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Water Wayfinding: Youth and Community Studios

The Chicago Architecture Biennial’s theme and approach, The Available City, has captured our curiosity as we consider vacant lots, community authorship, and design. In that spirit Wayfinding has been exploring water through the lens of The Available City.

Water Wayfinding explores natural and infrastructure water in our community through the stories of our neighbors. This series of walking tours and creative studios has featured local speakers and young people presenting on how local water impacts their lifeways. 

This conversation will bring together multigenerational perspectives from the Little Calumet River, the Chicago River and the West Side Lagoons to talk water-- access, cultural practice, farming, health, recreation and what it looks like to Wayfind water in their distinct neighborhoods.

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Devika Ranjan is a theater maker, ethnographer, and educator who tells stories about migration through performance, research, and advocacy. Devika has facilitated theater workshops internationally, specializing in devised performances about social justice issues. As Resident Director at Albany Park Theater Project, Devika works with immigrant and first-generation teens to create ethnographic theater about community issues like family separation, deportation, and climate crisis. Devika also teaches at the intersection of migration, performance studies, and cross-cultural practice at universities like Carnegie Mellon, Illinois State, and Georgetown University, where she was an Inaugural Fellow at the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics.

Lucrecia Ortiz (any pronouns) is a junior at Senn High School in Chicago. Her favorite subjects are Theory of Knowledge and English. Lucrecia has been an ensemble member at Albany Park Theater Project since 2018, where she conducts interviews of immigrants in Albany Park and performs their stories. Lucrecia has co-created and performed in Port of Entry, an immersive performance that takes audiences through the lives of immigrants living in an Albany Park apartment building, as well as Yours Truly, an immersive letter-based experience during the pandemic. Lucrecia is also in the Book and Media Club and Fashion and Sewing Club. 

Joanne So Young Dill serves as Chief of Strategy and External Affairs for Commissioner and Chairman of Finance, Marcelino Garcia, of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). She provides policy guidance, directs research, and is a resource for the community. Joanne has led critical water protection campaigns and designed innovative cultural and educational programs with the City of Chicago and Berklee College of Music. In 2019, Joanne was appointed by Governor Pritzker to the Great Lakes Protection Fund Board. Joanne received her undergraduate degree in Economics from Boston University. Outside her professional responsibilities, she enjoys playing music, swimming, and traveling.

Nia Cunningham is currently a sophomore majoring in Gender Women Studies with a minor in Urban Studies at UIC. Aside from studies, Nia works in the UIC Heritage Garden and is part of the Freshwater Lab. As a part of her work with the Freshwater Lab she is currently working on a project creating thought provoking conversations using an interview framework to try and heighten others' awareness and their connectedness to our commonly shared resources and the environment. Nia aspires to continue her experience in community organizing, environmental advocacy, and hopefully become a cool farmer.

Lillian Holden is the Education and Outreach Coordinator at Openlands and works with volunteers, teachers, and staff to build and inspire advocates for nature. After completing her 10-month Ameri-Corp apprenticeship with Openlands as a Public Ally, Lillian worked for The Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a program assistant/nature guide for Chicago Park District’s summer campers and had the privilege to teach hands-on environmental education to grades 3rd – 8th in parks such as Montrose Beach, Gompers Park, The South Shore Cultural Center, and Big Marsh. Now a full-time Openlander, Lillian is excited to use the skills gained during the time of her Ameri-Corp apprenticeship and occupancy as the program assistant with The SCA. Lillian is CPR trained, restorative justice trained, and trauma-informed certified. She is also a certified Openlands TreeKeeper. Lillian holds an Associate’s Degree in Arts from the City Colleges of Chicago.

Michael Taylor is an ACA accredited kayaking instructor and community volunteer who began kayaking in 2009. He is Illinois Water Trailkeeper for The Little Calumet River that runs through the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. As a volunteer trail steward and promoter of paddling, Michael reaches thousands of people each year, getting them actively involved with cleanup and restoration projects, expanding water trail access and training volunteers. He organizes and leads introductory paddling experiences providing young people and community members in South Chicago and NW Indiana the opportunity to paddle for the very first time. He collaborates with organizations such as, Openlands, Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, and Chicago Adventure Therapy. Michael is a River Network, Rivers Hero Award winner. He serves as Vice President of the Board of Operations for the Lakeshore Camp Resort in Portage Indiana and Director on the board for the Illinois Paddling Council. All of this work is a volunteer service Michael provides on behalf of the water and community.

Angie Tillges (moderator)  is a civic project manager, artist and educator working at the intersection of culture, environment, learning, and public life. She is skilled at leading public institutions and community organizations on large-scale projects of social, artistic, and ecological importance. She leads projects that provide people the opportunity to make personal, lasting connections with one another and with public and natural spaces. Her current practice centers on water, culture, and civic relationship. She is the Great River Passage Fellow for the City of Saint Paul. Prior, she served as Senior Program Specialist for Chicago Park District, and as Neighborhood Arts Director for Chicago’s former Redmoon Theatre. She holds a M Ed. From Harvard Graduate School of Education, Arts in Education. Angie is co-founder of Wayfinding LLC.

Rebecca Hunter (moderator) is a Chicago based executive leader. She has a 20 year history of progressive leadership, program curation, non-profit management and event producing in the arts, cultural and education sectors. She has led projects that range from international literary and multidisciplinary arts festivals, youth and adult facing creative community projects, conferences & symposia, large scale spectacle theater productions and national creative learning initiatives. As a seasoned administrator and organizational strategist, she has fundraised for and managed budgets up to $2million. Originally from the UK, she has worked in Belfast N. Ireland, London UK, and is currently based in Chicago. Rebecca is co-founder of Wayfinding LLC.

Wayfinding is a creative collective which cultivates and produces interdisciplinary, cross-sector projects and programs, building connections between people and the natural and built environment. Partners: Angie Tillges and Rebecca Hunter.

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Chicago Architecture Biennial's InDialogue Series is supported by Hindman Auctions.

Hindman, an internationally recognized fine art auction house, offers its clients an unyielding focus on service and holistic solutions to connect to the global art market. Hindman conducts over 100 auctions annually in 52 collecting categories such as fine art, jewelry, modern design, books and manuscripts, furniture, native American art, decorative arts, antiquities, couture, and Asian works of art. Founded and headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is now represented in 13 cities in the United States and operates five salerooms, more than any other auction house in the country.