Year: 2018

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 3)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. adolescence growing up is best        black    lonely      i am almost twenty    i dont want to get on the L right now          met four people i don’t like in a row  …

November Art Picks

Our Art Picks are created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar, and cross-promoted through Windy City Times, one of the longest locally-published LGBTQ weeklies with a national reach. This is a growing list, so check back often for new additions. Throughout 2018 we will be highlighting exhibitions and events that are part of Art Design Chicago , a year-long celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of art and design, creativity and commerce, organized by the Terra Foundation for American Art. As part of an editorial partnership with Illinois Humanities, Sixty will also be highlighting events that are part of Envisioning Justice , a 19-month project that looks into how Chicagoans and Chicago artists respond to the the impact of incarceration in local communities and how the arts and humanities are used to devise strategies for lessening this impact. November Art Picks Thurs, Nov 1, 11am Art Against the Flow Summit  Ace Hotel Chicago: 311 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60607 Free Thurs, Nov 1, 2-4pm Chicago New Media Symposium  Gallery 400: 400 S Peoria St, Chicago, IL 60607 Free Thurs, …

Interview with Musician Bailey Minzenberger

Bailey Minzenberger is a Chicago singer songwriter whose music focuses on themes of love, loss, and intense emotion. Their debut EP, “Queen Anne’s Lace,” combines acoustic guitar with hauntingly beautiful lyrics to evoke an intimate listening experience, currently available on Bandcamp. Writer Cecilia Kearney had the chance to talk to Bailey and discuss their relationship with music and identity. Cecilia Kearney: Lets start with some background; tell me a little bit about yourself. Bailey Minzenberger: I was born and raised in Evanston and Rogers Park. I haven’t really left the area for an extended period of time, which I would like to change—I am changing, which is exciting. I feel really grateful to have grown up there; Evanston is a really cool place. I’m currently writing my own music. I would like to [have a] full band, but since it’s just me right now, it’s usually just acoustic guitar and vocals. Usually when I write music, I can hear the entire band in my head as I’m writing, so it’s really cool when I can get a …

Aprils Fools and Their Universe: Kristiana Rae Colón and #LetUsBreathe Collective

Kristiana Rae Colón (she/her) is a poet, playwright, actor, educator, creator of Black Sex Matters, one half of brother-sister duo April Fools, co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective and hub director for Envisioning Justice at the Breathing Room. She is a wearer of many hats and force of nature in every piece of work she is a part of. I became aware of Kristiana through mutual comrades, and grew to know her work and learn from the intricacies within it all. As time went on, I had the pleasure of sharing a work space with Colón, and experienced her play “florissant & canfield,” written to shed light on the Ferguson Uprising and the murder of Mike Brown. It was an unforgettable moment. The #LetUsBreathe Collective is an alliance of artists and activists who come together, organizing through a creative lens to imagine a world without prisons and police. The Collective operates the Breathing Room, a Black-led liberation headquarters for arts, organizing, and healing on Chicago’s South Side. This article was edited for length and clarity. Miranda Goosby: What …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Installation View: Up is Down at the Block Museum

This fall, Art Design Chicago is illuminating the legacy of art and design that’s embedded in Chicago’s history and culture through a full calendar of exhibitions, events, and other programs across the city. As editorial partners in this effort, we’re working with them to to elevate the stories of Chicago’s lesser-known artists, designers, and creators, past and present, through comics, essays, interviews, podcasts, and videos. For the videos we’ve teamed up with On The Real Film to present short profiles that highlight the exhibitions, projects, and people who are showcasing these legacies in various ways. The third video in this series, “Installation View: Up is Down” takes a behind-the-scenes look at the installation process for The Block Museum’s exhibition Up is Down: Mid-century Experiments in Advertising and Film at the Goldsholl Studio. Co-curators Amy Beste and Corinne Granof discuss the legacy and impact of the Goldsholl Studio on design and advertising, and provide insight into the curating process for a multimedia show that includes a wide variety of mediums and formats. The Block Museum’s Dan Silverstein elaborates …

