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Chicago Spotlight: Kelly King

This MFA Computer Art alumnus is the Manager of Graphics for the Chicago Cubs

July 24, 2020 by Michelle Mackin
Kelly King sits in a green plastic seat in Wrigley Field. You can see the empty stadium behind her. She is smiling wearing a blue scarf with the Cubs logo and a large World Series ring on her left hand
Credit: Delilah Anaya (BFA 2019 Photography and Video)

In the spring/summer 2020 Visual Arts Journal, SVA's magazine, we spotlighted six SVA alumni who have made their homes and found their niche in the Midwestern metropolis; over the next few weeks, we'll be presenting versions of these features online.


Earlier this week, we featured Latoya Flowers (MFA 2012 Social Documentary Film); next, meet Kelly King (MFA 2013 Computer Art), who lives in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.

 

When Chicago native and lifelong Chicago Cubs fan Kelly King heard that the Cubs—one of the oldest and most famous clubs in Major League Baseball—planned to install the first-ever video boards in its beloved Wrigley Field for the 2015 season, she was up for the challenge to help modernize a historic ballpark, but in a way that tradition-minded fans would enjoy.

 

In 2015, the Cubs hired King as their video and graphics producer. "I didn't want a kiss cam or a 'loud-o-meter,'" she says. "That would take away from the experience of going to a game." Instead, she focused on aspects that would enhance the game for Wrigley's 40,000-capacity crowd—namely lineup information, stats and replays.


Five years later, King is the manager of graphics with Cubs Productions, a newly formed in-house production team, creating films, motion graphics and printed materials like scorecards and programs for virtually every corner of the organization. "Every day is different, and I'm constantly learning and getting to work on something new," she says.

Credit: Cubs Productions
Chicago Cubs 2020 Take the Field

It's time to play. Get hyped for the season and watch the Chicago Cubs 2020 take the field in this video featuring "Arise" performed by The Siege, courtesy of Offstream Music Group.

King's team's work can be seen all over Wrigley Field, on the Cubs' social media—they have an exceptionally robust YouTube presence—and on television. Her main goal is to deliver what Cubs fans want to see, which means updating the brand's traditions to the latest in technology and design. For example, for the video boards, King usually keeps to the green-and-white color palette of the original manual scoreboard (which is still in use), so that the whole display looks cohesive and not too flashy. The work has been so successful that King has won four Chicago Emmys since 2016—the same year the team won its first World Series title since 1908. (King was also one of the employees who received a coveted World Series ring.) 


After a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cubs home opener is now set for today, July 24, and with the stadium stands kept empty due to social-distancing measures, King and her team have had to get creative. Instead of showing their game graphics, starting lineup and sponsored content on Wrigley Field's video boards, they'll post them on Cubs' social media accounts, so that viewers can enjoy the game-day experience from home—like the newly released "Take the Field" hype-up video above, which King directed during spring training in February.

Two children's book covers. Left: "El Mago's Magic Secret" has red curtains like a stage and a baseball player wearing a top hat slides from the right to left. Right: "Professor Kyle" features a pitcher wearing a white Cubs uniform on the pitchers mound getting ready to throw a pitch.

Covers for two Chicago Cubs-themed digital bedtime storybooks.

Credit: Cubs Productions

Getting creative is Cubs Productions' forte. When COVID-19 threw the 2020 Major League Baseball season a curveball, King and her team became dedicated to keeping Cubs fans engaged during the unexpected hiatus. They've made illustrated digital children's bedtime stories about Cubs players (see El Mago's Magic Secret and Professor Kyle), and their "Make It Cubs" DIY craft videos give step-by-step instructions on making fun Cubs-themed keepsakes like wine glasses, a scoreboard clock, home décor and hair scrunchies. They also enlisted children around Chicago to lend a hand in illustrating the 2020 schedule video (see below).

Though King has missed working with her colleagues at Wrigley Field every day, "I love working from home," she says. "I'm just more in my element, which helps a ton working in a creative field. I've also discovered that I have a much better work/life balance. And I have my dog, Cooper." Plus, with nights and weekends off—times when she would typically be working in the control room leading the video boards during games—she has been able to work on her new website and update her motion-graphics reel.


King is committed to tying her two passions—sports and art—together. It's the impetus behind Gallery Shepard, a forthcoming exhibition space at Wrigley Field. Though this project is paused for the time being, when the gallery opens, it will spotlight the art and contributions of Otis Shepard, the Cubs' first art director, who started at the club in the 1930s and his wife, Dorothy. (King plans to make a documentary about the couple eventually.) Another area in the gallery will be dedicated to Cubs Creators, a collaborative initiative with Chicago artists to design various apparel, giveaways and limited-edition posters. The Cubs intend to host art-related events and workshops in this space as well. 

 

"Many people don't think of art and sports going hand in hand, but there's this huge creative world encompassing both," she says. "So, we're embracing that."