On the evening of Monday, October 8, the staff of the Illinois Tech Idea Shop were met with a very special surprise guest: rapper Kanye West (also known as YE). Held in the new building for the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (hereafter abbreviated as the “Kaplan Institute”), West surprised the students present (some of whom were new members of the Idea Shop team) with his appearance, especially surprising as news outlets at the time focused their attention on his visit with U.S. President Donald Trump later that same week.
In a statement to TechNews, Executive Director of the Kaplan Institute Howard Tullman stated that West’s visit was “to see the new building and discuss a number of different projects that he hoped we would help him work on.” More specifically, Tullman continued, West “wanted to learn more about the plans and activities that will take place at the Kaplan Institute and also the interests and capabilities of our students to help work on some of his Chicago projects.”
This note on Chicago projects is particularly interesting. In September of 2018, West had told fans that he was planning on making his permanent residence in Chicago. Along with this announcement came other statements from the artists on Twitter about various proposed projects within the city, including an office for his fashion brand, YEEZY, teaching courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the revival of the Avalon Regal Theater, an automobile factory, and a school building project. While concrete details on any of these projects, as well as possible Illinois Tech connections are currently sparse, the rhetoric of possible collaboration between the artist and the Kaplan Institute is still worthy of attention.
West’s time spent with students was heavily discussion-based, revolving around West asking “each student what they will accomplish in their work.” Reportedly, students were asked to stand on the tables in the Kaplan Institute building when speaking, with West being recorded doing the same as he described the Illinois Tech Institute of Design as “the greatest design school in the world” and spoke in broad terms about bringing “love, design, opportunity to this planet.”
When asked if guests of this caliber should be expected as a mainstay of the Kaplan Institute, Tullman told TechNews “visits like this will happen all the time.” While the surprise appearance of West on campus surprised many and birthed much discourse on Facebook, his appearance can still at the very least be taken as an indication that Illinois Tech’s longstanding innovation tradition and prominence among innovation and social circles will only further increase through the operations of the new Kaplan Institute building.
Photo courtesy of Kaplan Institute