Day 1: Welcome to America and Happy birthday USk!

[By Béliza Mendes, Symposium Correspondent in Chicago, USA] 

The day started quietly enough, with Wes taking Vincent and me for a short tour of the city so we could find our bearings. We couldn’t have been more fortunate in our guide. We ended up at the Bean, my fellow correspondents focusing on the Cloudgate and I on them. 

It was the quiet before the storm, and that is putting it mildly. When we arrived at the Goodman Center (or the Hub), things were already in full swing.

I tried to sketch the scene before me, an overwhelming task to say the least. I kept spotting people I knew from previous events, which was both distracting and, above all, a very joyful experience.

My attention was soon diverted by the work done by the local volunteers and Evelyn in particular. Tireless Evelyn kept moving the goodie bags from one location to another in an endless succession of comings and goings, ensuring that everyone was able to get their treats.

With the beginning of the sketchwalk, the flow of people calmed down and I could chat with some of the volunteers to get their first impressions. The registration station was manned by Ray, Peggy and Carole, among other fine people. I cought Ray at the moment when he was taking a break. This is his first symposium and he seems to be enjoying it so far. Seeing people from all parts of the world and sharing tips about sketching make up for the hard work they are doing.

One of my favorite things about USk Symposiums is to meet people and I am particularly surprised when I get to meet someone I’ve been following online. It was the case with Adriana, who was minding the goodie bag station with Jodie. It’s her first symposium as well and she is already doing a splendid job welcoming the participants all as they arrive.

And did you know that the Hub has a queen? Her name is Mary Jo and she will be wearing a different crown every day. Today’s theme: ‘Welcome to America!’ Don’t hesitate to pay your respects to the Queen of the Hub if you see her.

Before I knew it, it was time for the opening ceremony with a speech of our graceful president, Amber Sausen. 

Followed by a speech by Urban Sketchers founder Gabi Campanario, who gave us a short overview of the creation of our movement, from the time he started the group on Flickr in his garage instead of keeping an eye on his children, to the latest symposiums. ‘I’m the guy who found the button’ and ‘What was I thinking’ were the two reoccurring thoughts, concluding with ‘Letting go of that button became harder and harder’. And aren’t we all glad he found the button?

The day ended – how else? – with a drink and draw. A relaxing conclusion to a very busy day.


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