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1515 Sherman Avenue, Suite 2-SW
Evanston, IL 60201
USA

Blog

A Night To Remember...

Hackstudio

What do you get when you mix 3 architects; 2 designers; 3 design professors2 illustrators; 2 top school teachers; 2 school founders; 2 Hackstudio kids, 1 "innovator-in-residence"; a former derivatives trader; an urban strategist; a children's book author and an incredible spread from Evanston's Ten Mile House restaurant?

Answer: a full belly and a spinning head!

On the evening of February 23rd, the ideas were piled as high as Janey's mac-and-cheese as Hackstudio and Wonder By Design hosted a salon dinner to bring together some of our smartest and most interesting friends to build friendships and exchange thoughts around a common passion: improving the experience of learning for kids.

The event was inspired by (and held in) Hackstudio's wide-open 16,000 square foot "blank canvas" space. Knowing we have the opportunity to build anything we want to impact kids, we thought it would be fun to assemble some great minds and include them in an open exploration of possibilities. It was important to us that everyone benefit from the discussion so we expanded the topic to cover everyone's passions and interests.

The evening began in our makeshift 'living room,' with Wonder By Design's Christian Long setting the tone with a request for stories from our childhood.

  (L to R): NU engineering professor  Amy O'Keefe , designer  Christian Long , architect  Martin Klaeschen , computer science teacher  Jeff Solin  and Hackstudio founder  Mike Meiners .

(L to R): NU engineering professor Amy O'Keefe, designer Christian Long, architect Martin Klaeschen, computer science teacher Jeff Solin and Hackstudio founder Mike Meiners.

With the mood light, we moved on to dinner, focusing on two questions:

"How would you improve the experience of education if you were completely free of tradition, dogma and fear?" and

"How can school be the place you go to become the person you were born to be?"

  Hackstudio founder Mike Meiners speaking to (L to R)  Ryan Robinson and Alison Vellas  of  Ink Factory ; Wonder By Design's  Trung Le ; and Janey Matejka.

Hackstudio founder Mike Meiners speaking to (L to R) Ryan Robinson and Alison Vellas of Ink Factory; Wonder By Design's Trung Le; and Janey Matejka.

The discussion was lively to say the least. Howell Malham of GreenHouse jumped right out of his seat (though we get the feeling that may be a common occurrence).

  Howell Malham (standing) speaking to (L to R)  Firebelly Design  founder  Dawn Hancock ;  Design for America 's associate director  Sami Nerenberg ;  Donda's House  director  Donnie Smith ; and Urban Strategist  Tim Swanson .

Howell Malham (standing) speaking to (L to R) Firebelly Design founder Dawn Hancock; Design for America's associate director Sami Nerenberg; Donda's House director Donnie Smith; and Urban Strategist Tim Swanson.

As the evening progressed, opinions flowed more and more freely. As we pushed and coaxed each other to re-examine our beliefs on identity, privilege, and the value of finding oneself, our Hackstudio kids really blew us away. Ryan Sander, our hip-hop choreographer, jumped right in and shared what it's like to be a high school junior today, freely speaking his mind in some potentially intimidating company. 

  (L to R):  Jeff Bell , founding principal of  Beacon Academy ; Martin Klaeschen, founder of  HouseHaus ;  Drew Peterson  of the Greeley School;  Ryan Sander . (Foreground): Hackstudio founder  Randy Blaugh .

(L to R): Jeff Bell, founding principal of Beacon Academy; Martin Klaeschen, founder of HouseHausDrew Peterson of the Greeley School; Ryan Sander. (Foreground): Hackstudio founder Randy Blaugh.

And how proud we were of our 13-year-old cook, Janey Matejka, who not only contributed thoughtfully to the discussion, but bravely contributed her first Hackstudio project - a baked 3-cheese mac-and-cheese - to great acclaim. 

  (L to R) Architect  John Syvertsen ; Hackstudio Evanston Manager,  Katy Bradford ; Janey Matejka.

(L to R) Architect John Syvertsen; Hackstudio Evanston Manager, Katy Bradford; Janey Matejka.

As we hashed it out, Ryan Robinson and Alison Vellas of Ink Factory recorded - in drawings - everything that was being said, creating a permanent graphic artifact of our discussion. It was a major boost to the ego to look up from time to time and see a full-color illustration of a comment you made just a minute before. (The process has to be seen to be believed!)

  (Counterclockwise around the table from Left) Tim Swanson; Amy O'Keefe, John Syvertsen, Ryan Robinson, Alison Vellas, Katy Bradford, Janey Matejka,  Trung Le  of Wonder By Design; children's book author  Amy Krause Rosenthal .

(Counterclockwise around the table from Left) Tim Swanson; Amy O'Keefe, John Syvertsen, Ryan Robinson, Alison Vellas, Katy Bradford, Janey Matejka, Trung Le of Wonder By Design; children's book author Amy Krause Rosenthal.

  (L to R) John Syvertsen, Ryan Robinson, Alison Vellas, Janey Matejka and Katy Bradford.

(L to R) John Syvertsen, Ryan Robinson, Alison Vellas, Janey Matejka and Katy Bradford.

If it hadn't been a weeknight, the discussion could easily have stretched 'till morning. As it was, the result far exceeded our expectations. Thank you to everyone who attended. To those we knew before: we're prouder than ever to be your friends. To those we met: we're so honored to know you now. We hope you gained as much from the evening as we did!

For those who couldn't be there, here's what we talked about: