Created and facilitated by Illinois Humanities, Envisioning Justice engages Illinoisans in conversation about the impact of mass incarceration in local communities and invites residents to use the arts and humanities to devise strategies toward a truly just society. Envisioning Justice seeks to strengthen efforts to reimagine our criminal legal system and is inspired by the goals of justice, accountability, safety, support, and restoration for all people. Learn more about the initiative's Chicago-based efforts from the Envisioning Justice Resource Guide. Use the Envisioning Justice Curricular Concepts guide to develop innovative ways for involving students in creating a more just world in our schools, our communities, our nation, and beyond.
Envisioning Justice is built upon a two-pronged approach—combining ambitious programming to reach diverse audiences with sustained effort to build capacity among arts, humanities, and policy organizations. The overarching goals are to increase community engagement in responding to the impact of mass incarceration, to amplify the strategies and perspectives of local communities, and to build capacity to sustain engagement and create lasting change.
From 2017 to 2019, Envisioning Justice was concentrated in Chicago. Illinois Humanities partnered with seven “Community Hub” organizations throughout the city in some of the communities most impacted by our criminal legal system; we made grants to organizations and individuals using the humanities to shift the narrative around mass incarceration; and we produced a dynamic, large-scale exhibition (Envisioning Justice) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries that featured work from artists, activists, and collectives across the city who are working to envision a world without prisons and was experienced by nearly 12,000 visitors from August-October 2019.
Moving forward, Illinois Humanities is expanding this initiative and its attendant activities throughout the state. As a part of this next phase of Envisioning Justice, we seek to host and document conversations and activities that respond to mass incarceration throughout Illinois. In addition, we will offer grants to organizations that use the arts and humanities to shift the narrative around incarceration, and we will offer residencies to artists and humanists who grapple with these issues in their work. Meanwhile, we continue to convene and collaborate with our Community Hub partners in Chicago, and we are developing an interactive digital tool that people throughout the state can use to spark conversation, exploration, and action within their own communities.
- Reimagine or imagine alternatives to the criminal legal system.
- Connect diverse perspectives and people from across the state with one other to examine the impact of incarceration on local communities.
- Amplify existing advocacy, strengthen networks of advocates, and build the capacity of organizations and people engaged in this work.
- Support innovative collaborations and relationships among community residents and leaders, scholars, artists, and policy makers centering the voices of those most directly affected by the issue.
- Inspire activity around public policy changes and articulate a new model for community engagement in public policy.
- Alexandria Eregbu, Curator
- Jameson Paige, Assistant Curator
- Danny Orendorf, Curatorial Consultant
- Chelsea Ross, Free Write Arts and Literacy Curatorial Consultant
- Jane Beachy, Artistic Project Director
- Tyreece Williams, Registrar
- Arnold Aprill, Resource Guide Editor
- Candor Arts, Resource Guide Designer
- Cassie Tompkins, Exhibition Designer
Alexandria Eregbu is an artist, curator, and visionary. On a fundamental level, Alexandria believes that art and expression are essential functions of community. As such, her work has been most dedicated to providing creative experiences that empower black audiences engaging the arts. Her early interests in civic engagement were initially fostered through her involvement as Lead Teaching Artist with Teens Reimagine Art, Community, and Environment (TRACE)— a youth activism program facilitated through the Chicago Park District. Most recently Alexandria held a two year position as Curator for Illinois Humanities' city-wide initiative, Envisioning Justice— which examined how incarceration affects Chicago communities and interrogated the failures of our criminal justice system. Previous curatorial projects include, The Annual: A New Exhibition for Chicago Art presented at Chicago Artists Coalition in partnership with EXPO Chicago, Tertiary Dimensions presented as part of PLATFORMS—a retrospective exhibition of Chicago's queer art collective, Chances Dances, and Marvelous Freedom / Vigilance of Desire, Revisited— a group exhibition that engaged the richness of Chicago’s Surrealist past with new works from 13 contemporary artists of the African diaspora. As an artist, Alexandria’s practice draws from history, lived experiences, and her own imagination to deepen her connectivity to the natural world. Her multi-vocational practice has received generous support from the Chicago Cultural Center's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Rebuild Foundation, Independent Curators International, Joyce Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, and 3Arts. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jameson Paige is a curator and writer based in Chicago. He is interested in the potentials of queerness, spatial politics, and the methods artistic practices use to address limiting and volatile systems. His research looks at these issues primarily through the lens of art’s flirtations with queer, transgender, critical race, and affect studies. Paige has presented his work at the College Art Association’s Annual Conference, the University of New Mexico, the Maryland Institute College of Art, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Recent exhibitions and programs have been presented at the Sullivan Galleries, Chicago; Heaven Gallery, Chicago; Extase, Chicago; Lithium Gallery, Chicago; Threewalls, Chicago; SITE Galleries, Chicago. Recent writing appears in Burnaway, Public Parking, The SEEN, Contango, and Newcity. He received his BA in Art History from Temple University and his Dual MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History and Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Free Write Arts & Literacy Curatorial Consultant
Chelsea Ross is a multi-disciplinary artist living and working in Chicago. She explores ideas and practices of collaboration, identity, sexuality, power, and all forms of liberation through photography, writing, curation, and movement. She holds a Master of Art in Design criticism from the School of Architecture at UIC. While her practice is informed by architecture and design thinking, she works decidedly in the realm of art because of its elasticity and more direct connection to contemporary culture. Her photographic work and writing has been exhibited and published in Chicago and nationally. A Chicagoan to the bone, she spends significant time alone in the desert, talking to as few people as possible. She prefers curves over corners.