Nichols Tower Artist-in-Residence Program

The Nichols Tower Artist-in-Residence program was designed with extensive civic engagement with our partners and the larger community in mind.

Each selected artist collaborates with area residents to explore social and civic engagement themes, public and community art, activism, urban studies, and urban agriculture. As our programming reflects community requests, our artists in residence also reflect the community’s self-expression.

The residency provides three artists per year (two from Chicago and one selected by an international search) with studio space in the Nichols Tower and a platform for public participation. The artist in residence works with the community to develop creative solutions to local issues and build connections between people and the places they live.

Current Artist-in-Residence

Lavie Raven

Lavie RavenLavie Raven is a social studies and language arts instructor at North Lawndale College Preparatory Hight School in Chicago, and the Prime-Minister of Education for the University of Hip-Hop. With twenty years of experience teaching in the Chicago public school system and working in community arts since he was a teenager, Raven creates strategies for integrating hip-hop into community service projects and classroom education. As one of the co-founders of the University of Hip-Hop, a multi-disciplinary school of the street arts, Raven helped create a dozen charter branches that serve youth across Chicago and throughout the nation.


Upcoming Artist-in-Residence

Leon Kelsick

Leon Kelsick Leon Kelsick grew up in Hyde Park and works as an artist in Chicago. His interest in art and animation began with a love of drawing and illustration that took root while he was a student at Malcom X College studying to become an EMT. His commitment to graphic arts grew out of his passion for drawing after a long day of work at Rush Hospital and caring for his son. Kelsick developed his art by studying graphic design at Eastern Illinois University and becoming a self-taught animator. As a returning student, he was determined to follow his dreams and has worked as a freelance animator for 10 years. Leon also created his own company, Mudwingmedia, which specializes in animation, photography, and video.


Past Artists-in-Residence

Maria Gaspar

An interdisciplinary artist negotiating the politics of location and geography through installation, sculpture, sound, and performance. Gaspar is the founder of large-scale art projects City As Site (2010), and The 96 Acres Project (2012-Present), which examines the impact of incarceration through artistic interventions at the Cook County Jail located in her native community in Chicago. Gaspar’s work has been featured at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY; Artspace, New Haven, CT; African American Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and the Alpineum Produzentengalerie in Luzern, Switzerland. Gaspar is the recipient of a Creative Capital Award, a Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Artist As Activist Fellowship, and a Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award in Art and Activism from the National Museum of Mexican Art. She recently completed a residency at Project Row Houses in Houston, TX and was awarded an upcoming residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts with a Chamberlain Award. She is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gaspar holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.

Marline Johnson

Marline Johnson is an artist, art therapist, and activist whose work in centered on making the invisible, visible. As a visual artist in sculpture and performance, she uses these mediums to create spaces where she can foster critical community dialogue around the challenging nature of racial and gender inequality by awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain mute. She currently works as the Program Coordinator for A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Young Leaders Institute. Girl/Friends Young Leaders Institute is an art-based program that empowers girls and young women to find their voices, create social action campaigns, and advocate for gender equality and racial justice in their schools, communities, and their larger city of Chicago.

Marline earned a Masters of Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. Marline’s Masters thesis We Are Not Always Broken, examined the unique synchronous relationship of the intentional pairing of poetry and mosaics as tools of healing when working with survivors of sexual violence. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Connecticut College in 2013 where upon she was awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal for exceptional scholarship and community activism with a commitment to justice and equity.

Scheherazade Tillet (Spring 2016)
Scherezade Tillet (MA 2005), a graduate of SAIC’s Art Therapy program, became the program’s inaugural artist-in-residence in April 2016.

The co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a Chicago nonprofit that uses art therapy and the visual and performing arts to help end violence against women and girls, Tillet sought to continue her work during her residency: she taught community photography workshops so teen girls could tell their own stories and collaborated with community members on a memorial for police-shooting victim Rekia Boyd.

Hood Media (Summer 2016)
Hood Media, a collective of socially conscious hip-hop artists and activists headed by Celeste Smith & Jasiri X, uses art as a means of raising awareness about social justice matters. During Hood Media’s residency in June 2016, the collective helped community members explore performance, written, and visual art.

Mashaun Hendricks (Summer 2016)
Mashaun Hendricks of streetwear brand TRAP House Chicago was the artist in residence at Nichols Tower in July 2016. Using his fashion as inspiration, Hendricks worked with participants to design surveys and interview community members about crime, its sources, and prevention strategies.

Rae Chardonnay & Sadie Woods (Summer 2016)
Also serving as artists-in-residence in July 2016 were DJ and Arts Administrator Rae Chardonnay and DJ and Curator Sadie Woods (MFA 2016), who teamed up with community members to explore sound and design, installations, and event coordination.

Cheryl Pope (Fall 2016)
Fashion department faculty member Cheryl Pope (BFA 2003, MDes 2010) is the artist-in-residence for fall 2016. Pope focuses on issues of power, inequality, race, gender, and segregation in Chicago, and will collaborate with North Lawndale youth to explore the intersection of poetry and the visual arts.