Abolitionist Sarah-Ji Uses Photography To Reimagine Community Liberation

Sarah-Ji (she/her) is a movement photographer and abolitionist who documents freedom struggles in Chicago. She is also an active member of For the People Artists Collective, a squad of Black and artists of color who also organize and create work that “uplifts and projects struggle, resistance, liberation, and survival within and for marginalized communities and movements.” For nearly a decade she has created a visual archive of liberation struggles for Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, trans, and intersex lives. She documents and sheds light on the everyday people of Chicago who show up and actively resist systemic, hyper-local and social oppression. Thus, her camera becomes a tool of liberation and a pathway toward envisioning a world without police and prisons, where struggle does not take precedence over love, justice, and community. Her photography illustrates the power of sustaining strong relationships as organizing artists while committing to the heavy lift of resistance and social activism. This interview was shortened for length and clarity.  Ireashia: Tell me a little about how you came to photography and what drew …

Fever Dream: Allison Lacher at Monaco

I’m wearing my winter coat the day I visit Allison Lacher’s exhibition Full Sun (the sun being nowhere in sight), but just a week ago, the high reached 90 degrees in St. Louis. Without the undeterred peddling of all things pumpkin by every coffee shop in town, one could be forgiven for forgetting that it is, in fact, October. The brick facade of the gallery has been painted a dark gray, giving nothing away except that this corner of the city has been carved out for The Contemporary. But from within the neutral frame of Monaco, a warm glow is emanating. From the street, the interior space is inviting, with a peachy orange coat of paint and floors speckled with iridescent floral cutouts (over the course of a month, Lacher’s work has indeed served as an escape from both the cold and the heat). However, once inside, the comfort of room temperature begins to give way to a sense of hollow domesticity. Hung throughout the space are window panes, stretched over with bars of ribbon, …

Aprils Fools and Their Universe: Damon Williams, Jr. and #LetUsBreathe Collective

Damon Williams, Jr. (he/him) is a poet, organizer, one half of brother-sister duo April Fools, co-director of the #LetUsBreatheCollective, and overall unique being. I first heard of his work through mutual comrades, through his and Daniel Kisslinger’s podcast Airgo, and through his rhymes, which embrace self-healing and accountability, and expel self-love and love of your neighbors. MG: Can you introduce yourself for me tell me a little about yourself? DW: I am Damon Williams, Jr. I am 25 years old, and I am a facilitator, teaching artist, organizer, and media and culture maker on the SouthSide of Chicago. MG: What does Chicago mean to you and how do you feel it’s energy affects people? DW: Chicago is home and Chicagoans are hometown people. It is a city that is landlocked, where we live upon this land taken from indigenous native people. It being in the “middle” of the country; being the “Second City,” named after it was rebuilt and thrived once again after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; it is not second to New …

On Incarceration, Quilting and Building Community at Homan Square

August of this year, Nichols Tower Artist-in-Residence Rachel Wallis held her first quilting circle where she invited participants to sew thoughts, plans, and dreams that female inmates at the Cook County prison have for their children. In different stages of incarceration, some of these women are awaiting a trial, some are being processed. These women are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters who were separated from their family as a result of imprisonment. On her website, artist Rachel Wallis describes herself as “an activist who uses art in organizing work, and an artist who engages in issues of racial and social justice.” As an extension of her art practice, Wallis approached the Cook County women’s facility with a series of quilting workshops to engage the inmates; the first of which took place in summer of 2018. Scheduled on a Saturday afternoon, Wallis began the three-hour workshop by inviting participants to sit in a circle. Before she entrusted the participants with the sewing, Wallis, along with facilitators Jamilah Bowden, a professional counselor at H’Art of Hope, and Audrey …

