ASF Talks 2017

The event that took place at the Fine Arts Center theater on Feb. 23 was only the fourth edition, but it feels like a decades-long tradition. And that's directly due to the skill and effort of the ASF alumni volunteers who organized the event, and especially the amazing alumni who spoke.

ASF Talks has lofty goals. It brings the ASF community together to connect ideas and inspire changes, both personal and professional, using a very simple approach. ASF alumni talk about the innovative and successful projects they've carried out in Mexico and in the world.

First proposed by former ASF Alumni Relations Specialist Maria Vidal, ASF Talks is based on the premise that with good information and direction, our school can shape habits and help solve the world's problems.

Its success is a tribute to the talent and achievements of our students and alumni. Think about it. ASF community members filled up the FAC to listen to people simply talk. They didn't sing. They didn't dance. They didn't do stand-up comedy. They didn't play instruments... Well, actually, some did. The ASF Jazz Band, under the direction of Kyle Pape, provided a musical interlude.

But the real appeal of ASF Talks is ideas. And ideas can be more inspiring than entertainment.

The pursuits of this year's speakers varied widely, from chemistry to design. And when you think of design in the context of ASF alumni, you have to think of Andrea Césarman, architect, designer and curator. Since graduating in 1986 Andrea has been co-founder and partner in Cubica Arquitectos; co-founder of Artelinea; co-founder and creative director of Blend Design; content director for Design Week Mexico; Board member of the board of the Museum of Modern Art; and, not least, a full-time mom.

The ASF Talks audience learned quickly that Andrea not only does design, she also thinks deeply about design's role in today's world.

"Life is a design experience," she says. "From the moment you wake up, to the coffee that you drink... everything in your life – the objects, the buildings – it's about design."

The theme of this year's talks was sustainability. But sustainability on a meaningful scale doesn't just happen. It takes investment. 2001 ASF grad Santiago Ortiz has it covered. Santiago is the CEO of GBM Infraestructura, a private equity fund focusing on the development of renewable energy and water projects in Mexico. As such, Santiago has a front row seat for Mexico's quest for sustainability.

For Tomás Gottfried, from the class of 2000, the sustainability mindset runs in his family. Forty years ago his father designed and installed a wind turbine in their Valle de Bravo home. Tomás built a modern version for mass production. "The challenges seemed insurmountable", he said, "but we delivered and learned important lessons along the way."

Carlos García Noriega, from the class of 2002, told the audience about his work sculpture, and architect's approach to art. He studied in Australia, but Carlos is a chilango at heart, finding inspiration in that phenomenon that makes Mexico City special – constant movement.

But he also strays northward and toward the topical. He's currently working on a sculpture in Ciudad Juárez that reflects on border issues. Carlos also generously brought along some of his sculptures, which were displayed in the Fine Arts Center lobby during ASF Talks, and in Founders' Garden for a time afterwards.

Adriana Prat, from the class of 2002, is executive director of Huella Azul, a non-profit organization that carries out socio-environmental projects that focus on carbon offsets. She has volunteered in projects in Chiapas and participated in national and international environmental forums, as well as working in environmental organizations promoting sustainable development since 2009.

Iluméxico is a leading social enterprise in Mexico that provides solar energy to rural communities. The company has worked in more than 9,000 households and reached close to 40,000 people.

It's CEO and founder is Manuel Wiechers, a 2005 ASF graduate and a featured ASF Talks speaker:

Manuel's talk brought home a key point that many might overlook. Which is that delivering solar energy isn't about an idea or a technology, or doing a good deed. It's providing a service to real people with real needs and real concerns.

"We're not arriving and saying 'here's a solar panel,'" he says, "We're actually working with communities to find not only technical solutions, but how people want to live and how they want to work with us."

George Wang Chen is an ASF alumnus... not yet. He's not even a senior. As a junior, George was selected to be the student speaker at ASF Talks after working as a researcher at the Mexican Petroleum Institute during his non-school hours.

His work is ambitious. It's aimed at removing sulfur from diesel fuel to make it a cleaner energy source for cars and trucks. You'd think a high school junior so adept at chemistry wouldn't have time for much else. You'd think wrong. George is a world class table tennis player who has brought home titles from international tournaments. And that's not all – he even tuned the piano for ASF Talks!

ASF Alumni didn't just give talks. Many helped sponsor the event. In fact, if it weren't for these generous sponsors, there would have been no ASF Talks. There also would have been no after-event social hour, during which generous ASF alumni provided food and drinks. Among them were the following:

  • Deborah Vértiz from the Class of 2000 and Santiago Vértiz from Class of 1999 of Mezcal Amores, which invests 15% of its gross income to support Mezcal-producing communities in Oaxaca.
  • Víctor Campomanes, from the class of 2002, whose Mexican business Enovino is dedicated to importing, distributing and promoting more than 180 different wine labels from around the world.
  • Alejandro Diez Barroso, from the class of 2001, of Hércules, a Mexican craft brewing company with breweries in Querétaro.
  • Elías Kalach, from the class of 2011, of Vertebral, a collective founded by Elías with Teddy Nanes that recognizes space as a medium to incentivize new interactions between architecture, art and their context, including green roofing systems.
  • Melissa Veytia, from the class of 2005, of Verde Permuta, an organization dedicated to reducing the fashion industry's outsized contribution to global pollution by facilitating clothing swaps.
  • Robert Craig, founder and operating partner of Operadora Bajo de la Tintorera, a company dedicated to the operation and development of restaurant concepts. It currently operates 20 restaurants in the metropolitan area of Mexico City including Primos, Sobrinos, Café Torino, and Porco Rosso.