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Christopher Plant sits down with Eileen Tognini to discuss creating community, taking advantage of the time that is given to us, and the art scene in Philadelphia. Eileen is an independent curator, who organizes and curates gallery shows, artist salons and sculpture garden events, with a particular focus on the work of emerging and recognized contemporary artists in the Philadelphia and New York regions.
You can learn more about Eileen at her website.
Social Alchemy with Eileen Tognini
Christopher Plant: [00:00:00] Welcome to RADIOKISMET LIVE WITH CHRISTOPHER PLANT. RADIOKISMET LIVE is a partnership with KISMET COWORK and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Here we are live at RADIOKISMET. This is Christopher Plant at our RADIOKISMET studio – socially distant studio – located at 448 North 10th Street. And today we have a very special guest, Eileen Tognini. How you doing, Eileen?
I’m great, Christopher. How are you?
I’m doing fantastic.
Thanks for inviting me.
My pleasure. Thanks for coming. W e exist in a similar circuit and I had seen you, and we had developed at least a passing friendship that was comprised almost entirely of gala celebrations and being in the same place at the same time I’d heard of you. And then when we did get the chance to to talk more, I was very excited about that.
I’ve been talking about some projects and your name just came up over and over again. Can you just tell me a little bit about how you come to be here in Philadelphia?
Eileen Tognini: [00:01:02] I was born and raised here, so I’ve been here all of my life. I grew up in East Oak Lane. I went to the Philadelphia High School For Girls. I have stayed in the city. I went to Drexel. I live in Fishtown and I work in Center City. So really all of my life is native and still here.
Christopher Plant: [00:01:24] I love that though. I think that I, I grew up in Washington, DC. I went to college in Boston. I lived in New York City. And then I moved to Philadelphia and it wasn’t until I came to Philadelphia that there was ever this idea that the person you were talking to might be from where you were talking to them to. That’s not the first assumption you would make in DC. And certainly not Boston and not even in New York.
So I think that it’s amazing that the cultural heritage of Philadelphia is something that is very strong and the civic engagement from the people that stay here and who believe in Philadelphia.
Eileen Tognini: [00:01:57] It’s interesting For a long time, it was hard to even meet anybody or find anybody that didn’t come from Philadelphia.
I moved here in my
Christopher Plant: [00:02:10] mid-thirties and I was like an alien.
Eileen Tognini: [00:02:14] But now it’s fewer and far between that are born and raised here. So it’s cool. And that’s of course what energizes this city is people coming from other places and other cities and other parts of the world and energizing Philadelphia in a really unique and wonderful way.
Christopher Plant: [00:02:31] That’s fun. Yeah. You are very clearly a magical creature. I love the way you dress and the products that you’ve come to. It’s not necessarily what one would consider to be a traditional Philadelphia trajectory. How did that happen?
Eileen Tognini: [00:02:49] Okay, you’re ready? So here’s the story: I come from a very creative and artistic family. My dad was an artist – went to the Philadelphia College of Art, which is now University of the Arts. My mother was born in Greece and she’s still with us at 93 and is a designer who had a really cool career at the old Nan Duskin I can’t imagine that…
Christopher Plant: [00:03:17] I am a student of history and I went to school here for two years in the eighties and I left for 15 years, but I would come through town because my mother lives in central PA and I would always come through town. And so I did know some people, but I’ve heard a lot of the Nan
Eileen Tognini: [00:03:31] Duskin.
Quite a retail heritage. But went to Drexel, I started out as a design major, realized that there were people that were far better at fashion design than I, but I had a pretty good sort of bent towards business and supporting them and being a real sort of creative business person.
So I finished Drexel in the business school and went on to work for IBM. So I spent 14 years at IBM. You would hardly imagine that I was
Christopher Plant: [00:03:59] not have naturally seen that to fit into your resume.
Eileen Tognini: [00:04:03] Brooks Brothers, khaki suits with little silk bow ties… but I always had really cool glasses and really cool shoes. So that was my creative bent. I was always the, thewild one on the sales team.
Yeah. Which actually lend itself to a creative problem solver from a sales and marketing perspective, which was really fun. So I had a wonderful sales management and marketing career at IBM for 14 years.
