We were invited to apply for the Chicago Innovation Awards, focused on celebrating the most innovative services and new products in the Chicago region. Although we’ve completed this application in the past, the questions resonate a bit differently this year.
Combing through our application materials, we realized something. Yes, COVID-19 was a massive force for change, its wake uprooting industries across the board. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. But, as we looked back upon the years 2020 and 2021, how our industries shifted, and the tragedies of small business closures nationwide, we wanted to reflect upon our survival.
We recognize there is no single explanation for it. We are a tenacious, inventive team, but we’ve also met with good fortune and community support. Although we aren’t out of the woods yet -- it’s unclear where new virus variants will take us -- we want to acknowledge that we owe our continued survival to the community of artists who work, rent, produce, and play with us.
Challenging Corporate Models
As a small business, we are constantly pushed to adopt larger corporate models. We’re shown beacons of financial success stories, scrappy heroes who make it to the top and are encouraged to pursue this level of growth. We want to challenge this narrative. We have found that we’ve kept our ship afloat throughout the pandemic by sticking true to our mission -- being a place where artists can work, play, and produce.
This isn’t to say we aren’t actively pursuing innovation or increased profit margins. However, we will not put profits before people. As a woman-led business, we’re very familiar with adapting in the face of adversity. We pursued new business ventures, hosted in-person and virtual murder mysteries linking all 6 of our sets, and dipped our toes in the virtual gaming realm. We also focused on community support, hosting several blood drives, and working with local non-profits to distribute PPE. These initiatives, though self-driven, could not have unfolded without the support of artists who are actively creating and producing.
Strengthening The Chain Through Your Mission
We hosted Questar Entertainment for one whole week as they filmed a sketch comedy series at our facility. It’s not every day that you get to walk into your lobby, seeing a green screen with a beautiful Black comedian wearing a full baseball costume. By baseball, I don’t mean a uniform: she was the baseball. Later that evening, we hosted several music video shoots for an emerging Chicago hip hop artist who showed up with a cameraman and friends to play background characters. Even later that night, an entire production crew showed up to film a music video for a well-known Chicago artist signed by Warner Brothers.
The artists who support us take many forms. The furloughed costume designer sewing face masks so that we can provide them to guests. The musician saved up for months to shoot their debut music video at our facility. Or new college graduates seeking work in a field that has completely reshaped itself. These are the people who showed up for us this year. The overwhelming majority wasn’t the corporate market, those with money to spend, not when the pandemic hit, nor when we had things to offer. Still, the overwhelming majority was a collective of fellow artists, each strengthening the chain to face adversity together.
When times get tough, we’ve found it imperative to remember your core, foundation, and base. Critical to your beginnings, this network should receive the same VIP treatment as lucrative prospects that may elevate your growth. Our base was our liferaft, the ones pulling us from the water.
This year has given us a renewed commitment: to the individual, to local businesses, to artists, and to our community at large.
Because of you, we’re still afloat, and so is our mission. To all links in our chain of support: thank you. We’re thrilled to be here and will continue innovating so that we can give back as much as we’ve been given.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay strong, Escape Artists.
Choose Your Mission!
At Escape Artistry, our escape rooms are "Chicago Original." All 6 of our games are handcrafted by local Chicago artists with custom puzzle games you won't find anywhere else!