REVIEW: Tere O’Connor’s Long Run

Part of the difficulty in writing about dance lies in its position along a continuum from literalness to abstraction. The gestures of everyday life might be visibly exaggerated to aid transmitting a story to its audience, or else they might constitute a departure from this story altogether — stripped of its necessary context, the meanings of a given movement proliferate without end. It is such proliferation that fascinates choreographer Tere O’Connor, whose program notes for Long Run suggest that the means for its interpretation are “subsumed into layers of the work and de-emphasized”. Furthermore, when such interpretation does occur (as it must, in an exchange between the dancers and their audience), it should always be provisional: a “fluid and forever open-ended” assignment of possible meanings, to be radically altered as each movement is performed anew. But after dancer Jin Ju Song-Begin performs a brief solo, the piece starts with a group dance to some of the most rhythmic music in the entire score (all composed by O’Connor himself), and for a moment our informed impulse …

Intimate Justice: Marzena Abrahamik

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Marzena Abrahamik about women in the cannabis industry, friendship, and sisterhood.  S. Nicole Lane: What brought you to Chicago? How has the community influenced your practice? Marina Abrahamik: I was born in Poland, raised in Greece, and arrived to Chicago at the end of the summer before my freshman year of high school. I went to a Catholic high school in the city for a year and then to a public high school in the suburbs. I went to Loyola for my undergrad and then attended SAIC before grad school. Having the opportunity to experience different cultures and neighborhoods made me outgoing, easygoing, and independent but also awakened a curiosity for the unknown and to love open ended questions. In a similar way, each body of work is composed of photographs that have been made not only in various locations, but also in …

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Snapshot: Tianna Bracey

Snapshot is a Sixty column that takes a quick look at art history as it happens in Chicago. We send artists and organizers a list of short and sweet questions to tell us about what they are doing right at this moment. For the newest installment, we sent our questions to painter, Tianna Bracey, whose work can be seen at the Zhou B Art Center as part of the exhibition, Black Love Matters, through November 9th. Sixty Inches From Center: How would you describe your work? Tianna Bracey: My work explores the subtleties of the painterly and figurative form. It is intended as recognizable snapshots of the female experience, ranging from the pleasurable to the mundane. I employ body language, gesture, movement and expression as narrative tools. Through every piece I aim to celebrate the power and vulnerability of women through portraiture. SIFC: What do you find most challenging about working as an artist? TB: Knowing the difference between when to let go and when to push through is by far my biggest challenge. I have no problem painting over …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Artist Profile on Ivan LOZANO

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan LOZANO, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community.  In this segment, I sit down with Ivan LOZANO in his studio to discuss his experience working with Media Burn Archive, the work he has been creating influenced by …

Body Passages: Lani T. Montreal and Maxine Patronik on Developing “Blood Memory”

This is the third article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first and second are online). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. In September, I spoke with writer Lani T. Montreal and dancer/choreographer Maxine Patronik about their collaborative process; their resulting piece, “Blood Memory,” about trauma and bodily memory; and their thoughts about artists’ responsibility when presenting work with sensitive themes. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Lani and Maxine’s final creation – along with those by other Body Passages groups – were performed at a culminating event at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium on October 12 and 13. Marya Spont-Lemus: It was so cool to get to observe you today at work on “Blood Memory,” your piece-in-progress for Body Passages. So thank you! Before we get into discussing that collaborative piece and your process, I’d love …

Image: Bri Beck leans into the frame from the right side, looking down at a tan mixed media garment piece on a white pedestal. Other works can be seen in the background. Photo by Ryan Edmund.