Then after that I was lured by a couple of really super smart developers who asked me to be their sales arm. They Had just finished developing a product. So for two and a half years, I ran their worldwide sales effort. And then I was Director of Marketing for Olin partnership here in Philadelphia. They’re just a wildly talented, internationally recognized, urban planner, landscape architect firm. All the while I was starting to feel really … We had a young daughter.
And I hit a real, a benchmark birthday and 9/11 had happened. So there was a real sort of moment of “Oh my God, what am I going to say about this life? What’s this all about?” kind of thing.
All the, while we had this little stone farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania. And I was while working full time and would plan on an annual basis to do this incredible gallery in the garden and a real pie in the sky sort of thing. Now, mind you, this is 1996. This is just all before internet and all before social media. And this is literally like hand inscribing 2000 invitations year after year.
It was really wonderful. And it was held for the first and second weekends, or actually the second and third weekends of September every year. And for year one: I was like, bud, with this 200 year old stone farmhouse, like you don’t really know there’s some
Christopher Plant: [00:06:06] acres, there was that
Eileen Tognini: [00:06:08] one, but we’re up against state game lands and birds, plenty of space and a bird sanctuary.
So there’s plenty of space. And the house is super tiny. It’s like a little nest, but I got a little philosophical about the fact that you have a 200 year old home, you don’t really own a 200 year old home. You’re its agent for 30 years, you’re a steward.
And I was like, “Oh my God what are like, what are what’s are part of this history of this house?” Within months of owning this house , I did another thing, which was a pretty extensive garden, and realized I knew squat about what I had in this garden.
And so I went to the certificate program at the Barnes Arboretum school, which was pretty awesome. So I knew the difference between certain plants and trees, et cetera. That was really just a wonderful trajectory. And I may not have ever done that. Had it not been for this little house.
Christopher Plant: [00:07:06] was, it obviously gave you gave something back to you
Eileen Tognini: [00:07:09] and yeah.
And it was a necessity because otherwise, what it would have given me was an abundance of weeds. And I would have just like… who buys the house, thinking the garden isn’t going to grow? So we started “Gallery in the Garden” and 10 years into it, it was like field of dreams. The last year, which was 2008 , which was its 10th anniversary, which of course was quite fortuitous given that, two weeks later was the implosion of the economy. But we made a big deal of it.
Explain it. What was going on?
So we feel very strongly when you do something that is somewhat repetitive, whether it’s a theme or based on a date, any kind of annual thing you have to almost create a an opportunity for people to realize it’s almost like a subscription. And when you have a subscription, you are anticipating something different and unique that year. Every year we would take out all the furniture, put it in storage, bring new furniture, paint, walls, different colors.
The artwork was different every year. So it would be like cranes pulling it out. It was so unbelievable, but it fostered such a community in the area because there was nothing really culturally happening. And so neighbors would allow people to park on their land and people were providing catered food pig, roasts. We had the Budweiser horses brought in, carting people up and down the street on a parade route. It was just insane. We had spoken word, music… but every year was different. So that you felt it was more about saying “I’ve been to all 10″, ” I’ve been to eight”, as opposed to saying, “Oh, I’ve been, yeah, I did that already, I don’t need to go.”
So it was a pretty amazing thing, but I’ll never just forget. Cause I just remember the tears kinda like it, the time that the opening time started on the first weekend, which was always like five o’clock on the first.
The first weekend just to see cars coming down the, this little country road this is at the foot of Hawk mountain. Oh yeah. I love it. Yeah. It’s really beautiful. So that was also the thing. Like people was a destination. It was not, I’ve been
Christopher Plant: [00:09:55] to Hawk mountain six or seven times. So I was just not at the right
Eileen Tognini: [00:09:59] time.
Pretty, it was pretty awesome, but it was also the same weekend that 9/11 had happened. And I struggled with, do we do this? Do we not do this? And everybody said, you got to do it. Like we need a place. And it was just. So remarkable and who’s
Christopher Plant: [00:10:18] we, who’s helping you do this.
Eileen Tognini: [00:10:20] Oh, it takes a village, think the first person I need to acknowledge really is my daughter and my husband who, are the most, wonderful supporters of these, some of these nutty ideas I’ve had over the year,
Christopher Plant: [00:10:33] over these years, like noncommercial, right?
Yeah. totally, non-commercialEileen Tognini: [00:10:36] not.
