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Chicago Ideas Week: What to See & How to do it for Free

I first learned of Chicago Ideas Week sometime last year, a few months before the week, itself. Chicago Ideas Week is a weeklong series of events – lectures (“talks”) and hands-on learning and understanding (“labs”). The topics have a wide range: political, spiritual, educational, technological, and more. At the end of the day, Chicago Ideas Week is the organizers’ attempt at exposing you to something new and opening up your mind.

The speakers are all of an extremely high quality – some Chicago natives and business, and others from across the country or even oversees. Last year I shook hands with Reverend Al Sharpton! This year is their 5th anniversary of putting on the event, so you can expect an extra-special lineup.

In retrospect, I knew that one way or another, I had to get involved.

I’m a big fan of volunteering – putting your time in to get into an event for free. You may recall my article on getting into Lollapalooza for free as a volunteer.

With Chicago Ideas Week, you can volunteer as little or as much as you’d like. The shifts are clearly spelled out on their volunteer portal. Just make sure you don’t sign up for overlapping shifts. Some talks and labs are across the city or in Chicago’s close by neighborhoods, so you’ll need to plan travel accordingly. You’ll have to check in before the event starts and stay a little bit after it ends, but it’s a small price to pay for free admission to hearing some amazing speakers dive into topics you normally wouldn’t be exposed to.

As great as volunteering is, sometimes it’s nice to just attend the event as an attendee. Expect to pay $15 for lab and talk tickets. Become a member of Chicago Ideas Week, and save even more on tickets (with the lowest level membership starting at $45). Buying a membership means supporting an amazing organization that does everything it can to make sure income-level isn’t a factor for people interested in expanding their minds. A certain amount of tickets are held in reserve to be given free to interested community members that wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

If you’re overwhelmed with all the speaker and talk options, I’ve created a guide to get you started. Here are the labs I’m the most excited about:

Graffiti Art with Havas Worldwide Chicago
Thursday, October 15, 2–5pm

Learn about legal (commissioned) graffiti with Hava’s Worldwide’s Chief Creative Officer, and help create a live graffiti installation!

Designing the Front Page with RedEye
Tuesday, October 13, 12:30–2:30pm

Participate in the front cover headline brainstorm and how RedEye brings many different elements together for a polished, finished product.

Inside the Eastman Egg Company Monday
Monday, October 12, 2015, 6–8pm

I used to work at Groupon, and the Eastman Egg Company had a food truck that parked itself in front of the building at least once a week. The sandwiches are so good; any foodie would enjoy this tour that includes constructing your own egg sandwich!

Pie Making 101 with Bang Bang Pie Shop is another great option with a similar context.

Lagunitas Brewing 101
Tuesday, October 13, 4–7pm

Learn all about brewing from America’s largest craft brewery, looking at intermittent ingredients like hops and grain, then sampling the final product.

How to #MakeCoolSh*t with 555 International Wednesday
October 14, 10–11:30am

Meet with the president and founder of 555 International, responsible for creating The Girl and the Goat’s and Hard Rock Cafe’s space and feel. Then, learn more about the process of designing.

There are also a lot of amazing speakers and topics. A few I’m looking forward to:

Heroin: A National Epidemic

Time for “The Talk”: Your New Guide to Getting it On (There’s a free meetup afterwards!)

The State of Mental Health in America (This one also has a free meetup afterwards)

The topics are of a wide variety, but are certainly not lacking in interesting subjects! For a full schedule of labs and talks, click here.

One final note – Chicago Ideas Week has a really fun Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 11am Central Standard Time. It brings together a lot of Chicago residents and businesses, and the topics are always interesting to ponder. I was honored to be asked to host the chat a few months back 🙂

Whether as a volunteer or attendee, there is no shortage of events to check out during Chicago Ideas Week. What Chicago Ideas Week talks or labs are you the most excited about?