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Illinois Humanities, Envisioning Justice Commission

Illinois Humanities to award seven commissions at February 13 event 

Illinois Humanities is commissioning seven artists to create works that examine how over-incarceration affects Chicago communities and will introduce them at a unique event offering “policy speed chats” on mass incarceration with leading Chicago experts.

The artists’ introduction and policy speed chats, “Envisioning Justice, Envisioning Joy,” will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St. in Chicago.

Each commissioned artist will create art for an exhibition that supports the work of Envisioning Justice, a two-year-old Illinois Humanities initiative that fosters citywide conversations about over-incarceration and strategies that lessen the impact of it. The artists’ work will be informed by activities and community conversations pertaining to over-incarceration within the seven Envisioning Justice hubs, which are stationed in communities that are most directly affected by incarceration: Bronzeville, Back of the Yards, Little Village, North Lawndale and Rogers Park, and through arts organizations that do programming inside the Cook County Jail and the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

“Illinois Humanities is honored to work with outstanding curators, artists and activists to present an exhibition that expands the city-wide conversation about mass incarceration in Chicago and explores the innovative, complex, and dynamic strategies and approaches that various communities and individuals are taking to create a future that is just for all,” said Deborah Epstein, interim director of Illinois Humanities.

The seven commissioned artists are

● Adela Goldbard of Mexico City to work with OPEN Center for the Arts in the Little Village hub.

● Jim Duignan of Dunning to work with SkyART/Just Art, which holds programming inside the Cook County Jail.

● Sonja Henderson of Pilsen to work with BBF Family Services in the North Lawndale hub

● Nicole Marroquin of Pilsen West to work with Free Write Arts & Literacy, which holds programming inside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

● Dorothy Burge of Bronzeville to work with Bright Star Community Outreach, Inc. in the Bronzeville hub.

● Kirsten Leenaars of Ukrainian Village to work with Circles & Ciphers in the Rogers Park hub.

● Project Fielding, a collective of women and gender non-conforming artists, to work with #LetUsBreathe Collective in the Back of the Yards hub.

The commissioned artists will create original art reflecting conversations and activities at the Envisioning Justice hubs and surrounding neighborhoods on over-incarceration; and they will also engage in community art activities at the hubs.

“My desire for this particular group of artists and cultural stewards is that their contributions will support and further cultivate positive outlets for the locally partnered communities— communities that are already facilitating alternative strategies and new paradigms to establish forms of justice, harmony, and social equity,” said Alexandria Eregbu, curator of Commissioned Works for Envisioning Justice.

For nearly a year, each Envisioning Justice hub has gathered residents, activists, researchers, scholars and other professionals in exploring the topic of over-incarceration through art and public humanities events. Each hub has hosted a series of art classes and is now preparing to host community dialogues. The commissioned artists’ work, which will be inspired by the activities at the hubs, will be featured in an exhibition at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., starting Aug. 6 – Oct. 12.


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