Christopher Plant: [00:10:39] True expressions of beauty and passion.
Eileen Tognini: [00:10:42] Totally. There was really, it was really the bank of Tognini financing, this, and it was just literally out of just sheer passion and the necessity because people need. To have this people need to see this. And and artists need to be supported in a way that they may not normally through the sort of more conventional and commercial ways of showing art.
Which are like ,
Christopher Plant: [00:11:06] a lot of times in stuffy galleries
Eileen Tognini: [00:11:08] or right. And really again, in that model, in 96 or 97 to 2008, it was that sort of conventional model. And it was even before art fairs. And it was even before, like you would see quote, emerging artists along with recognized artists in the same space.
And this was like, all of that was stripped away. There was no agenda.
Christopher Plant: [00:11:28] That’s great. And so how many people would come throughout
Eileen Tognini: [00:11:32] the week? Oh my gosh. It’s so a thousand people over the weekend. It was just amazing. And, it’s two weekends, two weekends,
Christopher Plant: [00:11:40] and yeah. And then, what’s so interesting about that when things get to that scale and like figuring out that the passion play part of it and then the logistics and trying to.
Keep the balance between the two of them not getting too buried under the logistics.
Eileen Tognini: [00:11:53] And, yeah. Let me just finish answering the question about the people, because I think it really, it’s so important to acknowledge, the fact that we’ve always, because it’s a not a primary residence for us.
We, we have had to have a gardener and somebody taking care of, some aspects of the house and and landscape and and neighbors, and Catering friends and people took. Real pride in their participation and their role in this every year. And literally, the grass had barely popped back up from one show.
We were planning, of next year’s show and everybody was just really proud and, and that was a beautiful thing. There’s a vision and then there’s. And then there’s a village and you let people own their little
Christopher Plant: [00:12:40] pieces. I wouldn’t find their value point where they were, how they can help you.
So I think that’s great. And one of the things that, that, we’ve already spoken about is this This need and, or desire, whatever you wanna call it to create community. And, some people have that skill and are willing to to use it, to put themselves through the effort to bring other people together.
And it is very rewarding. What are some of the the best memories that you have of like bringing these people together and creating this social alchemy? Oh,
Eileen Tognini: [00:13:09] gosh, there’s so many, there’s so many examples. I think that some of the most exciting, I remember very early there was a woman.
She was a teacher from Nora and was a great article written by Caroline tiger actually. Great good friend and great writer. And she had written a wonderful article for American, I think it was American craft. I hope I’m not getting that wrong, but and it was just a beautiful sort of centerfold and cover a story article and a woman from North Jersey had read it and a woman from Ohio had read it.
And this woman from Ohio which her sort of little. Passion was to travel with art destinations in mind and she would get in her car and she would just drive to these things that she reads about. And she read about gallery in the garden and she hopped in her car from Ohio and traveled to his little town in rural PA.
And this woman came down. This teacher from North Jersey came down and they met and they just, and I, Go around and meet everybody that I don’t know, because I want to welcome them to my home basically. Yeah. And and they became really good friends and they spent the entire day going around and looking at, Site-specific installations and artwork and sculptures and talking about it.
And it was just wonderful. Lots of there was a couple that met there and got married. Yeah. Yeah. And I love that, artists met and collaborated and, the list goes on and just to, to this day, people ask me to this day, people say, I haven’t gotten. My invitation, did I like.
Did I, and I couldn’t come the last two years if I hopped off. And it’s no, sorry, I don’t take anybody off the list. I just haven’t done it since 2008. So
Christopher Plant: [00:14:57] yeah, it’s sweet. I think it’s good to take a break. I have a very close friend who organized. He’s not from Philadelphia, but he developed this great community and he organized an event a friendsgiving that he would do it as house that became like this incredible spectacle.
And did it for 10 years and then believed in this idea that like things that, that have an end and he would challenge himself with some of the same things that you had spoken about in terms of the programmatic sequence of how things happen and keeping it fresh and alive.
Eileen Tognini: [00:15:26] Yeah. Oh yeah. It was a very deliberate thing.
It was like you’ve got to sell your stock when it’s hot.
Christopher Plant: [00:15:31] Yeah. And also just push yourself in a different direction and move on it.
