My guest today is Mimi Clayton of Mimi's Organic Exchange. Welcome to OpEdNews, Mimi. We met at the Green Festival at McCormick Place in May. Can you tell our readers a little about your Organic Exchange?
photo credit: David Kelly
Mimi's Organic Exchange (MOE) started out of my back yard and home in 2006. It was around my birthday and I love to organize gatherings. I wanted to have a party - a networking one. I had an array of talented friends, but they just didn't know how to get themselves out there. They ranged from Art, Photography, Dog Training, Tarot Card Reading, Brass Band, Bike Tune-Ups, Food, Candles and Cork Mats. It has grown over the years into a community of diverse artisans, non-profits and healers. MOE recently presented three panels at the Green Festival and I was the Event Coordinator for Gluten-Free Vegan (GFREEV) Awards The Total Food Package. I am the Events Coordinator and Space Manager for The Art Lab also, where we have been having several presentations and art openings. Many of the great folks that were involved collaborated on the various different events in the past several months. I am sure we will continue to work together too.
Throughout the years, my team and I have found it important to educate about sustainability in a fun, social environment. The Convergence Project, Inc, a not-for-profit, stemmed from Mimi's Organic Exchange. We are looking forward to collaborating with others and promoting opportunities to improve the quality of life within our communities and for the planet. We promote earth-friendly practices and businesses.
You sound like quite the organizer, Mimi. Tell me more about The Convergence Project. How exactly do you promote earth-friendly practices and businesses? I'm all for it; I'm curious about how you go about doing it?
The Convergence Project, Inc. (TCPI) was incorporated in January 2011. My team and I had discussed for years whether MOE should become a not-for-profit and if so why. We decided MOE is about entrepreneurs, small business, artisans, individuals and non-profits. It allows people to be without boundaries and the community to organically grow and support each other, without regulations and rules that keep them in the box. I call it "going off the grid." It's about being respectful such as saying hello, please, thank you and you are welcome.
I had always known there would be some sort of not-for-profit though. My team and I want to be able to give back and continue to teach others about sustainability in business, art and spiritual healing. We had a difficult time with licensing and finding contributors/sponsors in the beginning when Diane Ponder, Curator and Co-Founder, and I tried to have a Sustainable Expo in 2007. The city wanted to charge us $6,000 for a two-day event because we opened it to the public and were going to have food, drinks and acoustic music. They also wanted the 7,000 square feet place (which was eco-friendly, kid-friendly and conscious-minded) that I rented out to get a PPA (Public Place of Amusement) license, which would have cost $2,000 plus. Now, if we were a not-for-profit, they would have charged us $150 for a Special Events License. We ended up cancelling the event and holding smaller events since then, such as Local Markets, Teen Living Benefit, Chicago Local First Mingle, Art Shows, Lectures, Presentations and more.
Through many meetings and discussions with my team, we knew we had a passion and wanted to succeed in helping others. We finally got a sponsor that was willing to help us out after years of work and recognition. Diane, myself and a few others decided it was time to create The Convergence Project, Inc.
We continued our collaboration from the past to what is now converging many of the folks that we have worked with and continue to grow with. We started off giving the lecture Green Urban Living Lecture at the Merchandise Mart with Green Planet Bottling. We presented it to the public for the first time live at Ravenswood Artwalk (RAW) 2010. Included were Tweedle Press, Metropolitan Brewing, Living Room Gallery and Mimi's Organic Exchange.
Metropolitan Brewery teamed up with Mimi's Organic Exchange, Living Room Gallery and Koval Distillery to host artists in a one of a kind gallery experience at 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave during the Art Walk. It included eco-sustainable art by Diane Ponder, Didier Nolet, Darrell Roberts, Cydney Lewis and Judy Petecque. We had kid shows and readings by Ricky Recycle, "Loui Saves the Earth" by Alexandra Gnoske and "Seeds of Change" by Jennifer Cullerton. Music was provided by Belmondos, Zach Livingston and Brian McCullough.
Mimi's Organic Exchange (MOE) sponsored the Healing Mecca Center at RAW 2010. It was to be an outdoor local market of information, products and services located at 1819 W. Montrose. We had 40 mile hour winds on that October 2nd. I was also the Performance Coordinator. I had to duck tape and saran wrap a tent onto the stage! My mecca center literally got blown away. We were able to move some of the vendors to the Metropolitan, such as Local Green Connect, Koru Street, Carman and Comisha Weathington and a few others. Organic and Vintage Wear had to head back to Michigan. Hopefully, next time, though. I am on the board again this year and it looks like there will be outdoor vendors this year too:)
Since then, we have collaborated with Conscious Living TV on Vert Couture, Chicago Creative Expo 2011, The Art Lab and The Chicago Green Festival 2011. I was on the Host Committee for the Green Festival both last year and this year. The Convergence Project was one of the "Pay it Forward" not-for-profits. Diane's paintings, my photography, Angelynx tarot readings, Thai Massage by Roman, Gluten-Free Vegan Certified (GFREEV) and a few other individuals were represented and promoted. MOE and the Convergence Project presented three very different panels at the Green Festival.
1. METAGREEN Grounding the In-Vironment which included Angelynx, Sharyl Noday Channeling and Art, Voiceborne and Human Radiance.
2. Making Your Art Green with the Art Lab 123 which also included Conscious Living TV and myself.
3. Urban Green Lifestyles which included Recycle Me, Loui Saves the Earth, Eleanor Reily Handmade Soaps, Diane and myself.
We keep saying that we are going to take a break, but nope. Now we are bringing the National Green Museum Exhibition to Chicago and RAW 2011. It's hush-hush for now, but I will let you know more in the near future.
Diane is on the Events Committee at Hyde Park and is one of the featured Chicago Artists Month coming up in October also. Living Room Gallery, MOE and The Convergence Project will be participating in RAW 2011, the National Green Museum Exhibition and the very First "Food Day" in October. Keep an eye out for all the CONVERGENCE GOING ON!
Wow. That is a lot going on! Can you tell us a little about what the first Food Day is going to look like, Mimi?
Kathy and I have been so busy with all the events, we have not been able to talk except through email. You would have to get in touch with her for more details. We, MOE & The Convergence Project, will be collaborating with some of the other projects to represent Chicago, though. We are already been working on ideas and getting some good responses.
Sounds great. What haven't we talked about yet, Mimi?
I think that is plenty for now, don't you? Thank you for your patience, Joan, as we are all keeping busy and educating the world! I look forward to connecting in the near future.
Thanks so much for talking with me, Mimi. It was fun.
Mimi's Organic Exchange
Other Green Festival articles:
Equal Exchange: Worker-Owned Fair Trade Food Company Saturday, July 16, 2011
Magazine Publisher Moonlights as Urban Beekeeper Thursday, July 7, 2011
Jim Slama Talks About FamilyFarmed.org Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Bread from the Heart A Hit at Chicago Green Festival Monday, June 6, 2011
Young Chicago Entrepreneur Brings Green Cleaning Products to Market Thursday, June 2, 2011
Is This Megadairy A Threat to Health and Livelihood of NW Illinois Residents? Sunday, May 22, 2011