The session’s final speaker was Jim Lasko, founder of Chicago’s Redmoon Theater, speaking on the subject of ephemera, which he defined as “brief moments that have a power you can utilize.” Places, he said, become meaningful through human experiences; for example, a bland school facade resonates when people realize it is Columbine High School.

Building from his theory that “space plus experience equals place,” Lasko has created meaningful, ephemeral experiences in many of Chicago’s public spaces—including a pop-up theater on a crime-ridden street and a summer-long “Chicago Fire Festival” culminating in ignition of three houselike structures on the Chicago River. The planned ignition failed, but a successful do-over just recently allowed Lasko’s team to symbolically re-create the city’s skyline, while incorporating individuals’ messages on paper shingles that then went up in smoke.

“Ephemera can address social and architectural issues, create the ability for people to congregate in public spaces, enhance safety, and energize communities,” Lasko concluded. This type of artistic endeavor, he said, can be deployed successfully by real estate developers as they strive to build healthier and more vibrant cities.