The Empowerment Project Breezes Through The Windy City-Chicago!

Katherine Darnstadt

Hey GirlTalkHQ readers,

This will be a collaborative blog post from The Empowerment Gals and our experiences as we breezed through the Windy City-Chicago!


You know that song “Sweet Home Chicago”? That’s pretty much how it always feels when I enter the amazing Midwest city tucked in the upper right hand corner of Illinois. We drove in from Storm Lake, IA late Friday night with the next day in front of us to be free! One day off on our entire road trip! The girls stayed at Dana’s place and I drove the minivan “Minnie” to my house in Evanston, IL to see my parents. With the camera in tow, I filmed as I greeted my Mom and Dad and showed them around our apartment on wheels. My Mom is used to being bombarded with a camera because my Dad is a television producer and documentary filmmaker. Hmm, I wonder where I get it from? He is my mentor and an inspiration to say the least, and his career is exceptional – with 26 Emmys under his belt!

Harvey Moshman

I told them all about the trip and our amazing interviews over take-out from a local restaurant. It was wonderful to be in my element.  After sleeping in my childhood twin bed, I headed over to my in-law’s house in the morning. I grew up a couple blocks from my husband! Dana, my father in-law greeted me and gave me a new logo to put on our car – Gonesh Incense, the family business.

Next up, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laury, my mother-in-law about her experiences in the working world and what it was like for her to be a stay at home Mom with 3 boys for 28 years! It was so interesting to have an open dialogue with her, and I am so grateful to have learned even more about her and her life. It’s important to me that this documentary showcases so many different women with all different points of view. I think of it like a case study and it doesn’t make me a good researcher if I only talk to people that think the same way. After that I went home and interviewed my Mom about her life and career.

I can’t tell you how special it is to sit down with your Mom and ask her some truly valuable questions about her experience as a woman in her field, how she balanced having kids and wanting to work, and her relationship with her Mother. My Mom was a chemical engineer for many years and then switched careers, went to law school and now works for the Attorney General. Even if I don’t end up using the footage in the documentary I feel like I peeled back a new layer with the women that are role models in my life and for that I will forever be grateful for this trip. The rest of my big day off was spent resting and relaxing at home. I’ll let the other ladies tell you about their experiences in one of the greatest cities in the US – Chicago!


CHICAGO! You’ve never looked better.

I’ve always said that this glorious city was an easy place to call “home” for the past 7 years, and even though we’ve encountered some beautiful sights on this cross-country journey, I’ve never truly appreciated the city as much as I have on this trip.  Driving in from Iowa, catching that first glimpse of the Chicago skyline made me feel like I could just relax, breathe, and know that I had 3 nights in my very own bed…and for a bunch of girls that have been gypsy-ing it out of our duffel bags for 17 days, it was the most perfect thing I could dream up.

But up first…our first DAY OFF!! Like a band on tour, to say we’ve been looking a little ragged would be the understatement of the year. The girls embraced the opportunity to choose-their-own-adventure for the day, and I, unfortunately, had to pack. The little detail I forgot to mention about the timing of this project and my personal-life conflict is that I’ve found myself with an ending lease and a move 3 days before I wrap the trip. So my amazing roommate Michael is moving all my business for me. What a guy. The day was spent running crazed like a maniac amongst a sea of bubble wrap, corrugated boxes and packing tape to get everything in my bedroom in some kind of 4-sided contraption. And as the sun set behind the Sears (Willis) Tower, I looked around at my empty walls and felt a little sad for a second, and then realized that when I touch down in Chicago on October 3rd, coming off the inevitable high that has been living this incredible trip we’ve called “The Empowerment Project”, I’ll really be experiencing a new beginning all the way around.

Katherine Darnstadt

But, I digress. One of the real highlights of being back in Chicago was for our interviewee, the wonderfully witty and inspiring Katherine Darnstadt, an award-winning architect that has carried out amazing work in creating positive social impact in the community through her firm Latent Design. Katherine had us over to her lovely West Loop loft to meet her family (her son totally adorable beyond words) and to provide us with a glimpse into a world in which architecture touches every part of our lives. In Katherine’s words, there always “has to be love” involved in every project.  Talk about a gal after my own heart!