Eileen Tognini: [00:15:35] I, that’s so true. Part of it became somewhat formulaic except for the art. Like I knew how to put it on every year and it was like I don’t want it to be, I don’t want it to become this sort of wrote routine kind of thing.
Christopher Plant: [00:15:49] historically, w what are some other events like that, that, that really inspired you? Like where did, how did you come up with something? How did you push yourself in this direction to do something that was obviously. Deeply involved. And, I’ve done some things like this where occasionally my wife or somebody in my life will say, or one of my boss will be like, why yeah.
Eileen Tognini: [00:16:09] Yeah.
I think just this one instance in, in doing things gallery and the garden in particular was really inspired by sort of the Bohemians and how they gathered and, really historically. All over the world, whether it was Bloomsbury or, the Hamptons and, or, the list goes on, right?
Christopher Plant: [00:16:29] Yeah. Or even the factory
or whatever you
Eileen Tognini: [00:16:33] no Exactly. All of the above. And so I always, I look a little, not academically, but, or in a scholarly way, but just in a Beautiful way, like an inspiring way. I’d like looking to history and connecting the dots. And it felt it just, it felt appropriate being on this little old historic property and to this day, in fact, we were there over the holiday and people there are.
People that drive by that have lived in this house, like when they were little kids and and they were coming back just to see the old house. And and so between that, between its pers a personal history and then this other historical context, I think that was part of the, and again, going back to the Lake, what is this.
What’s my little history in this house.
Christopher Plant: [00:17:28] As a, as an artist at what are you, what is your skillset? I’ve seen your your Instagram and you love collecting things and composing and collaging stuff. And it’s I love it. And like how did that evolve?
Eileen Tognini: [00:17:43] Oh, man. Let’s see. I can, I, can I have not made, this is probably a big, this is a very sore spot.
Christopher Plant: [00:17:51] We can go somewhere else, but
Eileen Tognini: [00:17:52] no, it actually, it makes me put a stake in the ground here, but, one might say I make art with the work that I do from a commercial standpoint, but I don’t know that’s completely true for me.
I , I am living it in my head. And I feel that it is emerging in a different way and will again it’s just so it’s percolating it’s happening. Cause I’m at that next point where what’s it all about? Yeah,
Christopher Plant: [00:18:19] this is the time. We were.
Yeah. Thinking a lot about what this
Eileen Tognini: [00:18:23] means. Oh yeah, exactly. This is the other this is our other nine 11 in our lifetime, I’m in full
Christopher Plant: [00:18:31] between nine 11 and the financial crash. And now this that is more than a generation is normally allowed to
Eileen Tognini: [00:18:40] participate in. It’s pretty remarkable.
It is really pretty remarkable and it has really made us. Think so very deeply and in a very sort of genuine way. So we’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. We’ll be more than, okay.
Christopher Plant: [00:18:54] Yeah. I was talking to a young woman yesterday, 29 years old and she said, I just don’t think we’ll recover.
And I was like, Americans. We’ve been at war with each other since day one. We’re 49, 51 country forever, and this is not unsurvivable and it is and we can thank God today. We can thank God that our country is as resilient as it has been. And granted, today I’m going to take a wild guess that we both feel like we’re on the side of victory here.
And we can celebrate and let’s do the most we can with the time that we have during this period and hope that we can make it as long as possible. But do think that we can survive. And I do think that what you do and what I try to do in terms of creating local community is this vital component that is intangible.
And I asked that question about art. And I’m not surprised by what you said. I went to art school I graduated the painting and sculpture degree and the easiest question that people have when they know that you’re 20 years out of art school is Oh, are you still painting?
And so the judgment that comes in there, and then, here we are as adults who I think you’re very secure in who you are, I am. And and then you find yourself, you’re like, Oh, I don’t. And, but. You live every moment creatively. I know that I do. And I try to create that around me.
And that could be in making dinner that could be in the outfit or my clown car that I just drove up here. And the life of an artist is poorly judged if just by their reflection of it’s obvious products. Yeah. Yeah. And But so you are, but you are a collector. You, like I saw some things and you make these beautiful little assemblages and tack things up in your house and I’ve dug into your, you’re, there’s a poet soul in, in the vision that you’re putting out there.
