Shannon Downey is an Adjunct Faculty Member at Columbia College, she’s also a professional problem solver, an educator, strategist, community builder, fire starter, and a fiber artist. When asked how she manages to do it all, Shannon said, “My life goals are simple: Learn everything, know everyone, and go everywhere.” In addition to teaching at Columbia, Shannon owns a Marketing company, Pivotal Chicago, and consults for small and medium-sized businesses. She also teaches once a week at Mission Propelle, an empowerment program for girls in elementary school. This winter, she will become a teaching artist at EleveArt Community Studio, where she will lead an inter-generational fiber arts program. What doesn’t this woman do!? She’s incredible. We had the pleasure to sit down with Shannon and learn about all of the cool, amazing things she is doing.
How are you connected to Columbia?
I have had the pleasure of being an adjunct faculty member in both the School of Business and Entrepreneurship and the School of Design for about a year now.
What is the #EndGunViolence gallery show?
The #EndGunViolence gallery show is the culmination of a craftivism (craft + activism) project that I have been facilitating since the spring. Over 100 fiber artists from all over the world have been creating images of guns and sending them to me. November 4th will be the opening night of the show. All of the pieces will be for sale and all of the money will go to support Project F.I.R.E.
Project FIRE (Fearless Initiative for Recovery and Empowerment) is an artist development employment program that offers healing through glass blowing to youth injured by gun violence in Chicago. Project F.I.R.E. combines glass arts education, mentoring and trauma psycho-education in order to support trauma recovery and create employment opportunities for young people who have been shot or witnessed the homicide of a loved one.
What is so special about this project?
The response to this project is what has made it so special. It has taken on a life of its own.
First, the amazing response and participation from my global community of fiber artists has been staggering.
Second, my local community has been unbelievable.
The show has evolved into a collaborative show and will also feature the glass art created by the young people of Project F.I.R.E. Additionally, ArtReach Chicago brought me in to teach the young people of Project F.I.R.E. how to embroider so that their whole team could participate in the craftivism project.
In addition to the show, there will be artist talks with the young glass artists of Project F.I.R.E., their instructors, and therapists, and myself. There will be a free community embroidery workshop and a stitching circle that will include facilitated conversation about the gun violence plaguing our city. And, I plan to live stream the entire event so that my digital community can join my real life community for these important events.
The project and events surrounding it evolve everyday as people come to me with their ideas and volunteer their time, energy and spirit to this project. Columbia faculty member Richard Zeid volunteered to design our marketing materials and several of my students are going to help install the work and produce the opening night event!
You have created a website that showcases “Seriously Badass Women,” a group of empowering female leaders in our community. What female leader has inspired you?
Ironically, the women I feature on my site are the women that I am most inspired by. They do the hard work, show up, live their truth, support other women, exude grace, speak their mind and work to improve the world for others every single day.
(Shout out to Columbia Faculty Jessica Jacobs who designed our amazing logo)
What advice do you have for women that want to be leaders in our community?
Start. Take action. Do something. You don’t need permission to be a leader in your community. Being a leader doesn’t require anything more than a desire and willingness to take action towards something you believe in. Build a community if you have to.
What’s next? Any other projects you’re working on?
This is one of those periods where I just need to get through what’s now. I’m certain this craftivism project is going to light the way for what’s next so I’m just going to let it. I’ll keep you posted!
Twitter: @ShannonDowney @pivotalchicago @projectfirechi
Instagram: @BadassCrossStitch @SeriouslyBadassWomen @projectfirechi