‘New Yorker’ artist Tom Bachtell Creative Salon guest

Self-portrait of artist Tom Bachtell

Energy BBDO’s May 7 Creative Salon is being held on a Monday this month rather than its traditional Thursday afternoon, to accommodate the magazine deadline of a very special guest.

Devotees of The New Yorker magazine know the Salon’s speaker Tom Bachtell as a frequent cover illustrator, but more famously as the spot-on caricaturist of the public figures, from Iron Lady to Lady Gaga, featured in the magazine’s The Talk of the Town section for some 20 years. 

Who knew this New Yorker icon was from Chicago?

Apparently that fact was known to Jani Westcott, the agency’s VP/planning and the initiator of the immensely popular salons, and the agency persons who collaborate with her on selecting and booking Salon guests for the monthly connection with the arts. 

Since 2009, they have uncovered and brought forth many of Chicago’s greats in fine art, photography, theatre, improv comedy, music and film, who talk about their passions and often perform.

Bachtell's caricature of Dan FietsamChief creative officer Dan Fietsam says several years ago he put forth a creative department initiative to be viewed not only as a creative agency but as a greater creative resource. 

“Jani Westcott was inspired by this vision and developed the idea of the salon with a focus on artists of all trades, but Chicago was a part of their art and story,” says Fietsam, who Bachtell caricatured as art for the agency’s May 7 Creative Salon flyer.  

The only Fietsam fiat was that the initiative, whatever it would be, was not to become an audition stage for commercial purposes, “but an inspirational venue where creative types across the city could come and meet informally with no agenda other than to get together and enjoy getting a look behind the approach of other artists.”

The program runs about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, including a short Q&A session following the guest speaker and wine, beer and appetizers are served before the lecture, notes Westcott. She estimates the number of the guests runs between 60 and 100, depending on the speaker.  A full house, however, is expected for Bachtell. 

The first Salon started out with former Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, “a guy who is so well read and such a great writer,” recalls Westcott. “From there, we had neat conversations with musician Andrew Bird, who also performed; rock poster maker Jay Ryan; writer/designer/programmer Dan Sinker; iconic spot director Joe Sedelmaier and  comedian/writer/WBEZ contributor Aaron Freeman.

Prominent speakers known nationally who are already scheduled so far for the rest of the year are Ray Bradbury biographer Sam Weller set for July; humorous illustrator Jason Seiler whose work appears in dozens of publications and in major movies, August; cartoonist and comics scholar Ivan Brunetti for October and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, filmmaker, author and Chicago Public Radio program host for November.

“It’s been a fun side project for me and for a collection of other folks in the agency who help plan the events,” she says.

Attendance at Creative Salons usually runs from 60 to 80 guests, at the agency, 410 N. Michigan Ave., where beer, wine and light appetizers are served.  Time is 4 to 6 p.m. and you can RSVP here.