Name: Megan Deal
Title: Program Director at People’s Liberty
Hometown: Flint, Mich.
Why we love her:Because she’s passionate about connecting people to make an impact in the cities they call home.
“Ithink there’s sort of a momentum in Cincinnati right now; sort of anything is possible,” says People’s Liberty program director Megan Deal. “And I’ve lived a lot of different places.”
Last year Deal relocated to Cincinnati from Chattanooga, Tenn., to run People’s Liberty’s residency program, overseeing emerging-level designers and the philanthropic lab’s creative direction, its “storytelling.” Before then she had been in Detroit, getting her degree in graphic design from the College of Creative Studies. That’s where she met Kate Creason, an architect, her current business partner and another program director at People’s Liberty.
“I’ve always been curious about trying to figure out how to use design less as a mechanism just to sell things and more as a tool to solve problems,” Deal says. “I’ve always had an interest in cities, particularly Midwestern midsize cities, because that’s just where I’m from.”
The duo opened a problem-solving design studio, Tomorrow Today, and began working for foundations, particularly private family foundations, developing community initiatives.
“We would work with foundations, come in and do contract work, help them with a specific project,” she says, “and so we’ve had a chance to drop into Cincinnati a handful of times the past few years working on smaller projects.”
One of those projects was CoSign, the community initiative that paired artists with small businesses and professional sign fabricators to design and install unique handcrafted signage at local retailers. CoSign was funded in part by the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, which funds People’s Liberty with the Johnson Foundation.
“[The foundation] found us because they were familiar with some work we had done in Chattanooga and Detroit,” Deal says. “And what that work entailed was building out what we’ve called ‘civic labs,’ these sort of places where people are coming together to create and do something in their city. So that was sort of the impetus for thinking about what People’s Liberty could be. What would it look like if a foundation built one of these civic labs? What would it do? How would it function?”
People’s Liberty recently doled out its one-year, $100,000 Haile Fellowships and is currently accepting applications for $10,000 grants for “innovative projects that increase civic engagement and drive community development.”
“At its core, People’s Liberty is about direct investments in people, so direct grants to individuals,” Deal says. “It’s a five-year project. We’re going to be based over in Findlay Market in the Globe Furniture building, and we’re really kind of just getting going. But it feels like we’ve been baking this thing for almost a year. We’re just now sort of launching.”
What are you most passionate about?
What I’m most passionate about in my life? People and place. I want to work with people that care about where they live and I want to work with those people to develop interesting projects that impact where they live. And that could be anywhere. For me that’s Cincinnati at the moment. I’ve gotten the chance to do it in many different cities and meet some great people, but I think at the end of the day, that’s what I care about: working with interesting people who give a damn about the places they call home.
Do you have a favorite place in Cincinnati? Why do you love it?
Findlay Market is so fascinating to me because it changes depending on the time of day and depending on the day of the week, the season. It’s still a bit of an island after 5 p.m. and the market closes. But it’s one of the most authentically diverse places in our community. And one of the most vibrant, just visually. Food has an ability to bring people together.
What’s the best lesson life has taught you about love?
I was actually thinking about this this morning. Love is a choice is one of my biggest things I think I am still trying to learn. That you can’t let your emotions dictate your actions. Your emotions are going to be all over the places depending on so many different variables. And sometimes you’re not going to feel very loving and you’re not going to feel very loveable, but you can choose to love. And I think that’s thinking about love as an action and not an emotion.
What is a phrase or motto you live your life by?
Simplify. And the one thing for me lately is being patient and being persistent. Whether that’s work or love or whatever. Patience and persistence. ©