Tonika Johnson is a photographer, social justice artist, and lifelong resident of the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side. Co-founder of both the Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood, she actively challenges and reshapes the narrative surrounding South Side communities. With a keen eye for urban segregation and a commitment to preserving Chicago's Black cultural memory, Tonika's work explores injustices ingrained in our built environment,systems, and social networks.
A trained photojournalist and former teaching artist, Tonika has garnered citywide recognition over the past five years. Chicago Magazine honored her as a Chicagoan of the Year in 2017, acknowledging her captivating photography capturing the everyday beauty of Englewood. Exhibiting her projects From the INside and Everyday Rituals at prestigious venues such as Rootwork Gallery, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Harold Washington Library Center, and Loyola University's Museum of Art (LUMA), she has established a powerful artistic legacy.
Her groundbreaking Folded Map project, showcased at LUMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, investigates disparities among "map twins" living on opposite ends of the same streets, bridging conversations across Chicago's racial and economic divides. Transforming Folded Map into a nonprofit organization in 2020, Tonika serves a Creative Executive Officer, using the project as a tool to address social impacts of racial and institutional segregation in Chicago.
Tonika's influence extends beyond her art. Recognized as one of Field Foundation's Leaders for a New Chicago in 2019, she currently serves on the Cultural Advisory Council of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events by the Chicago City Council. In 2021, she assumed the role of Artist as Instigator for the National Public Housing Museum, working on her latest project, Inequity for Sale, which sheds light on the history of homes sold on Land Sale Contracts in Greater Englewood during the 50s and 60s.
Named one of Landmark Illinois' 2022 Influencers, Tonika challenges inequities in real estate and land use practices through "Inequity For Sale." Her impactful contributions were further recognized by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) in 2023, awarding her the Community Impact Award. Tonika Lewis Johnson stands as a beacon of positive change, using her art and advocacy to reshape the social and cultural landscape of Chicago.