Locating Your Practice in ‘Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design,’ with Bri Beck

“I could have never expected this, it’s so exciting. It [makes me] feel like my story has been told for a very long time, and I don’t always have to be the one telling my story,” asserts Bri Beck while discussing the work in Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today at Gallery 400. The exhibition is a multi-generational sampling of the disability-centered artwork that has been coming out of Chicago over the last fifty-plus years. Artist and art therapy graduate student Bri Beck and I visit the exhibition to discuss her experience as a part of this rich history. As we make our way through the gallery, Beck points out artists she’s worked with, portraits of people she recognizes, and professors she’s been mentored by. “I love being a part of the Chicago disability community,” says Beck. A close-knit and interconnected community, she explains, “there aren’t very many of us!” The seemingly small circle of artists and activists doing disability work in Chicago is precisely what has made the city an epicenter for advocacy and …

Featured image: Ryan Keesling leans over the shoulder of Walter, a Free Write Sound and Vision technician, as they both look at audio mixer that sits on a table in front of them. They are outside, under a blue tent, where Sound and Vision is mixing sound for the FEAST festival that took place September 8. Photo by Chelsea Ross

Just Narratives: A Conversation with Ryan Keesling of Free Write Arts and Literacy

“The ‘envisioning justice’ conversation is like – I don’t know, I think people try too hard to think about what it will look like.” Ryan Keesling had just pulled out his phone and was pointing at a photo on Free Write Art and Literacy’s Instagram page as he spoke. It was a flyer for YAS! Fest, the youth art showcase that took place in Millennium Park in September. On the flyer was an image of two DJs who had performed at the festival, Walter and Cortez, a.k.a. DJ 1Solo and DJ Tez. Keesling continued, “That’s not to say that people shouldn’t imagine. But, for me, I have to – I can imagine it, but also when I imagine it I don’t necessarily feel it. But when I see their faces and when I work with our students, both inside and outside, and I see them growing and I see them becoming aware of their abilities, and I see them being able to take control of their lives and I see them being happy and getting …

Touching Time: An Interview with José Santiago Pérez

José Santiago Pérez’s show, Flirting with Infinitudes, part of the Doing/Thinking residency at Wedge Projects, will be on view until the closing reception on October 5th. The pieces in his show activate the triangular gallery space with their touches of bright neon colors.  In Flirting with Infinitudes, Santiago Pérez uses knots as a way to meditate on time and its the cycles and repetitions, and ultimately on what binds us. Some of the pieces evoke tapestries made with modern materials, the colorful plastic cascading from the knots that affixing the lacing in place against a dark grid. Other pieces contrast colorful materials against the translucent, one material contracting and ballooning against the coiling and releasing of the other. In still others, the translucent white plastic hangs in strips that partially veil the vivid looping and knotting. The show is accompanied by a takeaway booklet that continues the show’s meditations in text form. I got a chance to talk to Santiago Pérez and we discussed the show’s craft-based process, the use of knots, and the transition from …

Image: Laura Kina sits in front of a brightly colored painting of floral motifs. Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

The Virtual Asian American Art Museum: A Conversation with Laura Kina

Laura Kina is an artist and professor of Art, Media & Design at DePaul. She founded the school’s Asian American Studies program, which has since become a Global Asian Studies program. She runs the Asian American Art Oral History project, which collects oral histories of Asian American artists, organizers, and participants of Asian American arts and cultural organizations in the Midwest. She co-founded the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and has edited two anthologies, Queering Contemporary Asian American Art and War Baby/ Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. She is also the illustrator of the upcoming children’s book, which will be published in March 2019, called “Okinawan Princess: Da Legend of Hajichi Tattoos,” which is a trilingual feminist fairy tale set in set in Hawai‘i and Okinawa, written in Hawai‘i Creole by Lee A. Tonouchi and translated by Dr. Masashi Sakihara into Uchinaaguchi. Kina is the lead curator of the Midwest module for the Virtual Asian American Art Museum, which is a large-scale digital humanities project developed by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New …

A zine entitled "Black Queens" by Marissa B. On the cover, two young black people with bare shoulders and intricately braided hair stand forehead-to-forehead. A single braid of hair extends from each of their heads, curving forward to form a heart between them. Photo by Jordan Paige. Image courtesy of the Museum of Vernacular Arts.

