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During 2015-2016, I was invited to do a year long curatorial programming residency at Mana Contemporary Chicago. I approached this opportunity as a hybrid design research and experience-based learning project to explore concepts around sensory experience and community. I had been asking questions about what it means to engage the senses as a mode of learning and social connection.

The following are selected examples of the programs I created and/or curated in Mana’s warehouse space on the South Side of Chicago.

1) I organized and hosted a Keiki Club at Mana Contemporary Chicago with artists Amanda El-Khoury and Linsey Rosen. Keiki Club is a plant clipping exchange club started by Brooklyn based artist and florist Aviva Rowley. We designed a gallery space using organic materials and plant clippings. People gathered to share stories of their plants and exchange clippings, and we all brought new plants home to nurture. 

2) I converted an office space into a tea room to offer a respite during the busy day, and to facilitate socializing and community-building among the guests. I served lemon verbena and mint tea, olive oil cake, freshly baked bread with butter and honey, and fresh tangerines. The primary rule was that you had to be present during the conversation. 

 3) Future Timeless was a research project by Chad Kouri and Courtney Schum exploring the public’s every day tactile relationship with clothing. Inspired by conversations around modular garments, uniforms, androgynous styles and cross seasonal pieces, they attempt to address the feeling of having nothing to wear in an overflowing closet by creating garments that can be worn multiple ways.

4) Meditation has become an increasingly popular way to retreat and heal from our busy and constantly connected lives. Many meditation options require solitude, stillness, and have spiritual overtones. Chicago artist and designer Adam Geremia’s meditations are collective experiences that often engage or disconnect our senses. They allow us to simultaneously be active, and relax our minds. At Mana Contemporary, I collaborated with Adam on a sensory meditation exploring sound, scent and touch. Immediately after the meditation, we hung the work in a gallery to explore their creations as works of art. 

5) Before starting the residency, I conducted a trend research project in Berlin, and was inspired by the art canteens serving creative communities. Because Mana is in a food desert, and I have a great passion for cooking, as part of the residency I asked to join artist Eddie Parach's ongoing series of community lunches. Together, we collaborated on eight lunches for weekly crowds upwards of 60 people. The goals of our collective Mana lunches were: to build community among the artists with on-site studio spaces and to offer nourishment and creative inspiration through experimentation with menus and flavors.