Eileen Tognini: [00:20:46] Thank you. Yeah, it’s really funny. I get I get a lot of not to sound, whatever, but I. I guess Instagram has been a little sort of curated opportunity for me. And it’s not. But when I meet people, they say, Oh my God, I follow you. And it’s a great feed and I love it. And I’m surprised by, everything that you post and, so I guess that’s my moment, my little tiny moment to inspire and to.
Be introspective, but yeah, I’m a collector. I want to be a minimalist, but I’m really a maximalist. I’m glad I have a couple of spaces. Can exercise both.
Christopher Plant: [00:21:26] Yeah.
Eileen Tognini: [00:21:27] I just, I can’t help myself. I just like, and I love, I, I love a femora and I love like the, again, the notion of.
Somebody has created something with this object or it’s lived with somebody else or multiple people over time, or just what was this? So I guess it just goes back to that, like being an agent of stuff
Christopher Plant: [00:21:50] well, and a curator of life and looking around and seeing things of beauty and wanting to share those.
And even in my own Instagram and social media, as I think a little more performative than yours, but. But I treat it as my diary and it is something that I share with the world and it is. Always hilarious back when you could go into spaces, I would, it was not uncommon for me to be in a coffee shop or something, and somebody would come up that I barely knew or whatever, sometimes didn’t even know.
And that you had a great weekend. Yeah.
I did tell you that. I did tell you that and that’s funny, but let’s not go down too far down the social media rabbit hole, but yeah. When I think about, what this, the artist life is. And you mentioned that you feel like you’re at a reckoning and want to do something you do.
Do you mean that because of the cerebral quality of this pandemic and how that’s impacted you?
Eileen Tognini: [00:22:53] No. I no, I’m. I’m S often think of myself as a little bit of a restless soul creatively. And, you you don’t go from, IBM to, so all of these, every few years doing something, completely different, but without thinking that there’s.
Something new and something else out there for you. And but I feel really strongly that, and I think Steve jobs had, talked about this in probably one of his, it’s one of the most famous sort of commencement speeches at Stanford and it was about connecting the dots and you, don’t you don’t see the dots until you look back and see how they’ve all been connected.
And so I’m just like, I’m just putting the dots together, so yeah, there’s more I, and I always referenced my dad passed away at 62 and I, he always with his artwork would say, Oh, I’ll get to it when I retire. I’ll get to it. When I, I’ll do it when I retire.
And sadly, he never made it to his retirement to do those things. And so I. Think very strongly about that every single day and every single right? That fact that you just it’s fine. I, you gotta go do it. If you’re curious, if you want to do something, if you have a passion, if you have an interest, just go do it
Christopher Plant: [00:24:09] tomorrow.
I turn the age that my mother’s father. Died, cleaning the snow off of her car. He had a heart attack and he was very creative. He not very creative. He was emerging from a decades long dark period, alcoholism and had gotten into woodworking and had all the tools. But I have long thought of his age when he passed away and I turned that age tomorrow.
I always think that. I, I don’t have any tattoos, but if I had one, it would say now, and it is about that, that the emergence of that inner drive and that spirit in you, that, that gets you off the couch gets you moving, gets you doing something when the traditional. Or another person might just not move.
And this compulsion that artsy people and not just artsy, but PR productive people and people that want to make their Mark on the world to get up and to do something of value is super, super unique. Yeah. And do, and you’ll probably find it in your friends and you’re attracted to people like that.
Eileen Tognini: [00:25:15] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Christopher Plant: [00:25:19] Are I think at the center of, part of the center of the creative community here, and you’ve done some work with organizations and things like that. The you were asking me about Bruce Mau. And how did you come to work with the design
Eileen Tognini: [00:25:31] lab?
So I have so I’ve been associated with a board at the Philadelphia museum of art called CoLab, which supports the museums contemporary and modern design collection. And I’ve been involved for over 20 years. And have. Been actually it’s chair for for seven years. And and it’s been just extraordinary to meet like the, our design honorees.
And I could go on a whole other topic about the museum’s design efforts and but the opportunity to have met, talk about Passionate, just wildly creative people, but we on an annual basis for the last close to 30 years have honored design luminaries that have really changed design history.
And and Bruce Mau was honored a few years back along with deed and. Frank Gary, and Patricia Urquiola, the list goes on and on and, Marcel wanders and my God, just to have the opportunity to have met and been in the presence of these folks and just share, just, yeah.