Arts on the Move at Romi Crawford’s Mobile Curricula

If you found yourself in a South Side public space on a sunny Saturday this past summer, you may have found yourself in an open-air art class. Behind folding tables piled with original pieces, historic artifacts, and raw arts materials, educators delivered short, impromptu lectures on key figures in Chicago’s rich history of Black art and engaged students of all ages with the opportunity to make a piece of their own. This was “Art Moves,” Romi Crawford’s summer-long program to celebrate neighborhood arts in the neighborhoods that spawned them. The outdoor events may have passed, but you can still catch Crawford speaking at the Chicago Cultural Center this fall as a part of The Designs of African American Life (November 2 and 3). Crawford calls this approach to arts education the “discussion model,” and it really is a conversation more than a lecture. The educators and facilitators (including Wisdom Baty, Robert Earl Paige, Jennefer Hoffmann, and Scheherazade Tillet) make their arts and activities available to any passersby, an approach that lends itself to discovery. It …

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

Broadcasting Art From Inside Cook County Jail

On the night of the screening of Radioactive: Stories from Beyond the Wall, the newest intervention in Maria Gaspar’s 96 Acres Project, the area around Cook County Jail was vibrantly alive. Cars zoomed by with teenage girls poking out of sunroofs, Mexican flags draped around their shoulders, and passengers shouting “Viva México!” in honor of Mexican Independence Day that weekend. Facing the north wall of the massive compound—the largest jail in the country—a parking lot was converted into a viewing space, with folded chairs orbiting around large speakers tuned into Lumpen Radio. William Onyeabor songs played as about fifty people settled in for Radioactive’s second screening. A group gathered around what looked like a food cart, but was actually William Estrada’s Mobile Street Art Cart project, making screen prints that read “Families Belong Together/Abolish ICE/Abolish Prisons” and pinning them up to dry on clotheslines. As the sun set the lot filled out, buzzing. Behind the wall, the light from a single room spilled out through a barred window. With the Radioactive screenings and other aspects of the 96 …

Color it Clean: An Interview with Jeffrey Michael Austin

I first met Jeffrey Michael Austin through an exhibition we were a part of at the Chicago Artist Coalition in 2015, during which he was a resident in their HATCH program.  He then had successive projects in the St. Louis vicinity where I was living, and I maintained an ongoing admiration for the cleverness, humor, and versatility of his practice (he is also an accomplished musician, one-third of the trio Growing Concerns).  He is an artist that is responsive to his environment, locating the wonders of natural elements, as well as wonder-ing about the state of human nature. His re-staging of common objects and occurrences straddle the playful and the political. As the latter becomes more and more urgent, he engages in critique that arises out of a call for empathy.  Over a very long email correspondence, we reflected on some recent bodies of work, as he prepared to open his solo exhibition ‘Outstanding Balance’ at Heaven Gallery.     Lyndon Barrois Jr: It is notable that there are a lot of stars in the recent …

The Thrival Geographies of Shani Crowe, Andres L. Hernandez, and Amanda Williams

Of the 2,240 licensed Black architects working in the United States, only 440 of them identify as Black women. While this number might increase slightly by adding those who have a degree in architecture and aren’t licensed, or who work primarily in teaching, this number becomes even more sobering when you consider the fact that there are about 109,748+ licensed architects in the entire country. My mention of these numbers isn’t simply a commentary on representation. Since architecture is a major influence on how we live and move through our daily lives, be it the spaces of home, work, school, play or otherwise, it’s unsettling to think that an overwhelming amount of spaces are likely conceived of and designed without someone like me in the room, on the team, or even in mind as the possible end user. After learning those numbers, it’s hard for me not to feel the significance of any time spent in conversation with two people who operate within that rare group. Andres L. Hernandez and Amanda Williams are architects and …

