Press Release

Illinois Humanities’ Envisioning Justice Series Brings Free Arts and Humanities Programs to Six Towns

The six events feature artists, educators, and organizers who are reimagining timely conversations about justice and safety for communities in Carbondale, East St. Louis, Champaign, Galesburg, Bloomington, and Decatur.

CHICAGO, August 2, 2023Illinois Humanities will present the 2023 Envisioning Justice Activation Series: six free events that will take place across Illinois to examine the far-reaching impacts of mass incarceration. Each public event is hosted in partnership with local nonprofit organizations and community groups that are dedicated to the social, cultural, and economic well-being of their communities.

“At a time when prevailing narratives talk about our communities as being plagued by intractable violence, this event series offers an alternative by demonstrating the creative power of community-based conversations to find solutions. By bringing people together to share their stories, create art, and learn from each other, Envisioning Justice Activation events make it possible for Illinoisans to explore alternatives to the criminal legal system and envision a truly just future,” says Gabrielle Lyon, executive director of Illinois Humanities. “We have to approach the question: ‘What kind of future do we want?’ together. It’s the only way forward.”

The first event in the series, Art, Poetry & Conversation with Toni Picasso, took place at Artspace 304 in Carbondale on July 26, presented in partnership with A Gift of Love Charity. Local Carbondale artist Antonio L. Burton, also known as “Toni Picasso,” helped to host the community gathering where participants of all ages created poetry, shared personal experiences, and together discussed how to better support children and families whose loved ones are currently incarcerated.

“Seeing how neighbors and families could come together to have a deeply personal – and sometimes challenging – conversation about issues affecting their daily lives shows us just how valuable these experiences are in getting us closer to solutions that are inclusive, harm-reductive, and impactful,” said Envisioning Justice program manager Tyreece Williams.

Next in the series, Illinois Humanities will host “Empowering Justice Impacted Communities with Joshua Jackson & Coco Davis” in East St. Louis on August 11, hosted in partnership with I Am East St. Louis Magazine Foundation. Filmmaker Joshua Jackson will present a screening from his From Prisoner to Professional documentary series and host a conversation with Nicole “Coco” Davis, a justice-impacted community worker on Chicago’s South Side who was the subject of the piece. Local musician Rosalind-Denise Rogers will close the show with a performance.

The Envisioning Justice Activation series will continue through November with free public events in Champaign, Galesburg, Bloomington, and Decatur. Learn more and find an event near you at


Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION is supported in part by the Mellon Foundation and the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Additional support comes from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, Polk Bros. Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

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. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.