Illinois Humanities Presents: 2021 Public Humanities Awards

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We lcome To

Our high-energy, one-hour virtual show features performances, stories, and intimate time with our awardees—photographers and activists Dawoud Bey and Tonika Lewis Johnson. The event, our most important fundraiser and celebration of the year, is open to all who want to support Illinois Humanities and honor awardees Dawoud and Tonika. This event is cochaired by Mea Konopasek and Jennifer Wirtz.


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. In 2020, Illinois Humanities organized 169 events that reached 6,373 participants across Illinois, reaching nearly every one of the 102 counties in the state. Due to the pandemic and the change to virtual platforms, we were able to reach viewers across the world. With additional support from the National Endowment for the Humanities CARES Act funds, Illinois Humanities conducted statewide crisis-relief grantmaking of more than $700,00 to 177 organizations in 2020. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn @ILHumanities.

Click here to donate to Illinois Humanities.


11:30 AM


12:00 PM


Bomba con Buya

WELCOME AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director, Illinois Humanities and Mae Hong, Board Chair, Illinois Humanities

DAWOUD BEY, PHOTOGRAPHER AND ACTIVIST Statement by the honoree Beacon Award Presented to Dawoud Bey

WHAT IS ILLINOIS HUMANITIES? Illinois Humanities staff

ACTIVATED: THE HUMANITIES IN ILLINOIS TONIKA LEWIS JOHNSON, PHOTOGRAPHER AND ACTIVIST Statement by the honoree Public Humanities Award Presented to Tonika Lewis Johnson

CLOSING REMARKS Gabrielle Lyon Bomba con Buya


Public Humanities Awards 2021 Honorees  Dawoud Bey and Tonika Lewis Johnson are the 2021 Public Humanities Award recipients, nominated and selected by humanists from across Illinois. Both awardees are visual storytellers at a moment when visual narratives are dramatically shifting the way we tell stories and who is telling them; their works cross media boundaries in ways that bring diverse audiences and stories together. The awards to these humanists underscore the power of the humanities to lead our communities toward a more just society for all.

For decades, Dawoud, winner of the Beacon Award, has used his craft to illuminate tragedies and injustices, visualize and amplify the presence of ordinary citizens, and give credence to the Black experience. Dawoud has gained international acclaim and has been an important educator and guiding light for upcoming artists and photographers.

ABOUT THE BEACON AWARD Launched in 2020, the Beacon Award honors an individual or organization who has been a champion for – or investor in – the humanities in Illinois, elevating the work of humanists in ways that have improved the quality of the state for its residents.


TONIKA LEWIS JOHNSON Tonika, winner of the Public Humanities Award, is a photographer/social justice artist and life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood. She is also co-founder of two community-based organizations, Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood, that mobilize people and resources for positive change. She turned the Folded Map project into a non-profit organization where she serves as Creative Executive Officer. She was named one of Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago and most recently, she was appointed as a member of the Cultural Advisory Council of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events by the Chicago City Council.

ABOUT THE PUBLIC HUMANITIES AWARD Established in 1984, the Public Humanities Award celebrates people who have made an indelible impact on our state through their work in and support of the humanities.  6

Past honorees... PREVIOUS BEACON AWARD RECIPIENTS 2020 – Weinberg/Newton Gallery


2005 – The Honorable Abner And Zoe Mikva

2019 – Cheryl Lynn Bruce And Kerry James Marshall

1994 – Martin E. Marty, Stanley J. Ikenberry, Richard J. Franke, Chicago Tribune

2018 – Danielle Allen And Mannie Jackson 2017 – Jeanne Gang 2016 – Dr. Walter E. Massey 2015 – Howard Tullman 2014 – Jay Franke And David Herro 2013 – Lisa Yun Lee 2012 – Bruce Sagan And Bette Cerf Hill 2011 – John A. Wing 2010 – Anna Eleanor Roosevelt 2008 – Carlos Tortolero 2007 – Barbara Gaines 2006 – Mary A. Dempsey

1993 – Francis J. Pettis 1992 – Nancy Anderson Stevenson 1990 – Bridget Lamont 1989 – Cyrus Colter 1988 – Brena And Lee Freeman 1987 – The Honorable Dawn Clark Netsch And Walter Netsch 1986 – Mary Ward Wolkonsky 1985 – J. Michael Lennon 1984 – John Hope Franklin, Stuart Steuver, The Honorable Jim Edgar, The Honorable Paul Simon, The Honorable Sidney Yates, Louise Año Nuevo Kerr

Raffle items We are offering three curated packages from our honorees and partners. For a limited time only, purchase tickets for a chance to win...


Five winners will be selected for a 2-3 hour tour of Englewood guided by life-long resident Tonika Lewis Johnson. Tonika will guide the small group through places and spaces in Englewood that highlight community activations and creative projects.


This close and personal look at some of Dawoud’s iconic work includes a chance to hear his stories behind the images firsthand – to get to know the man behind the camera while exploring the Vault at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago.


