GRAPHIC: Celebrating Arts with This Year’s First All-School Colloquium
By Kate Clemenz and Edina Hadzic
International Science Fair qualifiers, skillful computer scientists, and more were showcased in last semester’s all school colloquium. Entitled “Graphic!”, it was a celebration of all things creative. Students were able to sign up for three different sessions: two presentations and a movie. Presenters ranged from singers to artists to inventors discussing unique aspects of their careers and personal endeavors. At the end of the day, students were given a choice to view either of two documentaries: “Science Fair” or “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
One speaker during the first session was Northside alumna, Kalina Borkiewicz. Borkiewicz explained the work she does as a visualization programmer for the Advanced Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Borkiewicz uses her computer science skills to create beautiful imagery of solar storms, space, and our planet. These images are frequently used in well-known documentaries such as “A Beautiful Planet,” and “Solar Superstorms.” They provide accurate and aesthetically pleasing depictions of different elements of space. Borkiewicz’s presentation showed how science can be used to create mesmerizing art, and she encouraged students to integrate their interests.
Another Northside alumna, Tasha Viets-VanLear, gave a presentation titled “Radical Softness and the Magic of Making Music from my Bed.” After performing a few of her songs, she spoke about her journey into music. She admitted to starting off casually and just playing guitar on the side. She fell in love with the hobby and finally burst onto the music scene after opening for a friend’s show. From there, she was able to make connections that brought her into the music industry. Viets-VanLear also spoke about her experience with activism, as well as her struggle to find her place and identity as a queer woman of color. She left the audience with an interesting idea to ponder: “You have to make space for yourself, you might have to force it, but that can be exciting because the possibilities are endless.” Viets-VanLear’s performance was a soft, safe space, and her presence as a queer woman of color was inspiring to those who saw themselves in her.
The second session of the day also featured a wide array of speakers, one of them being Sean Smyth, co-founder of the organization, Pechakucha. Smyth received an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and spent most of his career as an employee at Groupon. He spent several years promoting Groupon and raked in billions of dollars for the company. Before working for Groupon, he oversaw marketing and product development for Metramonix.com, and served in marketing roles at AOL, Motorola, and MTV subsidiaries. The presentation focused on Smyth’s latest endeavor, Pechakucha. The website provides a platform used by millions to create simple, concise presentations. The format provides users with twenty slides along with twenty seconds of commentary per slide. Smyth appeared to focus on creating a business pitch to Northsiders, and tried to encourage them to use his platform.
Another speaker in the second session was Matthew Hoffman, the creator of the You Are Beautiful sticker and subsequent movement. In his session titled “You Are Beautiful: A Roundtable Discussion,” he spoke about how he started his company. He had just moved to Chicago when he had the idea to print some stickers with an inspiring message, with the hopes of brightening someone’s day in a small way. The stickers were a hit, and he eventually set up a PO Box and a simple HTML website. His first small batch of stickers eventually grew into the popular company that it is today. Hoffman also talked about his work with public art. He started off with a tiny, unsanctioned piece that simply read “you are beautiful,” but people eventually caught wind of it and wanted to place their own orders. He now has art all over the country. Finally, Hoffman gave us time to talk to each other about a possible art piece we would like to have at Northside. Students suggested different phrases, such as “you are worthy” and “you are enough.” They also had ideas for art pieces such as interactive boards, and double-purposed art in the windows that could also prevent bird collisions. Hoffman’s story of hard work and love was inspiring, and his proposal for an art project at Northside was exciting for the audience to be involved in.
During the final session of the day, students watched the documentary “Science Fair.” It told the entertaining and inspiring story of nine high school students from around the world who hoped to qualify for The International Science and Engineering Fair, a prestigious international science fair. The film highlighted the level of dedication, intelligence, and perseverance necessary to be able to conduct research at such a high caliber. By the end, it was clear that the audience was just as invested in the results of the competition as the actual competitors were. The stories told were so compelling that when they announced the winners on screen, Northside students clapped and cheered. The movie was exciting, fast-paced, and interesting; it was nice to see students our own age who were doing such advanced work. The students in the movie have the potential to change the world, and their journey was fascinating to follow.
This year’s first all-school colloquium provided, as always, multiple opportunities for students to learn about the infinite ways they can build their careers and lives off of things they love. Between the different sessions and the two movies for students to choose from, there was plenty to learn and get excited about. Each presenter provided insight into the ways they were able to take their interests and make a living off of them and left students feeling inspired and excited about their futures as well as Northside’s next all-school colloquium.