Social Justice Artist


Tonika Lewis Johnson

Social Justice Artist, Chicago, IL

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Tonika Johnson is a photographer/social justice artist and life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood. She is also co-founder of two community-based organizations, Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood, that seek to reframe the narrative of South Side communities and mobilize people and resources for positive change. Within her artistic practice, Tonika often explores urban segregation and documents the nuance and richness of the black community, countering pervasive media depictions of Chicago’s violence and crime. As a trained photojournalist and former teaching artist, she has been engaged in building an artistic legacy that has gained citywide recognition in the last four years. In 2017, she was recognized by Chicago Magazine as a Chicagoan of the Year for her photography of Englewood's everyday beauty. Her Englewood-based photography projects "From the INside," and "Everyday Rituals," were exhibited at Rootwork Gallery in Pilsen, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Harold Washington Library Center and at Loyola University's Museum of Art (LUMA). Her Folded Map project, visually investigates disparities among Chicago residents who are “map twins” living on opposite ends of streets that span the city’s racial and economic divides, and brings them together to have a conversation, was also exhibited at LUMA in 2018. Now, an excerpt of the project is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of The Long Dream exhibition. Since 2018, Tonika has transformed Folded Map into an advocacy and policy-influencing tool that invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all socially impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate the city. In 2019, she was named one of Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago and was appointed as a member of the Cultural Advisory Council of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events by the Chicago City Council. In 2020, Tonika formalized Folded Map project into a non-profit organization where she serves as Creative Executive Officer. Most recently, she was selected to be the National Public Housing Museum's 2021 Artist as Instigator to work on her next project "Inequity for Sale," highlighting the living history of Greater Englewood homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in the 50's and 60's. 


Creative Executive Officer at Folded Map, NFP
May 2020 Chicago, IL
Juror at Platforms Fund
June 1, 2019 – July 21, 2019 New Orleans, LA
Program Manager at Resident Assc. of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E)
October 2017 – December 2018 6620 S Union
Summer 2017 Photographer Fellow at City Bureau
June 28, 2017 – September 2017 Chicago, IL
Program Manager at Growing Home, Inc.
April 2012 – October 2017 Chicago, IL
Photography Teaching Artist at Changing Worlds
2011 – 2014 Chicago, IL
Co-Founder & Lead Teacher at Media-N-Motion Englewood Journalism Program
January 2011 – September 2011 Chicago, IL


MBA at National-Louis University
2003 – 2005 Chicago, IL
BA in Print Journalism & Photography at Columbia College Chicago
1997 – 2003 Chicago, IL


Public Humanities Award, Illinois Humanities
Artist as Instigator, National Public Housing Museum
Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography, The North American Cartographic Information Societ
Images & Voices Of Hope (ivoh) Fellow, Images & Voices of Hope
Propeller Fund Grantee, Propeller Fund
2019 Leaders For A New Chicago, Field Foundation
May 2018
Emerging Leader Award, Changing Worlds
2017 Chicagoan of the Year, Chicago Magazine
Individual Artist Program Grant, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
Magnum Foundation’s SEE POTENTIAL Fellow, Magnum Foundation


The Long Dream at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Envisioning Justice at Sullivan Galleries at the SAIC, Chicago, IL
July-Oct 2018
Folded Map at Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, IL
Feb-June 2018
Everyday Englewood at Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, IL
October 2017
Altar Call: The Architecture of Black Sacred Space at Rootwork Gallery, Chicago, IL
August 2017
Shoot yr Shot: Evolution of Chicago’s Street Art + Culture at Rootwork, Chicago, IL
April 2017
Englewood Arts Collective at 2017 OPEN Engagement Conference: JUSTICE, University of Illinois at Chicago
April 2017
From The INside at Harold Washington Library 8th FL Exhibit Space, Chicago, IL
March 2017
Chicago: Places, People & Possibilities at Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Feb 2017
Everyday Rituals at Rootwork Gallery, Chicago, IL
Oct 2016
First Annual Englewood Art Fair at Hamilton Park, Chicago, IL
June 2016
Urban Geographic at La Petite Cremiere de Paris, Paris, France
Black Pearls Exhibition at Garfield Park Arts Center (GPAC), Indianapolis, IN
WBEZ 3rd Annual Winter Block Party for Chicago’s Hip-Hop Art at Chicago Urban Arts Society, Chicago, IL
Urban Geographic Experience at The Movement Studios & Gallery, Chicago, IL