For one week in October 2016, Chicago Ideas and Comcast brought a Portal to Daley Plaza for Chicago Ideas Week 2016, one of the world's largest gatherings for the exploration of ideas in policy, entertainment, sports, and entrepreneurship. 2016 speakers included Hillary Clinton, Sal Khan, and George Lucas.
After navigating some tricky Chicago traffic, permitting and plaza regulations, we got the Portal to the perfect site right under a massive, spectacular sculpture by Pablo Picasso and kicked off a fantastic week of programming.
Working with the team at Chicago Ideas for the preceding month, we had created a lineup of events from morning to night each day. Here's what we did:
Conversations with Gaza
Connect Chicago high school students (juniors and seniors) with juniors and seniors in Gaza City. The students talked about each other's cultures, struggles, stories and lives and discussed literature, music, goals for the future, social work, sports, food and traditions.
Yoga with Kigali
Next, Chicago-based MindFuel & Wellness led a yoga course for yoga lovers in Kigali, and received training from counterparts in Rwanda. These yoga instructors traded notes on the inclusiveness that yoga provides and the key differences between the way the art form is practiced in each location.
Spanish class with Honduras
Then in the afternoon, a Chicago Spanish class met with an English class in El Progreso, Honduras and spent several hours in dialogue about everything under the sun.
Innovation Brainstorming with Yangon
On the surface, being an entrepreneur in Chicago might seem entirely different from being one in Yangon, Myanmar, but this Portal connection highlighted the similarities between the two. The program began with an hour of entrepreneurs in Chicago and Yangon sharing tips and best practices on everything from elevator pitches to business plans. Participating entrepreneurs in Chicago include Martin McGovern, co-founder of Idea Lemon, and Minhaj Chowdhury, 2016 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder & CEO, Drinkwell. After the entrepreneurs traded notes, the Portal opened up to the broader public and strangers in the two countries got a chance to converse at a historic time for Myanmar.
Blues Music Collaboration Between Chicago and Rwanda
Chicago’s history is intertwined with that of blues music, and this Portal connection showcased just that. Eddie Taylor, Jr. and Harmonica Hinds performed a stripped-down blues concert for an audience in Kigali, Rwanda, forging a connection between the two cities that’s sure to inspire both locations.
Dance Collaboration with the University of Maryland
Chicago’s dance scene is pretty stellar, and at this Portal connection the city showed off moves to College Park, Maryland. Multiple pairs of Chicago-based dancers from DanceWorks Chicago joined a group from the University of Maryland to dance, learn new moves and collaborate on an improvisational dance piece.
Artistic Collaboration with Mexico City
Chicago and Mexico City both have amazing art scenes, and they came together in an inspiring, collaborative fashion at this Portal connection. Artists in both cities collaborated on artworks that pushed the boundaries of art and creativity.
Storytelling Sessions with Yangon, Myanmar
Storytelling is one of humanity’s most universal traits—it's been present in every single civilization that has ever existed. At this Portal connection, a group of storytellers from Chicago joined a group from Yangon, Myanmar to go over each other’s processes and listen to stories from the other side of the world. Chicago-based storytellers joined Project&'s Working in America series, in which people share stories about their work, giving deep insight into the reality of their day-to-day lives.
An international jam session with Mexico City
Chicago is an international city, and taking a look at its music culture makes that quite clear. At this Portal connection, Chicago-based hip-hop artist Ric Wilson put on show for a crowd in Mexico City, followed by a performance from an artist in Mexico. It was an amazing international jam session.
Connecting Youth in Chicago and Iraq
Members of Chicago Ideas Week’s YOU(th) program meet other children their age in Erbil, Iraq at this Portal connection. The two groups exchanged ideas and experiences, and discover each other’s similarities.