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 Artists-in-Residence

Issac "Lord Haiti" Johnson & Michael Bussey

[Left] Born and raised in the West Side of Chicago, the young DJ / Producer Isaac “Lord Haiti” Johnson has been quietly crafting a sound that contrasts the hard hitting “Drill” sound that has given Chicago most of its recognition of late. Haiti credits his warped, heavy synthesized sound to the influence of some of his favorites, such as J Dilla, Madlib, The Neptunes, Flying Lotus, and Timbaland. With a touch of their sound, mixed with the clashing sounds of Hip Hop, R&B, House music, and EDM, he, as he proclaims, created a new genre of music, “Vibe Music”.


[Right]  Michael Bussey was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Chicago to study Political Science and Geography at DePaul University, ultimately becoming an award-winning cartographer. After exploring cinematography he discovered his passion for visual storytelling using the mediums of photography, filmmaking, and generative biology-based art. He now follows in the tradition of the West African Griot, exploring the many facets of self, society, and the globe, weaving visual stories from his experiences.


Lord Haiti's Instagram

Beatriz Beckford

As an Artist/Activist, Beatriz believes that arts and culture serves as important mechanisms for stewarding critical dialogues and facilitating radical social change that is essential to moving towards the beloved communities we dream of and work to create. For over ten years she has focused on the arts, community organizing, anti-oppression work, and community-based education. Most significantly, much of the arts and activism, she has coupled making/creating as a tool for personal growth has allowing her the opportunity to gain invaluable experience channeling the energy and innovative ideas of others and helping individuals see themselves as powerful change makers and stewards of the arts, community, and justice. Beatriz earned her MA in Women & Gender Studies at Loyola University, MA in Teaching at School of The Art Institute Chicago, and a B.S. in Liberal Studies - Concentrations in Studio Art & Wellness, Southern Connecticut State University.

Beatriz Beckford Website

Visiting Artists

Keli Stewart is a writer, educator and Chicago native. Westside born and raised, her writing has appeared in Quiddity, Meridians, Warpland, Hip Mama, On Becoming, Calyx  and other journals and publications. Keli received artist fellowships from Hedgebrook, where she was awarded the 2010 Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Award, and the Augusta Savage Gallery Arts International  Residency Program. An alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Callaloo Summer Writing Workshops, Keli’s writing was selected first place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award from the Illinois Center of the Book.

For her  2022 residency at Nichols Tower, Keli will be working on a project called “Westside Stories” where participants will use writing and performance to tell community and personal stories focusing on the West Side, while archiving neighborhood narratives. Through a Creative Writing workshop series, participants explore personal and community identity, local oral histories, and family narratives. In the context of this project, writing serves as both a community archive and a site for imagining future possibilities. 

Amanda Christine Harth is a designer, teaching artist and serial entrepreneur from the Southside of Chicago. She received her bachelors in Fine Arts from The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and has worked as a creative liaison for fashion designers and creatives for over 5 years. As a fashion designer Amanda has always seen clothing as a silent language amongst people.

Harth’s project at Homan Square will explore the intersectionality between Black Culture and Denim Culture through the study of indigo in America and Black Americans’ influence on contemporary Denim Culture. Harth will host four design sessions called ‘Blue Circles’ that will result in the creation of community designed and constructed quilts inspired by denim-making. Each of these ‘Blue Circles” will see black designers, artists, social justice leaders and fashion historians attend as guests and hold conversations with the community. Attendees will also learn practical skills in dyeing, mending, and hand sewing. The residency will conclude with the exhibition of each of the quilts made collectively and other textiles created by Harth throughout the duration of her residency. 

JoVonna Jackson is a mosaic artist, ceramic muralist, and knitter from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and a member of the Englewood Artists Collective. Her works include a variety of indoor and outdoor mosaics, ceramic sculptures, and jewelry. Self-love and peace are important themes she uses to create her compositions which combine realism and abstract forms to express the nature of love and relationships. Her public works are found at Millennium Park, and Hamilton Park Cultural Center, Chicago. JoVonna recently completed a residency at Hamilton Park Cultural Center hosting workshops for southside community members. 

Sonja Henderson received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied painting and drawing. She received her MFA from the University of California at Berkeley where she concentrated in sculpture and installation. At Berkeley, Sonja created life-size earthworks and temporal structures made of clay, earth, twigs, and organic materials calling attention to the original architecture. Her feminine forms and earthworks spoke to sacred space, placemaking, and cultural identity. Sonja’s installations challenge our perception of the world and socio-political constructs through manipulation of media, scale, and recontextualization of form. She uses restorative and social justice practices that center equity, healing, and human rights. In addition to teaching, Sonja regularly creates large-scale public artwork in collaboration with the Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG) to support community building and collective storytelling.   

Sonja founded the Mothers Healing Circle (MHC) in January of 2020 to help heal Lawndale mothers who have experienced traumatic and violent loss of their children. Together, through rejuvenating workshops, storytelling, singing, and yoga the Mothers have a sacred space to heal and disrupt the cycle of pain and suffering. The Mothers Healing Circle provides a safe in-person and virtual space for gathering, sisterhood, community, understanding, and listening. This collective space for healing our Mothers is the first step in healing the family, community, and nation.

Click here for Sonja Henderson's website.

