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  • Beth Delany

Q&A with: wndr Executive Director Kendall McElhaney

Chicago's West Loop is welcoming back the wndr Museum for its second year in a row. Located at 1130 N. Monroe, the colorfully poignant exhibit made headlines last summer with its viral presence on Instagram and its family-friendly approach to art, technology and local culture. wndr's unique interaction opportunities throughout the experience illicit not just creativity, but bravery, courage and ambition -- as seen throughout its most recent outré installation.

Debuting September 21, wndr's second and third chapters introduce the exploration titled, "A Hero's Journey Through wndr." The experience transcends generations as patrons are invited to discover the hero they want to see in the world while learning how to be that hero themselves through a variety of boundary-pushing rooms.

wndr's Executive Director Kendall McElhaney was motivated by author Joseph Campbell's ethereal narrative, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." Themes stemming from the literary piece are explored throughout the museum while everyone from daydreamers to influencers are invited to find the hero within.

Admittedly, it's not easy to find your inner hero, but it's memorable and undeniably fun.

What does it mean to be the Executive Director? What are the responsibilities? I'm the first one in and last one out everyday. I'm pouring every part of myself into this big, beautiful thing. Every directive I give my team is with the intention to spark delight and surprise with our audience. I spend most of my time working with my team to create exciting and thought-provoking interactive experiences that will continue to cement wndr as a cultural and artistic hub in the city of Chicago.

-Why is Joseph Campbell an appropriate fit for wndr? Joseph Campbell's love of literature, philosophy, and his unique perspective of the human condition make him an obvious muse for our latest Chapter. Ultimately, where JC and I align is our belief that we are all storytellers in our own unique ways. How you chose to articulate that story however is what is so enticing to me as a curator, the possibilities are endless.

Why has wndr been so well received by Chicago? People of all identities and experiences are constantly searching for something bigger than themselves. wndr's goal is to encourage this universal internal drive we all share towards greatness while also providing a safe space to do so. wndr is nestled amongst some very prominent artistic institution here in Chicago. I believe guests are entranced by our fresh take on the traditional museum experience and excited by the possibility to enter something new and shake themselves up a bit. 

What does a modern hero look like and how is that interpreted through the installation? A hero is defined by their story, the trials and tribulations that mold someone into who they were always destined to be. In our most recent Chapter, we encourage everyday heroes to realize their potential, value and permanency in the larger story of humanity. Every person should feel like their story means something - we're here to help facilitate and advocate for your story. 

Aside from a fun and tangible experience, what should museum-goers take away from the exhibit? I hope our audience takes what they need. Whether it be a pinch more bravery, a sliver of courage or a large dose of wisdom. I want guests to leave wndr better than when they first arrived. The hope is that if you leave with more questions than answers. Mostly, I want guests to leave feeling as though they took some intentional time to get to know themselves a little better and have hopefully strengthened their admiration for the world around them.

Tickets to the wndr Museum can only be purchased online right here.


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