2 Minutes With … Janet Barker-Evans, CCO at Abelson Taylor

On health becoming more prominent and important at award shows

Janet is EVP/CCO at Abelson Taylor Group, a healthcare advertising and marketing communications network. She has more than 20 years of senior creative experience and has led campaigns across multiple marketing disciplines. Janet is also a founding member of CHIEF, an organization that connects and inspires women executives across the country.

We spent two minutes with Janet to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Janet, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I grew up in Oak Forest, Ill., which is a south suburb of Chicago. I now live in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, a few blocks from the White Sox. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

I can't take credit for this because it was made before I arrived at Abelson Taylor, but I love the disease-awareness work the agency did on "C. diff: The Return." It helped visualize the very real and recurring nightmare people face when they have C. diff, bacteria that can cause severe damage to the colon. The execution, visually referencing bad horror movie sequels, was arresting and provocative. 

One thing about how health is evolving that you're excited about.  

I love that health is becoming more prominent and important at award shows. Creativity is key to helping people choose better health, and it's exciting to be recognized for the work we do. 

Someone else's work, in health or beyond, that you admired lately. 

"Scrolling Therapy" from Eurofarma for people with Parkinson's disease is such an amazing example of how creativity and technology can combine to solve real problems.

A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring. 

The Eye Test: A Case for Human Creativity in the Age of Analytics by Chris Jones. The author points out that while data is important, there is still a critical role for human creativity, intuition and experience in evaluating situations.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.   

Jean Dubuffet, specifically his sculptures. Because I'm from Chicago, I was introduced to him through Monument With Standing Beast in front of the Thompson Center. But I fell in love with his Jardin d'email at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland. You actually climb inside of that playful piece, versus passively viewing it from afar. I tend to like outsider art, or "Art Brut" as he calls it, because it feels more personal, more raw and more inviting.

Your favorite fictional character. 

Arya Stark from Game of Thrones. She was underestimated, overlooked, undervalued and disregarded by so many people who thought they knew who she was and what she was capable of.

Someone worth following on social media. 

Street photographer @jeff_tidwell_street. I love how he celebrates humanity and captures stories large and small. I also enjoy the wonder of @Earth on WeAre8.  

Your main strength as a creative.

My curiosity. I want to know how things work and WHY things happen and WHY people feel or act the way they do. I ask more questions, and always stop to consider if there are other, better solutions to every problem.

Your biggest weakness.  

I overthink things. I'm overthinking the answer to this question.

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Being out in the woods. I love the forest and trees, and when I am the most stressed, I head to the woods. But also, seeing anything with a smile on it. A hand-drawn smiley face on a banana will make my day.

One thing that always makes you sad. 

Watching the news. I believe in goodness and kindness and joy in the world, but the news always seems to focus us on the darker side of humanity.

Something people would find surprising about you. 

I'm learning to play the violin. It is way harder than I ever imagined. And even after a lot of practice, I still sound very, very bad.

What you'd be doing if you were not in health. 

Writing children's books. I've always been a poet and writer. Maybe I'd be the next Shel Silverstein.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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