Poetry Series: Therefore We Can Be Free (Part 2)

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet- whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free” —Audre Lorde, from Poetry is Not a Luxury I aim to write a series of poems centered on the real and imagined landscapes of Chicago. While poetry isn’t often thought of as news, poems, more than anything, describe the truth of the world around us. While truth can come out of diligent and factual reporting, it can also be revealed by a few honest words that intimately and imaginatively give language to the unseeable pain and joy present in Chicago. There is so much more to Chicago than the fact of it and its events, there are universes of feelings that come out of the landscape we live in that break the bounds of reality. my best friend is black and she lives in lincoln park she comes from unsally’s beauty. from neighbors who grow shrubs to imagine she is unhere. from unsnow cone man. …

IMAGE: A black and white photo of AnnMarie Brown in conversation with three teaching artists from Circles & Ciphers. One of the artists points towards the others from out of the right frame of while AnnMarie and the two other artists look in their direction.

Restorative Lifestyle: A Conversation with AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers

Between August 22nd and 24th, several practitioners came together for Restorative Justice Summit 2018 to hold generative conversations about the meanings and shared narrative they locate within their work. One year into North Lawndale’s pilot of the Restorative Justice Community Community Court, we see these practices deployed in schools, correctional facilities, court systems, and community organizations throughout the city. All of these spaces hold their own internal relational dynamics which affect how restorative justice looks on the ground. In the Restorative Justice Community Court of North Lawndale, the practice looks like peace circles made available to non-violent defendants as an alternative to the harsh sentencing guidelines of Cook County Criminal Court. During their City Bureau Public Newsroom presentation,  Jenny Casas and Sarah Conway made clear that this is not a process designed to release the defendant from consequences or grant them full autonomy. Failing to keep the agreements made in the Community Court will mean a return to the Criminal Court. AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers prefers to view restorative justice through the lens of lifestyle and choice. This past May, Circles & Ciphers hosted a culminating event for the first session of …

Tonika G. Johnson Uses Visual Activism to Combat Distorted Truth

Tonika G. Johnson (she/her) is an Englewood photographer and activist who uses photography and digital media to explore Chicago’s racial and economic disparities. She harnesses the provocative power of photographs and moving image in her latest project Folded Map, where she looks specifically at issues of segregation and housing by juxtaposing images of streets on Chicago’s South Side with their sister addresses on the North Side. The stark difference in the care of buildings, houses, and streets between the two locations is jarring and visually unsettling. The omnipresent nature of structural racism and systemic oppression has never been clearer. But Johnson does more than show these disparities. She creates a bridge and creates space for North and South Side residents to come together and discuss how segregation impacts their lives. In doing so, Johnson urges the Chicago public to continue to have these difficult conversations. I have been an admirer of Johnson’s work since Everyday Rituals, her multimedia project that “asserts the divinity of regular people.” She captures her community with loving precision and pride. …

Restoring Community in North Lawndale: Interview with Rufus Williams of BBF Family Services

I met Rufus Williams at “Powerful Platforms: A Community’s Call to Action,” a BBF Family Services Open House event back in June, designed to bring community awareness to Envisioning Justice and BBF’s role as one of seven Envisioning Justice hubs throughout the city. Established in 1961 as a boxing gym for boys in the neighborhood, BBF (the initials reflect its former name, Better Boys Foundation) now provides resources for children and adults in North Lawndale, an area of Chicago historically vulnerable to political and social disenfranchisement. Current BBF programs address the broad developmental, educational, and employment needs of members of the community, including those reentering society from jail or prison. Williams is President and Chief Executive Officer of BBF Family Services. BBF is housed in a modern two-story building at 15th and Pulaski, luminous on the interior, with floor-to-ceiling windows on both floors that look onto an uncovered center courtyard. At the Open House there were arts and crafts for youngsters, and a community resource room where various local groups had set up tables, providing information …