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"In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" Exhibit Reception and Panel Discussion with Tonika Johnson, Melissa Blount, and Essence McDowell


"In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens" Exhibit Reception and Panel Discussion with Tonika Johnson, Melissa Blount, and Essence McDowell - City Bureau Public Newsroom #103
Thursday, April 11, 6-8PM
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Tonika Johnson, Melissa Blount, and Essence McDowell work within diverse artistic practices (including photography, quilting, painting, and writing) to honor and center Black women’s voices and histories. At this Public Newsroom, inspired by Alice Walker’s writings on Black women’s creativity, these artists will discuss their work as embodiments of Black women’s intergenerational and unconventional creative practices. Find out how they are redefining connections between creative work and resistance to oppression, exploring the relationship between Black women and the archive, and monumentalizing Black women within our creative lineages. This discussion will be moderated by Kanyinsola Anifowoshe, who presented at PN #87 on what young Chicagoans are doing to shape the city’s future.

This Public Newsroom celebrates the opening of the In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens exhibit, the culmination of a series exploring Black women’s creativity through the lens of Alice Walker, featuring workshops and programs led by artists Tonika Johnson, Melissa Blount, Essence McDowell, and Renata Cherlise.

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Artist/presenter bios

Melissa Blount is a licensed clinical psychologist, writer, and artist who creates quilts that explore the notions of trauma, and white supremacy. Through community sewing circles she cultivates unique opportunities for people to bear witness to the unjust and violent loss of life in communities of color.

Her historic and contemporary influences include Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Frances E. Willard, Mary Ann Pettway, Chyna Pettway, the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective, Amos Kennedy, Ben Blount, Gwendolyn Brooks, Krista Franklin, Bryan Stevenson, Isabel Wilkerson, Claudia Rankine, Toi Derricotte, Nikki Finney and Hannah Gamble.

Tonika Johnson is a visual artist/photographer from Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood. She was featured in Chicago Magazine as a 2017 Chicagoan of the Year for her photography of Englewood's everyday beauty, countering its pervasive media coverage of poverty and crime. Her "Everyday Englewood," photography was exhibited at Loyola University's Museum of Art (LUMA) earlier this year. Her current project, Folded Map, visually investigates disparities among Chicago residents while bringing them together to have a conversation, was also exhibited at LUMA this year from July-October.

Essence McDowell is a communications strategist, organizer and co-author of Lifting As They Climbed: Mapping a History of Black Women on Chicago’s South Side.

Kanyinsola Anifowoshe is a 17 year old Nigerian-American who is a senior at Whitney Young high school. She is excited about inclusivity and accessibility in the art world, creating space for marginalized voices, and the transformative potential of young people. She is editor-in-chief of Wahala Zine, a platform for the creative work of young people in the Nigerian diaspora, and host of The Now podcast where she interviews young creatives. She is also a co-organizer with Fempowerment Chicago and Youth for Black Lives, organizations intended to amplify the power of young people within activism.