Matthew, and Sentrock went to create a mural on a giant canvas. All of their signature styles were present in the work, which made it a beautiful collaborative effort. Through the giant glass windows, we were able to witness firsthand the magic that was happening before us. However, while it was nice to watch, we became a part of the art as each participant was asked to draw something on a wooden panel. There were no instructions just draw. Admittedly, this was difficult for me since I have zero artistic skills. As you scan the room, you instantly notice the varying personalities of all of the artists in the room. Some people just did shapes, other’s art had a message, but every single person in our group expressed themselves and left their mark on the mural. All walks of life were present from actual artists to just curious individuals. One of the people I met was a sidewalk artist and there were quite a few younger teens there who were interested in street art. How cool is it that they got to miss school for an Ideas Week lab?
Once we were done with our works of art, we then added it to the mural that JC Rivera, Matthew Hoffman, and Sentrock had been working on. I was curious as to how it was going to turn out, but it was a beautiful creation that we all had our hand in.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to continue to shout from the rooftops how amazing Chicago Ideas Week is. It’s top notch in terms of Chicago offerings and I’ve never regretted any of my experiences. The only thing I regret is not doing more.
While Chicago Ideas Week is pretty awesome, Chicago Ideas actually has various activities and events for members all year long. If you are interested in joining, head over to ChicagoIdeas.com to learn more And seriously keep Chicago Ideas Week on your radar for next year as events do tend to sell out fast!