It’s pretty amazing. So yeah, so it’s been pretty, really awesome. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:26:39] And so when you think of you’ve been here for your entire life. Philadelphia used to, it used to be considered to have this cultural, somewhat deficient learning curve, people left and you decided to stay and you decided that you were compelled to obviously bring up the, that, that component of Philadelphia’s character.
Is that true? Yeah,
Eileen Tognini: [00:27:03] I, I think what happens is for me, probably 25, I was saying, I may have been born here, but yeah, I don’t want to die here. And, but really I had such great, great professional opportunities and I’m a business person like, I love.
I love being
Christopher Plant: [00:27:25] arts
Eileen Tognini: [00:27:25] backgrounds. Love it. I’m a business person as well as a creative. And and so I’ve had really great opportunities and really none that, took me. Elsewhere. Yeah. And I loved all of my, chapters in my professional career that, so there was no really impetus to go anywhere.
And then before, it, you’re, your heels are really continuing to dig in and, you start a family and you create a business. And so that’s it, I’m here for the long haul and it’s just it’s a different place. Quite frankly. It’s a different place.
Christopher Plant: [00:27:57] Yeah. And I think, I’ve been in Philadelphia for 18 years.
That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life. And I do think that when I came here, I was like, pinballing from this, five years of intensity in New York and had a kid. And I was like, I’m going to stop in here for a minute, but then I’m going to go on to great things.
And so that’s going to be somewhere else, but then you realize that and this me, I don’t know if you felt like I, I realized that, that the challenge for me, wasn’t in the place. The challenge for me was in myself. And if I looked at my life every single day, there were very few opportunities to make it richer.
Maybe I would stand on the coast of California and see a beautiful sunset. But then when you multiplied the algebra of what those other parts were like I had an amazing life here and I don’t think that it would necessarily be better anywhere else. And so like turning the challenge around to let, not being the carpenter that’s blaming his tools.
Like I wasn’t gonna be the artist or the person or the human to blame the place. And it wasn’t, I come from a place of privilege. So I will say that my environment wasn’t. Crushing me in a way that I felt like I had to flee. And then I started talking about it. I have this move to Philly website and I would see my friends.
In their sixth apartment and 10 years in New York city. And snobbing their way looking down their nose at this Philadelphia experience. And just thinking Hey, I know and also, being in a place where you look at the realities of that moment and, I. I don’t know. D have you been able to go back to Greece a lot or is that something that’s part still
Eileen Tognini: [00:29:37] part of your so I’m not the, I’m not the Greek that would go and in summer in Greece, unfortunately.
Yes, I’ve been to Greece several times, but not every didn’t sort it wasn’t part of my growing up summer routine kind of thing. It’s pretty amazing, but I just want to go back and say yeah. Philadelphia was always a very a rich community of artists. So for anybody that had anything to do with the arts, we always lived in the shadow of New York, but there was a very rich community of artists.
And part of it had to do with, we had, a few amazing art schools here.
Christopher Plant: [00:30:13] My brother went to the university arts.
Eileen Tognini: [00:30:15] Yeah, exactly. So PCA or university of the arts and Tyler and more, and, Philly, texts, w what was then textile and more of a and
Christopher Plant: [00:30:25] and even Penn,
Eileen Tognini: [00:30:26] there’s, so really, for someone that was interested in either supporting the arts or being an artist, it was, it’s a great place.
Christopher Plant: [00:30:36] I don’t doubt it and I don’t want anything. That, what I said was not to be derogatory. I am celebrating the same things that you were saying that I think it is the weaker spirit that demands that they be in that place. And and even though I feel that the tug for the 70 degree weather of Los Angeles, or yeah, something like that.
But I guess what I was getting at with the Greek was not even assuming that you would go back there, but that maybe you have built travel and built learning into your life in a way that you were able to do so because you were living in an affordable place and you had some a life that you wanted.
Eileen Tognini: [00:31:10] Yeah.
We do love to travel. Yeah. We do love to travel. I was going to say we actually, we were in Mexico city two days before the shutdown
Christopher Plant: [00:31:20] I spent the weekend before in new Orleans.
Eileen Tognini: [00:31:22] Oh my gosh. Yeah. I’m glad we had the, even though, you’re grateful for anything at this point, right? So it’s quite grateful that had happened.
