When you meet Cassondra Schindler - and if you live in Bend, you will - you'll feel immediately at ease. She's one of those rare people whose charisma brightens any room she's in. And when she says, "I am so happy to meet you," you believe her. Because she really means it.
You may know Schindler from her work with the Cross-Culture Bicycle Art Walk or Ignite Bend, the recurring multi-media slideshow project she produces at the Tower Theater. You may know her through her Twitter posts, which are followed by members from as far away as Istanbul and Japan, or through her work in social media and advertising formerly at tbd advertising and now at Global Strategies International/Ogilvy. Or you may know her through the many conferences, meetings and community events she frequents. No matter how you know her, one thing is apparent: Schindler is passionate about everything she does.
I met Schindler for drinks at Kebaba, currently one of her favorite cocktail spots, to talk about her contributions to the creative community in Central Oregon.
"I'm really happy and joyful," she says of her life here in Bend. "Everywhere you look, there's amazing talent." Schindler, dressed in black and drinking a rum cocktail, closes her eyes and searching for the right words says, "Anything that I can do to help reveal that talent and get people to express themselves is a win."
To Schindler, Bend is special because people are deliberate about moving here. She made the move herself 10 years ago with her husband Mike, who is a co-owner of Sunnyside Sports.
Schindler initially had to wait tables to make ends meet, but had her eye on a job at an advertising agency. One evening while out to dinner with her friend Katie, she was introduced to Paul Evers, the Creative Director of tbd advertising.
Evers recalls being immediately impressed.
"Katie said 'Paul, I want you to meet my good friend, Cassondra - she really wants to work at tbd," Evers said. "'Wow,' I thought, 'That's pretty specific and driven.'"
Schindler had no experience in advertising, but courted Evers over coffee. He was captured by her drive and her conviction, and when a position became available, he hired her.
"What makes Cassondra extraordinary is that she intuitively understands that the sharing of ideas is the ultimate currency that binds a vital community - in both commerce and social circles," Evers says.
Schindler has been a driving force behind some of Central Oregon's most creative events, including Ignite Bend and the Cross Culture Art Walk. Last year's Cyclocross National Championships brought an influx of cycling enthusiasts to Bike Town USA, an opportunity that Schindler, a bike enthusiast herself, jumped on.
"As soon as I heard the announcement [of Bend hosting the Cyclocross Nationals], I contacted Doug LaPlaca at Visit Bend and said, 'We need to make this a celebration of bicycle culture in Bend. How can I be involved?'"
LaPlaca was impressed by Schindler's commitment to the Art Walk.
"For many visitors, the Art Walk was the most extraordinary part of Cross Nats," says LaPlaca. "Schindler definitely showed her brilliance through the extraordinary Art Walk she created."
Schindler approached artists who were particularly celebrated within Cyclocross culture, including PDX Cross, five artists from Portland who artistically capture the culture of Cyclocross through black-and-white photography.
Schindler on the Bicycle Art Walk
If the Art Walk was her showcase, then Ignite Bend is her masterpiece.
Schindler first saw an Ignite performance in Portland. Since then she has thrown a good portion of her creative energy behind Ignite Bend, a DIY multimedia event that celebrates its fourth installment at the Tower Theater this Thursday. A now-global movement started by two members of O'Reilly Media in Seattle, Ignite turns PowerPoint presentations into an artistic tour de force. Presenters, as chosen by Ignite organizers, are given five minutes to present twenty slides that automatically rotate every 15 seconds. It's exciting, weird and totally different from any event happening in Bend. Part performance art, part community show-and-tell, the Ignite Bend series has been a huge success.
Schindler on Ignite Bend
So what is art to Schindler? "Art is like an assignment," she says. "Any time you come in contact with art, you are inspired to do something, to express yourself in some way."
The "assignment" that Ignite creates for performers is enhanced by the pressure of time.
One has to think that the challenge of limited time and space is especially intriguing to Schindler. As a Search and Social Specialist at GSI/Oglivy, she spends most of her day online and has a sizeable Twitter following. The hugely popular social network limits users to 140 characters per post. With more than 1,500 followers across the globe, Schindler has perfected the art of the tweet, positing on topics ranging from online trends to bike culture.
While a "Search and Social Specialist" may sound like Greek to those of us not firmly entrenched in the digital world, Schindler is actually something of an online anthropologist. Working with clients such as Adobe, she integrates their brands online and into social communities such as Twitter and Facebook.
"I'm thinking strategically about how to cultivate community, keep people engaged, and how brands can do that in a way that is resonant for their audience," she says. In a way, Schindler is most fascinated with community and relationships, which is translated online through social networks, websites and blogs, as well as the events she produces in her free time.
"It's so dynamic," she says. "Who are we? How do we talk? How do we keep the conversation going? Ultimately, there is this interplay between behavior and technology. I find that fascinating."
Schindler looks at social media as a positive force on relationships. "It's taught me to be a better citizen," she says, "Because you know what you want to share. I always think about what I want to share, what I want to give. In life offline, there are a lot of lessons to learn from that, about sharing what you're interested in."
Schlindler on Social Media
It's community that inspires Schindler more than anything else and she looks at herself as a facilitator for others' expression. "I don't feel particularly gifted or talented," she says. "It's just important to allow people to express and share their talent."
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