The Art of Social Transformation Tour in Chicago
Wednesday, April 12, 3-5pm
Anchored around the belief that artists are essential to the fabric of society, as thinkers, visionaries and changemakers, AFIELD and Gertie are excited to co-organise an afternoon, within the framework of EXPO CHICAGO, centered around the vital but often overlooked and under-resourced socially engaged practice of artists in Chicago.
Rooted in a long history of socially engaged artistic thinking and practice with John Dewey and Jane Addams setting up experimental schools combining social and educational services for immigrants with an art gallery, performance space in the 1890s, Chicago’s legacy of socially engaged art has become integral to the city’s contemporary cultural consciousness as an embodied site of spatial-political imagination and care.
We are extremely honored to have the opportunity to share the projects of incredible artists and thinkers based in Chicago: Andrea Yarbrough (AFIELD peer) with in ℅: Black women (in care of Black women), Ricardo Gamboa with Storyfront and Hoodoisie and Rebuild Foundation at Stony Island Arts Bank founded by Theaster Gates.
Andrea Yarbough is an educator and maker. Her curatorial and artistic practice centers on stewarding vacant land and blends urban agriculture, civic engagement, and art praxis. Her community-centered visual arts production shapes local policy on Chicago’s South Side by reclaiming and reactivating abandoned land into sites of care that heal individuals and regenerate collective imaginations. With over 30,000 vacant lots throughout the city of Chicago, Andrea sees a unique ecological opportunity for public space and the future of deemed ‘blighted’ or vacant land and founded in ℅: Black women: a creative placemaking initiative that fosters economies of care throughout the United States. The initiative invites women of color to Chicago’s South Side to collaboratively regenerate vacant spaces as sites of care. It brings together doulas, poets, curators, farmers, mamas, dancers, organizers, teachers, cultural producers, youth, and visual artists, to collectively exhume the (in)visibility of care for Black women. Andrea has been a member of AFIELD since 2020.
Ricardo Gamboa is an award-winning artist, activist, and academic based in their native Chicago, creating radically politicized art, media, performance and theater. In Chicago, Ricardo is a member of the Free Street Theater, the Goodman Theater Playwrights Unit, a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, and founding adult partner of the controversial ensemble The Young Fugitives. Gamboa’s creative output that mixes arts and politics is exemplified by recent projects that include: BRUJOS, a webseries gone viral following four gay Latino grads that are also witches slaying white supremacy; The Hoodoisie, a traveling live news show delivering radical takes on culture and politics; Meet Juan(ito) Doe, a play based on Chicago’s Mexican-Americans’ stories and presented at a renovated storefront on the city’s Southside (which we will be visiting).
In 2019, Gamboa began working as a screenwriter in Hollywood and since then has written for Amazon Prime, FX, HBOMax, and Showtime. Ricardo has won several awards including a Joyce Award and an International Connections Award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. They have worked with over 5,000 young people in the hemisphere. They are currently a doctoral candidate at New York University’s renowned American Studies program where they also received their M.A. in Arts Politics from Tisch School of the Arts (2013).
Rebuild Foundation’s mission is to demonstrate the impact of innovative, ambitious and entrepreneurial arts and cultural initiatives. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is supporting artists and strengthening communities through free arts programming, creating new cultural amenities, and developing affordable studio and community space. The Stony Island Arts Bank serves as headquarters for Rebuild Foundation’s network of cultural amenities on the South Side and as home for the foundation’s archives and collections. Designed by William Gibbons Uffendell and built in 1923, the bank at 68th Street and Stony Island Avenue was once a vibrant community savings and loan. In 2015, Rebuild Foundation’s Founder Theaster Gates radically restored the building, which now serves as a space for neighbors to preserve, access, reimagine and share their heritage. Rebuild Foundation’s sites provide a destination for artists, scholars, curators, and collectors to research and engage with South Side history.
Sunday, April 16, 10:30am-12:30pm
AFIELD and Gertie will also co-organise a morning exploring Engelwood with Tonika Johnson and Sherman “Dilla” Thomas.
We will have the opportunity to learn more about Johnson’s Folded Map project and most recent installation, “Inequity for Sale” a project created in partnership with the National Public Housing Museum to highlight homes sold through land sale contracts in the ’50s and ’60s. The interactive and visual exhibit examines how Black Chicagoans were denied homeownership for decades through the contracts.
Rooted in the desire to change perspectives about Engelwood and Chicago’s south side more broadly, this tour will allow participants to experience one of Sherman “Dilla” Thomas’ traditional Mahogany Neighborhood Tours which will provide a historical context of the neighborhood, but through the lens of Johnson’s social practice work.
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.
Dilla Sherman Thomas Chicago historian Dilla, as he is affectionately called, is a fascinating blend of modern historian, cultural worker, and public employee. Dilla has become a Chicago social media sensation by going viral on Tiktok. His 60 second history videos on everything Chicago have been viewed over 8 million times, and he has amassed a following of 150K followers across all social media platforms. Dilla has been featured on all manner of Chicago media and has also appeared nationally on both The Today Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show. Dilla is a proud lifelong resident of Chicago’s South side. He lives by the saying that everything dope about America comes from Chicago.
Through the power of storytelling Dilla is helping to change the narrative locally and nationally about Chicago’s value to the world. He has been named 2022 Chicago Tourism Ambassador of the Year by Choose Chicago, the tourism agency of the city. He is a recipient of the prestigious Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award, as well as a Studs Terkel Uplifting Voices recipient. Dilla was voted 2021 best Chicago Twitter and best Chicago Tiktokpages by Chicago Reader magazine. He has presented Chicago history lessons and lectures to institutions such as the University of Chicago, LaSalle University (PA), Northwestern University, and a number of partners of the Chicago Community Colleges network. Dilla has also given lessons to corporate groups such as: Meta (Facebook); Microsoft; Google; Stork; Shriver Center of Poverty Law; & Chicago Cares. Dilla most recently represented Chicago in Amsterdam for Bloomberg’s City Labs. He is a member of the Black Chicago History Initiate Steering Committee and a proud partner of the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, and the Chicago Fire.
Gertie is a platform for discovery and engagement with arts and Culture in Chicago. Gertie aims to build a community of young professionals in Chicago who are ready to engage with the city and each other in new ways. We believe that spending time around creativity and creatives can make a difference in people’s lives, but in a world that never stops it can be hard to find the time to connect and overwhelming to explore new spaces. Our aim is to make it easy. With one membership, we provide access to newsletters, one of a kind guidebooks and programming specifically for our members in partnership with Chicago’s most exciting institutions, artists and cultural movers & shakers – ones you know and ones you should get to know.