Chicago is a hotbed of arts and culture. Our city is home not only to amazing artists, important art spaces, and renowned universities but also to cultural leaders at the forefront of innovation in cuisine, music, fashion, literature, and beyond. Culture Catalysts is a monthly series that celebrates and provides a platform for Chicagoans at the epicenters of these scenes. Each month, get to know the work of a different Chicago-based thought leader, meet the artists featured in our Chicago Works exhibition series, and discover those who influence arts and culture in our community.
John Edel is the Founder and Executive Director of The Plant. After purchasing the building in July 2010, he immediately began deconstruction and renovation with a vision of intentional reuse, economic development, and truly sustainable food. John’s foray into building redevelopment was at the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, a green business incubator in the Stockyards Industrial Corridor. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100 percent occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading-edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic. The renovation was assisted by a core group of volunteers and by bartering with suppliers, tenants and scrappers. In previous careers, John taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games, and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation and plants in a productive, conservatory-like project.