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 the Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood, which seek to reframe the narrative of South Side communities, and mobilize people and resources for positive change. Tonika’s art often explores urban segregation, documenting the nuance and richness of the black community to counter media depictions of Chicago’s violence. As a trained photojournalist and former teaching artist, Tonika’s artistic legacy has gained citywide recognition in the last five 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). LUMA also exhibited her Folded Map project in 2018, which visually investigates disparities among “map twins”—Chicago residents who live on opposite ends of the same streets across the city’s racial and economic divides—and brings them together to have a conversation. An excerpt of the project was also displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art within 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 about how we are all socially impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate Chicago. In 2020, she formalized Folded Map into a nonprofit organization, where she serves as Creative Executive Officer. In 2019, she was named one of Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago andm is not serving her second year as appointed member of the Cultural Advisory Council of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events by the Chicago City Council. Most recently, Tonika was selected as the National Public Housing Museum’s 2021 Artist as Instigator. In that role, she’ll work on her newest project: Inequity for Sale, which highlights the living history of Greater Englewood homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in the 50s and 60s.


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


2022 Influencer, Landmarks Illinois
Public Humanities Award, Illinois Humanities
Artist as Instigator, National Public Housing Museum
Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography, The North American Cartographic Information Societ
2019 Leaders For A New Chicago, Field Foundation
Images & Voices Of Hope (ivoh) Fellow, Images & Voices of Hope
Propeller Fund Grantee, Propeller Fund
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