From PL to CP II: Reflections from Resident Alum Marcus Donaldson

Hi, friends! 


My time at Chase Public has drawn to a close, and I’ve been thinking more on all I’ve learned these past few months. Chase Public was one of the first places I found when I moved back to Cincinnati in February 2017. After a challenging first few months following the move home, I stumbled into Chase Public. I immediately started showing up to readings, volunteering to write Short Order Poetry, and participating in other programming.

One of my goals throughout my entire time working with both People’s Liberty and Chase Public was to learn more about Cincinnati and its neighborhoods. I’ve been so fortunate to meet some of the personalities of Camp Washington during my post at Chase Public, and it’s truly been one of my favorite parts about working in this neighborhood. It’s not every day you’re greeted by someone playing bass guitar on their front porch on your walk to the gas station, but it’s a welcome surprise.

Working in the arts has been the actual best. Having a front lens (I recorded a ton of video for the Chase Public archive) view of so many insightful, hilarious, and strange performances was the most joyful bonus to this experience. Then, I got to see them twice! I edited some of the footage for Chase Public’s YouTube channel. I enjoyed building on some basic video editing knowledge in order to recapture pieces of performances the artists can share with their audiences. 

In addition to learning what I loved about working at Chase Public, I’ve also learned I don’t ask for help as often as is probably needed. I’m working on it. I hope I haven’t overshared. I’m working on that, too. 

I’m not sure what’s next, but I hope it will be as unforgettable as these past eight months have been. I have a lot of feelings a lot of the time, but right now, I feel mostly lucky and grateful for having been a part of Chase Public for all it’s given to me and the friends I’ve made in its spaces. To Scott, Mike, Nathan, Elese, and the entire PL team: thank you for taking a chance on me. 

All my love and gratitude,

Use Your Voice

Hey, y'all!

Whew! These 15 weeks have blown by quickly, which makes sense considering P and I landed sprinting.

A key highlight from this experience was the Artist as Problem Solver Summit hosted by The Joyce Foundation and Big Car Collaborative at Tube Factory artspace in Indianapolis. We attended with a handful of PL grantees and several community partners. What I learned was how communities and organizations across the midwest understand and talk about placekeeping and placemaking.

When I consider Cincinnati and the work we do here at People’s Liberty, I’d like to think our grantees are doing a little of both; they’re preserving this city’s many histories and building an environment for its future. What a gratifying time it’s been to spend working to these ends.

What would I tell a future resident? First, try again. Second, speak up. After your first four weeks, The Elders™ will ask you what you’d like to do with your life. Big question. If you’re anything like me, you’ll hem and haw and say you don’t know. But you have an idea. You just think your idea is a bit lofty, and you don’t think you know enough about the thing yet. Okay, the latter may be true, but the former is not. So, when another four weeks pass and you’re midway through your residency, speak up. Tell the team what you’re thinking. They’re trying to put you on (if they can).

It worked for me.

All my best,

Working Towards "Well-Traveled"

Happy April 20th y'all.

Today is the last day of my residency, time for a new young graphic designer to take my place. It's been a good four months! I got a chance to work on PL's 2017 Year in Review, Project Grant 7 promo, and a handful of other awesome projects. I met great people, went on some awesome Funday Fridays, and ate a ton of good food at Findlay Market. I've learned a lot and grown more confident in my design skills. PL taught me how to work productively in a fun, energetic work environment. All in all, a great way to spend 4 months.

If I had some advice to give a new resident it would be to try and plan for your next step early on in your residency so the good folks at People's Liberty can help you make your next move. This is easier said than done. A lot of us, myself included, find the future difficult to plan for, but to get the full value out of your PL residency it must be considered.

My second piece of advice would be to not pack your lunch everyday like I did and get out of the office and enjoy the food this area has to offer.

That's all the reflecting I feel like doing on this gorgeous Friday.

The teams' perfect years

The teams' perfect years

Jake had a thought provoking question for our team meeting a few weeks ago.

The question was: You've just had the perfect 2018. What is one word you would use to describe how you feel at the end of the year?

Our initials to the left of our answers. I'm the last one, my answer is “Well-Traveled".  My ideal 2018 would be spent stamping my passport and jumping hostel to hostel. It's not looking like I'll end 2018 well-traveled, but maybe 2019 will be my year? I'll keep working towards it. Until then I'll be here, in good ole Cincinnati, USA.

Once a Mad Philanthropist, always a Mad Philanthropist, now I'm just a Mad Philanthropist who had to give back their key. Oh well.

