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Are You Making the Most Out of Your Time Here?

By Kevin Beerman / August 2, 2019

Make the most of your time here.

It’s a simple phrase with a lot of weight when you dig into it. Easy to say, hard to put into practice.

It’s an idea that Amy Krouse Rosenthal shared with her kids a lot. Krouse Rosenthal was a Chicago-born author, memorist, and all-round activator of joy and creativity who took very seriously the notion that our purpose is to make as much as we can out of whatever amount of time we’re here. You may know her through this work, or through the 2017 New York Times Modern Love column she penned titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband.

She passed away in 2017 from ovarian cancer, but her life and work stands as a testament to the joy, meaning, and magic you can get out of life when you’re attuned regularly to the wonder that animates it.

As the body of work she left for us shows, wonder shoots through life, pulling everything—and everyone—in together. Experiencing the vitality of wonder is behind the framework of her namesake foundation, Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation (AKR), as it works to fulfill its mission. In honor of Amy Krouse Rosenthal Day (Aug. 9), we’re teaming up with the AKR Foundation to explore everyday wonder in Revere Park.

Before we convene at Platforms in the Park—themselves a site of a special kind of wonder—we sat down with Betsy Katten, Executive Director of the AKR Foundation, to talk about the foundation’s work, why wonder is important, and how we can all use our imagination to tap into the grandeur of the world around us.

Chicago Ideas (CI): How did the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation get its start?

Betsy Katten (BK): The AKR Foundation was founded by Jason Rosenthal in memory of his wife and celebrated author and creator, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Amy authored more than 40 books, including bestselling children’s books, grownup memoirs, and keepsake journals. She made short films and YouTube videos, gave TED talks and provided radio commentary for NPR, among others. If you’d like to learn more about Amy’s extraordinary work, we invite you to visit our website. The AKR Foundation is a charitable organization funding childhood literacy efforts and ovarian cancer early detection awareness and research, causes important to Amy.

CI: How does wonder intersect with the work that the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation does?

BK: Much of Amy’s work came from her uncanny ability to pick up on the small curiosities of the world, tiny gems that pepper life with awe if we can be present enough to see them. Whether noticing that objects shapeshift depending on our perspective (a rubber band or a tiny hula hoop?) or rearranging letters to find wordy magic, Amy proved that the world is more fun if we seek its wonder. The AKR Foundation’s main efforts are to sponsor child literacy and ovarian cancer awareness, but what we do is as important as how we do it. We hope to inspire folks to move through the world with the same grace that Amy did.

CI: What does “community” mean to you? What role does it play in the work the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation does?

BK: Amy’s children’s books, adult books, visual art, happenings, musical events, videos, radio segments, and performances often focused on the magic in seemingly small, mundane things that cultivated a sense of community and universality. She brought people together to collaborate, and make the ordinary into something extraordinary. For example, Amy invited strangers to meet her at “The Bean” in Millennium Park on 8/8/08 at 8:08 p.m., where they would make something new together. People came out by the hundreds that night. In under an hour, they made: a grand entrance; a friend; a splash; music; something pretty; and someone’s day. The event is captured in a seven-minute follow-up video, “The Beckoning of Lovely.” Amy’s belief in the power of collaboration and community is behind everything we do. We know the impact of community and we believe it will help us fulfill our mission. That’s why we are so excited to read some of Amy’s books with everyone on 8/8!

CI: How did the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation get connected with the Platforms in the Park initiative?

BK: Wendy Abrams, Chicago Ideas collaborator, AKR Foundation board member and close friend of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, helped to spearhead Platforms in the Park. Wendy connected the AKR Foundation to the Platforms team. According to Wendy, the idea for Platforms was, in part, inspired by some of the “happenings” that Amy organized and which brought out all sorts of people and helped to build community.

CI: What do you want attendees to walk away with from this platform event?

BK: We hope attendees will walk away feeling excited to observe the world closely, seeing creative potential in even the most mundane things. We also hope that they’ll be inspired by the read-aloud and games, and bring these activities into their homes. We want attendees to walk away eager to make and tell more stories, knowing that all it takes is a bit of energy, imagination, and inspiration!


Want to make the most out of your time here?  Meet us on the platform in Revere Park on August 8 at 6pm for “Everyday Wonders in the Park: Games, Stories and Sing-Alongs brought to you by the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation.” The AKR Foundation will be hosting an evening full of surprises, and will also be giving away a limited number of copies of Amy’s award-winning books to young children at the event! Learn more here

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To build on the momentum of The 77 Project, this summer, in partnership with Xfinity and in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, we’re presenting Platforms in the Park, a city-wide initiative to empower, connect, inspire, and activate all of Chicago through local, community-led experiences.