She said being “bold and naïve” is how she’s achieved the incredible success in her career, and that statement really resonated with us. I think we consider the way we’ve launched ourselves into this project a little bit of both, so we like to think we’re just following in Katherine’s footsteps. Our second day was spent traveling to a few site visits, both located on the South Side and both clear examples of how architectural concepts are influencing community (one was a public space transformed into an outdoor playground for grown ups, the other a rehabbed convent on the west side). It was beautiful to see Katherine’s passion for her trade translated into her projects, she was truly an inspiration!

Onto Charlotte for the East Coast leg of the trip…can’t believe how fast time is flying by now, just trying to be present for every moment.

Shine On,




What a blast in Chicago!

Having a day off after almost 3 weeks was very refreshing! If there is one thing that I have missed in these weeks is walking around. We had long driving days and lots of dancing scenes in the car but we definitely all enjoyed our day off! I had been to Chicago before and I certainly was looking forward to walking and wandering in the city to stretch my legs and do some exercise. But even though I went downtown Chicago with Ashley, it was weird not to be all together. I guess, we are really starting to get used to each other after all this time being 24/7. But how wonderful to enjoy the city of Chicago, its streets, its skyline and above all the sun.

Luckily we had another sunny day on Sunday when we interviewed the super talented architect Kathrine Darnstadt and I was incredibly blown away by how determinate she is. We visited some of the projects she worked on and how inspiring to see how some spaces have been somehow rehabilitated for a social use! It is beautiful that an architect like Kathrine believes in the power of art to change lives. Giving back to forgotten parts of the city to stimulate and educate! Kathrine certainly is empowering Chicago and we as well felt empowered by the incredible work she is doing! And above all, how lucky we are to be able to enter a different woman’s world!

Empowerment Project and Katherine Darnstadt


Hey guys! Ashley here. My experience was a bit different from the other gals – as it was a complete mash up of new meets old.  Chicago was set to be the home of our day off… our only day off.

The big day started with an early brunch at a quaint café in the Wicker Park area.  I was particularly excited, because my best friend from college, Karen, lives in Chicago and she was meeting us for brunch.  I hadn’t physically seen Karen since my college graduation five years prior and I can honestly say, from the moment we saw each other, not one thing had changed.  It was so much fun introducing her to our crazy little band of filmmakers and catching up on life.

Following brunch, Vanessa and I headed out into the city for some sightseeing.  We spent the afternoon taking funny photos at The Bean, walking near Lake Michigan, and posing by the fountain.  Dana spent her afternoon packing up her apartment, Alana doing a bit of shopping, and Sarah got to hang out with her parents who lived nearby.  All in all, I think we all got to enjoy a day of relaxation and camera-free activity.  If you can’t tell, I’m a producer and totally feel the most comfortable behind the camera 🙂

Vanessa left around 5:00 pm to go enjoy dinner with a local family and I was in for the ultimate treat.  Although we are making a fabulous documentary about outstanding career women, I feel very inclined to mention that I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my amazing boyfriend, Shaun.  During my only day off during this trip, this wonderful man flew into Chicago to have a “date night” with me.  I have never felt more like a princess.  We spent the night goofing around on Navy Pier, enjoying delicious food, and sharing stories about what each of us has been doing since we last saw the other.

If I have confirmed anything during this trip and after talking to each of these inspiring women, it is the importance of having a supportive partner.  At this moment, I can honestly say, I was blessed with one of the best.  It is a true reminder that men and women don’t need to compete, but instead can truly be a compliment each other.  It is teamwork at it’s finest!

Empowerment Project and Katherine Darnstadt




  1. So glad you all seemed to have a fun relaxing day without having to be “on parade”, so to speak. Now you are back on the road again with just a few short days left. I can’t tell you how anxious I am to see the finished product!! These updates just keep peeking the interest and excitement! It is good to know you get along so well and feel a bit incomplete without each other. Safe travels and keep the pictures and trailers coming! What the heck am I going to do when you all fly back to LA to finish the documentary???? Oh, dear, I will have to give that some thought! Thanks for brightening my days.

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