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The keynote discussion for Lake FX, the city’s free four-day summit and expo for “artists, creative professionals and entrepreneurs,” drew an audience that looked sparse in the Harris Theater’s 1,500-seat auditorium Thursday afternoon.

But it made for an ample, jostling, postpanel crowd in the second-floor lobby, once the bars there opened.

The discussion, slickly facilitated by television commentator Laura Schwartz, featured a panel of genuine Chicago talent: visual artist Hebru Brantley, iO Theater founder Charna Halpern, Cards Against Humanity cocreator Max Temkin, playwright Tanya Saracho, and author Alex Kotlowitz.

The question at hand? “What is the ‘lake effect’?”

The apparent answer: a branding effort for the collegial, supportive environment Chicago provides for artists of all stripes.

In other words, an attempt to let the world know that everything really is cooler by the lake.

No problem there for the panelists, undivided in their Windy City love.

The more interesting part of the discussion, however, was the light they shed on their own creative process: Brantley is “fueled by fear,” Halpern’s ideas usually come from something she’s “angry about,” Saracho worries that every idea will be her last, and Kotlowitz finds writing “really, really tough.” Temkin says he has “mixed feelings” about the legacy of his “incredibly stupid” game.

Lake FX continues through Sunday with dozens of free panels, workshops, and events, including an expo at the Cultural Center today and Saturday, and an artisans’ marketplace there Sunday. Check out the schedule here.