Peace, Love, People's Liberty

On Showing Up & Trying Again

6 months ago…

6 months ago, I started a seasonal job at a call center. After spending the previous 7 months unemployed, surrounded by books and unfinished poems, I was happy to have somewhere to be, a routine.

Many folks at the call center had spent their entire career there or at other companies doing similar work. Others of us were simply passing through, working toward a thing or waiting for a thing. Finding a way to get more engaged in Cincinnati was my thing. To do that, I wanted to work for an organization socially engaged in what was happening here.

Google searches led me to People’s Liberty. I’d volunteered for People’s Liberty Project Grantees Nancy Yerian and Kaia Goodwin while I was looking for work, but I knew I wanted to get more involved. I applied for the communications resident position for the summer of 2017, but didn’t get it. No biggie. I’d apply (read: try) again (*wink*) when the next residency period opened. 

And I got it!


Paisley and I clearly hard at work.

Paisley and I clearly hard at work.

I’m doing exactly what I thought I’d be doing. I’m helping share PL’s stories and the stories of our grantees. I’m meeting lots of new people. I’m making new friends. I’m learning a ton. I’m having a blast! 

At the start of this residency, a friend told me PL would teach me how to work. And he was right. For all the fun we have, we get a lot done. Borrowing their tactics for effectiveness will only aid in my development throughout this process.

It hasn’t quite hit me that I’ve already passed the halfway point. There’s still a healthy list of things I’d like to accomplish before the residency ends. Here’s to all the iceberg there is yet to discover.

6 months from now…

Who knows? Maybe I’ll finish school?

Ideally, I’m living a few miles closer to the city and continuing this work of engaging with and learning from its citizens. If I’m using writing to do that work, even better. 

Idk. Whatever is next, I’ve learned to stay the course and continue to show up. I’ve learned there is real value in trying again. Trying again with changed behaviors, of course. I’m not… mad (*wink*).


My PL Residency Or: How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love Design

6 months ago…

6 months ago I was working as a waitress, and eyeglasses salesman at the family business. Neither were necessarily bad gigs (free eyewear is a solid job perk) but I had graduated from DAAP with a degree in graphic design and, at least according to my father, the idea is to use your degree once you’ve received it.

An actual photo of me selling eyeglasses and waiting tables

An actual photo of me selling eyeglasses and waiting tables

So I wasn’t designing anything, which isn’t that big of a deal. What is kinda a big deal is that I had no desire to design anything. DAAP had me burned out. I was contemplating whether or not I even wanted to be a designer at all or if I was one of the many people with a degree they never end up using. It was more than simply a creative rut; I was kicking myself for not picking a different career path all together.

But! Then I saw on Facebook that People’s Liberty was looking for new residents. I hadn’t applied for anything since graduating, but this seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. I applied, not thinking I’d get an interview much less actually land the job, but much to my surprise I got invited to interview with Megan. The interview and follow-up trial work day went well and I was offered the position of design resident! Woo! I gave notice at my two jobs and started working at PL in January of 2018.


I’ve been at it for about 7 weeks now, which somehow feels both too long and too short at the same time. Since starting at People’s Liberty I’ve had the chance to meet and work with some amazing people. The work environment is collaborative and fun, while maintaining productivity. I leave everyday feeling accomplished and knowing I got things done. I’m more involved in the city than I’ve ever been. Working alongside involved people will do that to you.

Candid moment of collaboration between Marcus and I

Candid moment of collaboration between Marcus and I

Importantly, I’m designing things daily, and even more importantly I’m enjoying doing it! Whether it be buttons, postcards, event collateral, or multi-page publications, I’m doing creative work and relishing in the process. I notice now that when people ask what I do for work I confidently call myself as a designer and no longer shy away from the question. I’m reminded of why I went into design in the first place and no longer wondering if I wasted 5 years of my life in school for something I do not actually want to do.

So things are looking up! I’m about half way done with my residency (sad face), but I know that when my days as a PL resident are up I’ll be in a better place than I was 6 months ago. I’m more confident not only as a designer but as a person.

6 months from now…


It’s difficult to predict what I’ll be doing in the future. I know that’s a bit of a cop out, but I really do not know how I’ll be paying my rent in September. Hopefully not waitressing.

What I do know is that I’ll continue to attend events around the city and steadily get more involved in the awesome work being done right here in my hometown. I will continue to exercise my creativity as a designer and hopefully be 6 months closer to discovering my passion project and reason for being on this planet, whatever that may be.