Although of course the last couple of days of that trip was a very anxiety filled because of course that was also when the the. Correct. The president at the time was pulling P Americans back from Europe. And it was just like, what is going on? You had
Christopher Plant: [00:31:46] to go through that. I got home before that, and I know that, it’s crazy.
And so you’re very easy to talk to with the. This is the Philadelphia thing. You’re done these beautiful gatherings. One thing I wanted to ask you about that we touched on a private conversation, you seem to have a really lovely relationship with you.
Eileen Tognini: [00:32:08] Oh, it’s so nice of you to bring that up.
I do. I do. I do. She’s. She’s, she is a real creative and she is she’s got a really good business head on. I have no idea. She’s a really, she’s super grounded. She’s a really good business sense. But she’s a real creative and she’s emerging as a really creative wonderful photographer that started out.
Sort of taking portraits of women and young people who identify as female and who maybe didn’t feel as comfortable in front of the camera. And she gave them a space to feel safe and comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. And and she just, yeah, she’s amazing. So yeah, I do have a great relationship
Christopher Plant: [00:32:55] with her.
I did she go to school here and to college in Philly?
Eileen Tognini: [00:32:59] Yes, she she also went to Drexel, which was something I’m
sending a son there nextChristopher Plant: [00:33:04] year. Oh,
Eileen Tognini: [00:33:04] it’s great. Look, I went to Drexel. The co-op program is amazing and and and I don’t, I. Would tell you that she did not necessarily want to go to Drexel at first and perhaps she, yeah.
For probably the same reasons, for me it was because her mom went there and because it’s in the city that she’s always been in, didn’t want to get trapped. And but. As it turns out and she had, been accepted by a number of amazing schools some great liberal arts schools.
And I think what she realized when she was there was that she she really realized that she thrives in an environment that is diverse and colorful and Perhaps less judgmental. And at the end of the day, she realized, and it’s what kind of you were talking about earlier, but she realized that.
She thought she wanted to be outside of her comfort zone and outside of her comfort zone was going away. But really you can be outside of your own comfort zone without going anywhere. Cause it comes from within. And that I think is what she, what that moment meant for her. And she realized.
That, what was most important was that she was surrounded by people that she was most sympathetic over. So she stuck around and that too gave her great opportunities and, helped her kickstart her career.
Christopher Plant: [00:34:23] Yeah, that’s awesome. I had a son who did a year at Tyler school of art and, I started drawing with him when he was one There are times through our stages of growing up together when we would draw together.
And if my wife picked it up, she wouldn’t know who did what. And and my, I. I am guilty of pushing some of my ambitions onto him in terms of the schools that we went to and things like that. And it was in his senior year and he was like, I’m going to Tyler. And I was like, you sure don’t, I’m going to Tyler.
He’s dad shut it down. And we went to Parsons and I was like, imagine you’re being rude. And he was like, no, I’m going to Tyler and I was, and it was funny, back when he was in eighth grade, I was like, go then when it got closer, I was like, I’m actually pretty cool with you being here.
And, he’s just taking in an apartment February 1st at the Drake. And I was like, I used to party there when I was younger.
Eileen Tognini: [00:35:18] I know I did. I definitely did the secret, shout and dance when she said she was gonna stay in Philly and go to Drexel. So I was pretty excited. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:35:27] Yeah. That’s super cool. It feels here we are in the 21st of January, but it feels like the new year just began yesterday. What are some of the big things in your life that you hope to claw back from the pandemic and what are you hopeful for in 2021?
Eileen Tognini: [00:35:44] Oh, gosh. I just saying yes, that’s just saying yes. I’ve always said yes, actually. I’ve often said yes, actually. No is pretty empowering too. Yeah. But I think I just I’ve always been open to new opportunities and new just, new ways of thinking about things and I will continue to do that.
I think that these last few months have given real pause to just I’m thinking, just thinking, am I God thinking and reading and, absorbing in a way of and figuring out how that gets synthesized and in your decisions,
Christopher Plant: [00:36:24] are you a different person now than you were at March, 2020?
What are I hear that, and I don’t want to ask too broad a question, and I guess I’m only saying this because radically. Different in some ways.
Eileen Tognini: [00:36:38] Yeah, I don’t know that I’m different. I don’t know that I’m different. I think I just took the time to think about. Who I am. And no, I’m not because that would, for me, that would feel like one big Rez, new resolution that I’m thinking about.
