Press Release

14 Innovative Arts and Humanities Projects Commissioned, Will Address Impacts of Mass Incarceration

Healing circles for mothers, narratives from torture survivors, puppets, and poetry among the Envisioning Justice commissions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2021
CONTACT: Ned Schaub, / 312-533-1514

CHICAGO – Illinois Humanities announced today that it commissioned 14 arts and humanities-based projects, which will all be completed by summer 2021. The commissions support artists and humanists across Illinois whose work responds to the impacts of mass incarceration and envisions a society that is restorative, healing, and just for all. A number of the commissioned projects are led by currently or formerly incarcerated artists and humanists.

“Illinois Humanities is proud to support the creation of crucial new works represented by this compelling roster of artists and humanists,” said Illinois Humanities Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon. “The arts and humanities help all of us reimagine policies and systems, particularly ones like mass incarceration, that are causing great harm. These commissions will help provide alternative visions for what justice can look like.”

Over the next six months, commissioned artists and humanists will create new work that responds to and grapples with mass incarceration in impacted communities throughout Illinois. Works will be collected and showcased in an online platform designed to support conversation, reflection, and action within their communities.

Envisioning Justice leverages the arts and humanities to envision alternatives to the enduring injustice of mass incarceration. This Illinois Humanities initiative works with communities and people impacted by mass incarceration to spark conversation and illuminate community-based strategies that address our racist and unjust legal system. To date, this initiative has included multi-year partnerships with seven Chicago community-based groups, work that culminated in a citywide exhibition in August 2019, which attracted nearly 12,000 visitors. Beginning in 2020, Illinois Humanities expanded Envisioning Justice throughout Illinois.

This current cycle of projects is made possible through the generous support of both the Art for Justice Fund, which is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Commissioned artists and humanists, and the titles of their respective projects, include:

  • Alexandra Antoine and Brandon Wyatt, Our Agreements
  • Tara Betts and David Weathersby, Unbarred Poetics
  • Antonio Burton, Bars & Gates: COPY+PASTE+DELETE
  • Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Guide to Narrate the Struggle for Justice of Jon Burge Torture Survivors
  • Maya Dukmasova, truth, facts, reality | stories, claims, lies
  • William Estrada and Jasmin Cardenas, PUPPETS + RESISTENCIA PROJECT
  • Michael Fischer, There but for the Grace
  • Sonja Henderson, Mothers Healing Circle
  • Renaldo Hudson, Chasing Hearts
  • Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg, Tea Project
  • Joshua Jackson, From Prisoner to Professional
  • Mitchell S. Jackson, Survivor Files
  • Patricia Nguyen, Combat Breathing & the Chicago Torture Justice Memorial Project
  • Naimah Thomas, The Forgotten

For more information on the initiative, visit


About Illinois Humanities

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more about the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at

About the Art for Justice Fund

The Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, makes direct grants to artists and advocates focused on safely reducing the prison population, promoting justice reinvestment, and creating art that changes the narrative around mass incarceration. Learn more about the Art for Justice Fund at