A highly creative conceptual thinker, Peter is both a Brand and a Social-Change Catalyst.
In 1992, Peter founded Involvement Advocacy in Chicago, to provide individual citizens the opportunity and resources fundamental to addressing systemic community needs.
In 1993 Involvement Advocacy created Sister Neighborhoods, an initiative to link up residents of resource-rich communities with those of more limited resources. The first relationship was between the north shore suburb of Winnetka and the Chicago public housing community of Cabrini-Green, much to the surprise of many. A number of exchanges and programs took place over the first year, however the one project that took hold was the establishment of “Voices of Cabrini,” the only resident-run community newspaper in the Chicago public housing.
Through “Voices of Cabrini,” which received national recognition for highlighting the positive activities taking place in the community, residents were trained in writing and interviewing techniques, project management, desktop publishing and advertising sales. As a result, a number of people working on the paper were able to gain full- or part-time employment and the paper was self-supporting over its four-years of publication. However, at a higher level, hundreds of people of all ages from throughout the community who had never been heard, took advantage of an opportunity to share something important and begin to make a difference.
In 2000, Benkendorf relocated to McHenry County and in 2004 Involvement Advocacy was reconstituted with a local board of directors to initiate Blue Sky Project, as well as other innovative programs that offer new frameworks for community-building.
On the business side, Peter has broad-based experience, from brand development to implementation of integrated marketing campaigns, with particular emphasis on the relationship between brand, product and communications. Prior to launching his own brand practice in 1999, Peter spent seven years as a partner and Director of Client Service at Magnani, a Chicago-based marketing and advertising agency. There he worked on a variety of packaged goods, hard goods retail and service-sector accounts, including: Sunbeam Household Products, Nestlé Clinical Nutrition, Allstate Insurance Company, Culligan and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. He also directed Magnani’s new product development practice, working with Quaker Oats, Whirlpool, S.C. Johnson, Johnson & Johnson and Frito-Lay. Peter began his career on the client side, first as Product Manager-Fitness with the Schwinn Bicycle Company, where he successfully grew the fitness line into the company’s largest profit contributor, and then, as Marketing Manager at Dacor Corporation, a leading manufacturer of scuba diving equipment.
In addition to Involvement Advocacy, Benkendorf provides brand, product and communication solutions to clients in both the non- and for-profit sectors through his firm Ben•ken•dorf Marketing.
Peter is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.
Mequitta is singularly responsible for the philosophy, structure and design of Blue Sky Project.
Mequitta received an MFA from UIC in 2003, mentored by Kerry James Marshall. Her work has been exhibited in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Lawndale Art Center in Houston and BravinLee Programs in New York. She has participated in group exhibitions including Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum, Houston Collects African American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Poets and Painters at the Ulrich Museum in Wichita KS and upcoming show, Anomalies at Rossi and Rossi Gallery in Piccadilly, London. In addition to exhibition catalogues, her work has appeared in Modern Painters, March 2007 and Art News, February 2007. Holland Cotter, art critic of the New York Times, in his “last chance” article in the June 1, 2007 edition of the Times, sighting Mequitta’s NY debut exhibition at BravinLee, stated “Referring to the artist’s African-American and East Indian background, the pictures turn marginality into a regal condition.”
Mequitta was an awardee of the 2008 Houston Artadia Prize as well as the 2008 inaugural recipient of the Meredith and Cornelia Long Prize. Mequitta’s works are in several collections. Public collections include the Ulrich Museum in Wichita KS, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, U.S. State Department’s Mumbai, India offices and The Cleveland Children’s Clinic. Private collections that include her work belong to artist Nick Cave, Houston City Council Member, Peter Brown and gallery owner Meredith Long. Mequitta has recently completed a two-year artist residency at The Core Program in Houston Texas.
Mequitta has worked in a variety of youth-oriented environments and has taught art at the elementary, high school and college level. Working with Urban Gateways, she has been an asessor of teaching artist programs throughout Chicago public schools. She has led after-school arts programs with After School Matters in Chicago, in which student apprentices were introduced to contemporary art methods and concepts. In her philosophical approach, Mequitta strives to create an environment in which both individual investigation and collaboration can flourish.
Mequitta’s work can be seen at: http://www.automythography.com/