Kristina Marusic

This is how you really doodle during a meeting

Artist Emily Marko "live doodles" to bring the power of art to weighty discussions. We caught up with her - and her Sharpies - at a meeting on lead and children's health.

PITTSBURGH—Artist and self-described "visual problem-solver" Emily Marko is not your typical doodler.


She's a synthesizer, bringing meetings to life in an entirely different form. Marko was at Pittsburgh's Get the Lead Out conference Thursday, right by the stage with huge paper upon which presentations emerged as colorful sketches in real time.

Throughout the day, people snapped pictures of Marko and her work.

"I basically filter down to the key points of what a person is trying to say and then use visuals and words to just create a little summary to trigger people's memory later," she said.



Pittsburgh-based Women for a Healthy Environment hosted conference, aimed at helping politicians, community organizers, and public health officials work together to eradicate lead from soil, water and homes in the region. Executive Director Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis said she saw Marko working at another recent conference and asked her to visually document this one, too. "I just thought what she was doing was incredibly powerful," Chapkis said. "Emily is capturing through art all of the information we're hearing here today."

Marko says she naturally thinks in visuals. She enjoys live-doodling events like this because she learns so much by listening, processing what she hears, and rendering the key points through her words and drawings.

"It's a lot of listening skills and internal processing," Marko told EHN.

The keynote speakers at the conference were Bruce Lanphear, a leading researcher examining the efficacy of lead hazard controls on children's blood lead levels and their risk for learning and behavioral problems, and Dr. Pamela Pugh, the chief public health advisor of Flint, Michigan. Additional speakers included scientists, politicians, public health officials, attorneys, and representatives from other communities that have implanted effective programs aimed at lowering lead levels in children.

One of Emily Marko's live-doodles from the Get The Lead Out conferencePhoto credit: Kristina Marusic

One of the focuses: A collaborative brainstorming session on how to to reduce lead exposure in Pittsburgh's children.

"We aren't going to get the issue of lead exposure solved in our region in one day, but this is a good place to start," Chapkis said.

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