But it isn’t, it’s really about just really okay, this is, This is who I am, and this is what it’s about. And this is what’s important to me. And I thought I knew what was important to me, but now I,
Christopher Plant: [00:37:06] you’re actually saying something similar to me. And when I say radically different than maybe I should restate it I both of my kids moved home.
I have a awesome relationship with my children. I spent more time with my oldest son who was already out of the house. I spent more time with him in the five months that he was living in our house than I would have in the next 10 years. And so that gift. Was something that was transformative to my soul.
And it was very nice that my children could turn around and reflect on these, pushy, loud accessive dad and, and see some things in me and that I could be less judgmental and Sharon and my younger son. And then also there was this essay. And I think I might’ve asked you about it, but there was this essay called prepare for the ultimate gaslighting.
Eileen Tognini: [00:37:54] shared that you did. It was brilliant. Yeah.
Christopher Plant: [00:37:58] A Thunderclap in my, and it was like, what are you going to put it back in? And as you’re super friendly, I’m super friendly and. Occasionally. And you always say yes, you said, I always say yes. And there was this reflective moment in that, that three months when you were like fully locked down and there were days Saturdays where I’d wake up and I was just like, okay, I’m hurling myself with the world.
I’m going up there. I’m going to see all these things and do all this stuff and clicked all these, his experiences. And I think that is both a strength and a weakness and the. Capacity for a hyperactive person like myself to sit still for a minute and to be more willing to accept that the nowness of something is.
And that’s what I mean when I think I have less tolerance for maybe some of the bullshit that I put myself through that I thought was the thing that was truly enriching my character and And so I think we said the same thing.
Eileen Tognini: [00:38:56] Yeah. I think I I think the self-awareness is really the common thread here.
Cause it’s a really tough time and it’s easy to just dismiss it for. Something else will,
Christopher Plant: [00:39:10] what are you going to put back in our, the universe is going to ask you to go out and be that person you were before this happened buy those things, fill your life with this and with that.
And if you have the opportunity, whether it’s a toxic friendship or something that doesn’t make you feel really good, or if it’s a habit that you think you can attempt to conquer. Whatever it is. And without getting too new year’s resolution like you said w what are those things? And I have looked at certain friendships and certain behavior patterns and stuff like that, and wondered how I can morph that.
And then some part of this is that the fleeting nature of time and legacy, and wanting to make sure that the time that you have that you spend wisely and with people that you enjoy and. Yeah,
Eileen Tognini: [00:39:55] exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And I read things that I might’ve read before and I read them in a different way now.
I’ve read a lot more poetry lately
Christopher Plant: [00:40:06] and we talked about that amazing poetry from the stage of the
Eileen Tognini: [00:40:09] inauguration yesterday. So that was amazing. Yeah. That was pretty amazing. Super magic. Yeah. I’m so happy for her. I’m so happy for .
Christopher Plant: [00:40:19] Exactly. Does our country produces people like that? That’s
Eileen Tognini: [00:40:22] exactly right.
So that, that is such a hopeful thing for such a, young, imagine the years of wonder that we will have those young persons, so
Christopher Plant: [00:40:32] yeah. Is Way back in the dark ages, five days after Donald Trump was elected and Jon Stewart said this thing, he’s like all you people out there condemning our country and saying that America is a bag of nuts is the same country that elected Barack Obama.
And thank God we, this happened and I don’t want to get too deep into that, but we both have a sense of hope. And I think that’s great. I want to thank you for coming here to sit with me and challenge me not to run through the traditional rigmarole of a recap of somebody’s life and do some of the more philosophical musings.
I love that the. Artistic soul that you have and hope that we get to spend more time together. And if somebody wants to find that, that there’s artistic musings of yours on Instagram, or they find you
Eileen Tognini: [00:41:21] my it’s Eileen Tognini on Instagram, E I L E E N T O G N I N I. Okay. So there we go, Christopher, thank you so much for the opportunity.
It’s been a great
Christopher Plant: [00:41:32] fun. Awesome. Yeah. We’ll be doing more. Yay. Okay, thank you so much. Thank you. Signing off. This is Christopher plant from RADIOKISMET located at 448 North 10th street. RADIOKISMET is a partnership with kismet co-work and we’ll see you out there. Soon.
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