What To See And Do At Chicago Ideas Week 2016

An Ink Factory artist draws in front of a panel discussion at Chicago Ideas

Ink Factory has been involved with Chicago Ideas Week from the start, graphic recording all of the on-stage events over the past five years. Every year the ideas and speakers captivate and energize us, and it looks like this year will be no different. To get a sneak peek at Chicago Ideas 2016, which comes to town this October 17-23, we chatted with Mel Safford, director of booking and The Co-Op at Chicago Ideas.

Mel is part of the team responsible for recruiting the great minds (like Abby Wambach, Sam Zell and “War” author Sebastian Junger) who will speak during the week-long ideas festival, so there’s no one better to give us the scoop on what to see and do.


IF: There’s a lot happening during CIW. Do you have any tips on how to make the most of the week?

Mel: First of all, become a Member. The ticket packages and event access with certain Member levels make it easier to attend a lot of events. Also, play around with the filters on the event schedule on the website. We’re trying to make it easier for people to find events that align with their interests—if that’s what they’re looking for. And finally, step outside your comfort zone. One of my favorite things about CIW is how just about every program has speakers from different industries and with different backgrounds. It really helps you get a comprehensive take of the issue at hand. And don’t forget to meet as many people as possible. You never know what kind of action an idea will spark if you meet the right person.

An Ink Factory artist adds color to a visual note drawing from Chicago Ideas

An artist from Ink Factory creates live visual notes for Chicago Ideas

Any big changes we should anticipate this year?

I’m super excited about Portals, which is our collaboration with the public art group Shared Studios and presented by Comcast-NBCUniversal. It’s basically this big shipping container we’re putting in Daley Plaza that’s outfitted with state-of-the-art immersive audio-visual technology and connected to other portals around the world. So you can step into a portal and come face-to-face with someone in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Mexico, Honduras, Myanmar, or…Milwaukee!

We’ve curated a number of programs that’ll happen in the portal (like, a Blues concert performed for an audience in Kigali, Rwanda; or a Chicago High School Spanish class face-to-face with an English Class in El Progreso, Honduras). It’s pretty groundbreaking to be able to connect the world through ideas like this.

The Creative Process - Visual notes created for Chicago Ideas

Visual notes created for Chicago Ideas on Architecture

Visual notes created for Chicago Ideas on Cybersecurity

What events are on your must-see list this year?

There’s nothing better than Life’s Big Questions on opening night at the Cadillac Palace Theater, Monday, Oct 17. You will laugh, cry, feel something and learn something. Not to mention we are cooking up a wow-factor surprise finale performance… After we kick off with a bang, I cannot wait for Wildcard on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Every speaker coming out on stage will be a surprise to the sold-out audience. Our Social Entrepreneurship conversation on Tuesday morning is also a can’t-miss — four of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, all under the age of 35, will dive into how they work with a global purpose for good. I also can’t wait for the Hip-Hop talk at the MCA on Thursday, Oct. 20. We’ve taken a stance in calling Hip Hop the “Essential American Art Form” and I can’t wait for our speaker to delve into the intricacies of this pervasive genre. And of course Edison Talks on Friday, Oct. 21. Always a groundbreaking day in the most unexpected ways

An artist creates a graphic recording during Chicago Ideas

Ink Factory is excited to once again graphic record all of the on-stage events. How do you think graphic recording enhances the Chicago Ideas Week experience?

I love how our events live on in perpetuity because of Ink Factory’s graphic recordings. Watching the artist in action is incredible, but how they’re able to so succinctly capture these incredibly complex and dynamic thoughts is even more amazing.


To learn more about Chicago Ideas Week or buy tickets, visit ChicagoIdeas.com. And follow @the_ink_factory, @ChicgaoIdeas and the #ChicagoIdeas hashtag on Twitter to see behind-the-scenes before and during Chicago Ideas Week.