The Curtain Closes

The past 4 months have flown by in a flurry of Project Grant, Residency, and Haile Fellowship application processes, Friday Fundays, new swag, Intermission, PL20 events, a Regional Gathering, birthdays, sharing holiday traditions, superpowers, and childhood memories, and the countless times a new face walks up our staircase and we greet them with a big "Hello! Welcome to People's Liberty!" 

As the 26th Resident inducted into the Society of Mad Philanthropists, I will take from this experience so many amazing memories and deeper roots to this city I have the privilege to call home. People's Liberty has offered me the opportunity to explore corners of Cincinnati and meet people that I never would have found even in my 24 years of living here. I am forever grateful and thankful to be a part of the PL family forever now, and will continue the mission to seek meaningful connections and make Cincinnati better ever day. 


From the Field: Chelsie Walter Shares Her Journey with Beta!

In the past month, I’ve been working hard to capture stories surrounding the work Flywheel has done with a number of organizations. What I didn’t expect out of this process was how much I would learn from each of the people I've come in contact with throughout the journey. From life lessons to business structure, it’s been a pretty impactful experience. Here’s a glimpse of the stories I’ve worked on so far and the lessons I’ve learned.

Suzy DeYoung: La Soupe

Suzy operates La Soupe, an organization that focuses on reducing food waste and transforming unwanted produce into healthy nutritious soups. The primary focus of La Soupe is to feed Cincinnatians struggling with food insecurity. To date, La Soupe has almost 200 volunteers, serves 47 organizations and rescues hundreds of pounds of produce a week from landfills.

What I learned from Suzy:

Passion combined with talent can go a long way. If you believe in something whole heartedly, you can make it happen. Suzy’s passion for food coupled with her belief that every child in Cincinnati deserves access to healthy food, has allowed her to take an idea and turn it into action. Because of Suzy and her team of volunteers, hundreds of children in Cincinnati no longer feel the pain of hunger.

Anthony Berin: City Kitchen

City Kitchen is a new workforce development program that provides students with life skills such as financial training and conflict resolution, as well as culinary skills. City Kitchen combats unemployment in Cincinnati by training future chefs, returning from the criminal justice system, to fill an ever increasing gap in the food industry. City Kitchen is an 8 week culinary program that operates a pop-up restaurant in Findlay Kitchen, Thursday–Saturday. The nine students serve 72 people a night, gaining real world experience.

What I learned from Anthony:

Everyone deserves a second chance. Give people the tools and environment to succeed in, and watch everything else fall into place. The chefs at City Kitchen are talented folks looking to change their lives as well as their families. Equipping people with meaningful employment and the chance to further their careers, greatly reduces the rate of recidivism.

Troy Bronsink: The Hive


The Hive has grown from an idea to bring folks together to live more meaningful lives into a successful social enterprise. The Hive is a spot where folks can go to attend classes based on an array of topics centered around social engagement, creativity, and living a more mindful, compassionate life. The Hive serves between 50-70 people per week.

What I learned from Troy:

There’s so much in this world that divides our attention, making us less creative, less efficient and less innovative. Be mindful of influences around you and take time to let your brain rest.

Rachel Loftspring: The Breeding Ground

The Breeding Ground is a social network for parents calling for family supportive workplace policy laws and values in the U.S. They provide community and resources for parents that are looking to make a difference in their families, no matter where they are in the United States. The Breeding Ground focuses on moms AND dads. They are inclusive of families of all kinds, whether straight or LGBTQ.

What I learned from Rachel:

Don’t like the way something is? Do something about it. Rachel saw an unfair system in place that didn’t serve families. Instead of complaining about it, she did something about it. She took action to not only improve the system for herself, but for generations to come.

J.B. Boothe: The Hearing Speech & Deaf Center

The Hearing Speech & Deaf Center (HSDC) provides care to thousands of Cincinnatians and their families. HSDC provides audiology services, speech therapy, occupational therapy and community services for the deaf. No patient is ever sent away for their inability to pay. HSDC is committed to advocacy and supporting individuals and families to overcome obstacles associated with communication. They are a vital resource for the communities of Cincinnati.

What I learned from J.B:

Everyone deserves the right to affordable health care and treatment for existing disabilities. J.B. reminded me that not everyone has access to the care they need due to their financial situation. Providing treatment can be life changing and allow folks to go back to work, interact with their friends and family, and tackle day-to-day errands.

This process has been such an eye opening experience for me. I’ve seen first hand the time, process, talent and capital needed to take an idea from conception to something real and tangible. It has given me confidence that I too can guide myself and others through similar processes.


© MMXVIII Society of Mad Philanthropists