Paul Strand was an American photographer and filmmaker who helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century.

Thank you to donors Aperture Foundation, Dawoud Bey, Natasha Egan, Tonika Lewis Johnson, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago.


Thank you to our sponsors and donors! list as of May 18th




Mae P. Hong, Gail H. Shiel-Mahoney and George F. Mahoney, Susan A. Manning and Doug A. Doetsch, Verett Mims, Arthur and Jennifer Wirtz

TOWN SPONSORSHIP Marsha and Philip Dowd Susan Eleuterio and Tom Sourlis Deborah Epstein Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation The Field Foundation Denise B. Gardner Virginia C. Gerst and C. Gary Gerst Lowell Jaffe Priscilla Kersten Gabrielle Lyon



BMO Harris Bank

Brett Eldredge

EAB Solutions

Sylvia Ewing


Randy Holgate and John Peterson

First Bank Chicago Dedrea and Paul Gray Brenda and James Grusecki Gus and Susan Haramaras Jane A. Hays and David J. Downey

Debra Kerr Mea Konopasek Ron Kowalke Liz Siegel and Greg Jacobs G. Isaac and Ava Stanley


Reed & Liz Soldwedel

Paula R. Kahn

Surgical Solutions

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Lisa Yun Lee

Bobette Takiff

Richie Marrero and 360 Benefits

Christy Uchida

Weinberg/Newton Gallery

Anne and Roger Taylor


Terra Foundation for American Art

David Woolwine and Kevin Williams

Elizabeth M. Thompson and Donald E. Thompson Jai Winston


Dickerson Global Advisors

Thank you to our Host Committee! Mea Konopasek*, Event Co-Chair

Brenda and James Grusecki

Jennifer Wirtz*, Event Co-Chair

Tracie D. Hall

Antoinette Burton

Debra Kerr

Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko

Priscilla Kersten

Sharon Corwin

O. Victoria Lakes-Battle

Rachel DeWoskin

Gabrielle Lyon

Susan Eleuterio*

MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program

Deborah Epstein*

Angelique Power

Sylvia Ewing

Michal Raz-Russo

Denise B. Gardner

Elizabeth Siegel

Helene Gayle

Melody Spann Cooper

Esther Grimm

*denotes Board Member

Illinois Humanities Board of Directors Mae P. Hong, Chair

Jane A. Hays

David Woolwine, Vice Chair

Joyce Higgins*

Mea Konopasek, Treasurer

J. Paul Hunter [Life Director]

Jai L. Winston, Secretary

Lowell Jaffe*

Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director

Susan Manning

Danielle S. Allen [ex officio]

Verett A. Mims

John S. Bracken

William M. Patterson

Dale T. Chapman

Rikeesha Phelon*

Teresa L. Córdova

Alyssa Rapp*

Susan Eleuterio

Gail H. Shiel-Mahoney

Deborah Epstein [Life Director]

Stacy Ellen Baygood Streur*

Virginia C. Gerst

Jennifer Wirtz

Juana Guzmán

Debra Yepa-Pappan*

Alton B. Harris [Life Director] *Gubernatorial Appointee


With appreciation Demetrius Barry, Tiff Beatty, Asiaha Butler, Joey Della Vecchia, Tracie Hall, Adrianne Hawthorne, Nyjah Johnson, Maria Krysan, Lisa Lee, Rita Lewis, Sarah Meister, Don Meyer, Janell Nelson, Daniel Ramos, Liz Siegel, Amare Symoné, David Travis, and the members of Bomba con Buya: Lauren Brooks, Ivelisse Diaz, Ruben Gerena, Teo “Piro” Lopez, Berto Pérez, Jonathon Pacheco, Arif Smith

Thank you to the Illinois Humanities staff Rebecca Amato Director of Teaching and Learning

Meredith Nnoka Envisioning Justice Fellow

Jane Beachy Artistic Director

Paul O’Brien Chief Financial Officer

Alyssa Bierce Envisioning Justice Digital Content Manager

Audrey Petty Director, The Odyssey Project

Michael Foley Manager of Operations and Human Resources Chris Guzaitis Senior Director Mark Hallett Director of Grants Programs Karen Loda Development Coordinator Matt Meacham Program Manager, Statewide Engagement


Ned Schaub Director of Marketing and Communications Magdalena Slowik Director of Development Zerline Thompson Operations Coordinator Tia K. Williams Digital Communications and Technology Systems Manager Tyreece Williams Program Manager, Envisioning Justice Jenn Yoo Program Operations Manager

Images from On Wisdom and Vision: Humanities Organizations in Illinois during COVID-19 courtesy Illinois Humanities.


Follow us on social media to hear about upcoming events:

FACEBOOK: @ILhumanities TWITTER: @ILhumanities INSTAGRAM:  @ILhumanities LINKEDIN: @illinois-humanities-council Post about the event using: #2021PHA Click here to donate to Illinois Humanities.

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