Meet Erin Toale

Annie KennedyInside WITS

If you have checked out WITS’ social media accounts over the past year, you are already familiar with some of Erin Toale’s work! (If you don’t already follow us on social media, please do! We’re @witschicago on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook). Erin recently transitioned from a contract position to WITS’ newest marketing coordinator, and we are thrilled to officially have her on staff! Read on to learn more about Erin’s love of plants, their favorite song, and why she is excited to work at WITS.

Tell us about yourself.

Hello! I’m Erin. People call me “et” (my initials, as I am very rarely the only Erin in a room), and I use she or they pronouns. I live in Rogers Park with my partner, our dog Ramen Noodles, and many, many plants. In my leisure time, I enjoy trying increasingly ambitious recipes, making quilts, working to dismantle systems of oppression, walking Noodles, and tending to the aforementioned plant collection. I write about arts and culture for Newcity, I am a teaching artist at the Hyde Park Art Center, and I am the founder and biggest fan of the Empty Bottle Book Club, established 2014.

What do you most like about working at WITS?

I love the people I get to work with – my supportive, funny colleagues, community partners and stakeholders, and, of course, the amazing volunteer mentors, CPS teachers, and kiddos!

What was the best book you had to read in school?

Roland Barthes’ essays on popular culture, Mythologies. I still keep a copy on my desk. I love succinct, aphoristic writing. I suppose it makes sense that I write marketing copy for WITS! I also love that Barthes looked at culture holistically, instead of focusing on canonical hierarchies. Barthes could be quite dour, but even when something annoyed him/struck him as frivolous, he still took the time to consider it and write about it thoughtfully. I like to imagine what topics/phenomenons/”myths” he would write about if he were alive today (Critical Race Theory followed immediately by an analysis of The Bachelor franchise? He had range!). He was also an admirably critical thinker – not afraid to change his mind about positions and/or contradict his earlier writings (something I aspire to).

What book series would you like to see turned into a TV show?

Animorphs. No, I will not elaborate.

What could you give a 30-minute presentation on with no preparation?

Container gardening in small spaces. I grow a lot of food on my 5×8 foot balcony during warmer months, and I also have many indoor and outdoor decorative and pollinator plants. I am also very into composting and making my own fertilizer. I have a vermiculture indoor composter, AKA worm bin, in my tiny kitchen – our former coworkers, Jesse and Laurie, got me into that. 

Erin’s 2021 Garden
Tell us about your favorite teacher.

Mrs. B. was my elementary school librarian! “B” was short for Beores (I learned much later), but she really leaned into the branding and had a lot of bumblebee kitsch in the library. She made books and learning cool and definitely had a Miss Frizzle vibe.

What song always puts you in a good mood?

“Vicious” by Lou Reed.

WITS is committed to being an antiracist organization. Choose one of the words in DEI (Diversity, Equity, or Inclusion), and talk about how that word comes through in your work.

Inclusion! I am heartened by the renewed interest in workplace diversity, and representation without inclusion is ineffective. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, and I also want to make sure everyone at the table is comfortable and has the support and resources they need to thrive. Systemic change that ensures equitable inclusion is as important as demographic representation.