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Produced by: Hessler Creative & Urban Exodus

Dates tbd
Tonika lewis johnson 

Art & Activism:
Learn to ideate, create, and evolve a photography project into a vehicle to create impactful social change

Tuition: $375



Photography projects are powerful - they have the ability to call attention to important stories that aren't being told and major problems that aren't be addressed. We are living in a time when artists are being asked to do more - to dig deep and to use their creativity to help find solutions for the myriad of social and environmental catastrophes we are facing. It can feel overwhelming to figure out how to use your camera and your skillsets to work towards progress, but getting started is the hardest part of the process. Once you find your stride, the feel good rewards of manifesting positive change becomes your fuel and motivation to keep pushing and evolving. 

Tonika Lewis Johnson is a social justice artist and photographer who has found her stride, passion and purpose in the medium. Her Folded Map Project visually connects residents who live at corresponding addresses on the North and South sides of Chicago. She investigates what urban segregation looks like and how it impacts residents. What started as a photographic study quickly evolved into a multimedia exploration with video interviews. The project invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all socially impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate the city. Her goal? For individuals to understand how our urban environment is structured and its impact on our social networks. She wants to challenge everyone to think about how change may be possible and to contribute to a solution. 

Johnson will inspire and guide students on their own journey into making compelling and important photography projects and then evolving those projects into educational and impactful work to start conversations and make meaningful change. Art and activism is closely related - if you are ready to use your creativity for good, this is the workshop to get you started on that path!


• Meet & Greet/ Introductions

• Students share 3-5 images of their work to give Johnson and students an idea of their style and vision

• Lecture - The art of social justice - how to ideate, create and expand upon a photography project to have a real social and educational impact. 

• Brainstorming writing exercise - What am I passionate about or interested in? What skills do I have and what skills do I want to improve upon/learn? Where do those elements intersect?



Each student will come up with a concept for a socially driven photography project. Students will be asked to write an artist statement, shoot four images for the project and brainstorm a list of creative ideas to expand, evolve and share the project with the widest possible audience. Students will present their concept, imagery and list to the class in session two. 



• Group critique - students present their work in progress artist statement and up to 7 images from their photography project. Johnson will provide feedback on ways to strengthen and expand upon their concept, execution and means of distribution.



Class will meet ______ (12pm Eastern Time). Each session will run roughly 2-3 hours, depending on lecture, discussion and critique times.


Skill level

This workshop is designed for photographers of all skill levels who are interested in learning how to make art that educates and impacts social change. Sessions will be hosted on Zoom. Once you have completed registration we will send you your Zoom login information for the course. You do not need to download Zoom to participate on a desktop or laptop computer. You do need to download the Zoom app if accessing from a phone or tablet.


Sessions will be hosted on Zoom on . Sessions will start at 12:00pm (Eastern Time) and will run roughly 2 - 3 hours, depending on lecture, discussion and critique times. 


A maximum of 14 students, and a minimum of 6* 


*The workshop will be cancelled if minimum enrollment is not met within 7 days of the workshop start. If cancelled, a full refund will be issued to all registered students. 


$375 per person (+$15 processing fee)



Click the pink registration button to pay your tuition via credit card or Paypal. You will receive an email with your Zoom login several days before the workshop.



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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.

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