Born to a Belizean family in L. A. and raised on Chicago’s beloved Westside since the age of 5, Alexie Young is a self taught artist, entrepreneur, and owner of Art West LLC which is a platform that coordinates arts and culture tours on the Westside of Chicago such as the Art West Gallery Tour.  She studied Communications and Media at Northeastern Illinois University and went on to pursue life as a working artist. Young is the former director of the MLK Exhibit Center located on North Lawndale where she aimed to reactivate the center while increasing its visibility as a community asset.

Her life's work is focused on activations, creative place-making and place-keeping efforts while cultivating cultural experiences as a conduit to facilitate mindfulness, self care, healing, and togetherness.

"Originally I was born and raised in “DC proper,” and now call Chicago my second home since 2012 where I hold a Masters of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve received a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in creative writing from the University of Maryland, College Park and also studied at The New School. It has been a pleasure sharing work and performing in spaces like the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA Film Forum, Echo Park Film Center, Danspace Project, Woman Made Gallery, Roman Susan Gallery, Links Hall, the National Museum of African American History & Culture and Hyde Park Art Center. Alongside my artistic experiences I am passionate about teaching and community collaborations and I truly hope that all the memories and histories that are said to have “too many Black people,” are told and retold again. As a means to uphold these stories I create performances, installations, objects, sounds, visuals and writings. These creations often revolve around an interest in aquatic life, Blackness, science, US history and the global future. I am deeply invested in leveling the hierarchies of truth and using personal narrative to to speak on political and cultural amnesia and absurdities." 

Congratulations on recieving a Chicago Artists' Coalition SPARK grant!

Ciera McKissick is the founder of AMFM , a creative arts brand based in Chicago. She created AMFM, originally a web magazine, as an independent study project during her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied Journalism and Mass Communications. Her work since then has evolved to support emerging and established artists by offering them a platform to showcase their work and passions on a larger scale through exhibitions, web content and curated events. As a curator and producer, she seeks to combine the arts to cultivate community, access, diversity, inclusivity, intergenerational interaction and a dynamic experience. 

Instagram: @amfmlife 

Twitter:  @amfmlife

Facebook: AMFM Life

Eric Hotchkiss is a designer and SAIC Instructor in AIADO the Department will be working with us all summer as our SAIC Tower Artist In Resident. His project works with Lawndale youth looks at what it means if they suddenly had the skill and access to the means of producing their own cultural artifact. What would happen if they learned how to cash in on their own cultural capital. For years black youth have had others profit from the styles and influence of those without a means of production. The Most Beautifullest is his series of workshops to produce objects to cash in on westside youth's cultural cache and shape the community that they live in with a Basketball Hoop workshop and UnBranded, sneaker line designed by Lawndale youth.

For previews of his newest work, follow @flat_erik on Instagram

Ariel (AzadiSol), is a proud native of North Lawndale, a teaching artist, singer, poet, actress and dancer is on a conquest of facilitating healing and freedom through expressive art. Azadi has a deep passion for visual and performing arts; she sees them as paths of trauma therapy. She is excited to have revived the Drama program at North Lawndale College Prep where she works to the empower her students to: get in touch with their emotions, heal, use their creative voices and shape their artistic identities. Outside of the classroom, Azadi’s mission is to facilitate collaborative learning spaces where dramatic art, visual art, and therapy intersect within the greater North Lawndale Community.


William Estrada was born to immigrant parents and grew up assembling memories in California, Mexico, and Chicago. His teaching and art making practice focus on exploring inequity, migration, historical passivity, cultural recognition, self-preservation and media representation in marginalized communities. He documents and engages experiences in public spaces to transform, question, and make connections to established and organic systems through discussion, creation, and promotion of counter narratives. 

Rachel Wallis is an activist who uses art in her organizing work, and an artist who engages in issues of racial and social justice. As a primarily self-taught textile artist, her work spans the divide between fine art and craft. She believe that traditional textile techniques, particularly quilting, can provide a fertile platform for creating dialog and understanding around complex ideas and issues.

Professional Website 

Feature Article


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.

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 Malcolm 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.

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 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.

Scheherazade 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, 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 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.

DJ and Arts Administrator Rae Chardonnay and DJ and curator Sadie Woods (MFA 2016), teamed up with community members to explore sound and design, installations, and event coordination.

Rae Chardonnay 

Sadie Woods

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.

Nailah is a digital media artist, lover of cyberspace and the mind behind Trapfuturism™. Her practice is inspired by the online world as a whole, trap culture, and the benefits of design + tech education on underprivileged communities. More specifically, she’s fascinated by the ways in which the “ghetto” Black lifestyle has made its way into pop culture via the Internet, especially via social media, to shape the present and future generations. 


Eseosa Osaghae is a Chicago native who received his BA in Applied Physics from John Carroll University in 2018. He is a musician, entrepreneur, and techie. He is the Community Outreach Fellow at LATITUDE Chicago. He focuses on technical skill development focused on manufacturing. Most of his work is inspired by Afrofuturism and the ability to imagine. He wants to blast off on a rocketship of fun while bringing others on a journey of fun with him.

Jay is a self-taught, Chicago-based freelance photographer specializing in portraiture, special moments, urban landscape, and lifestyle photography through a artistic lens.

The North Lawndale native's most recent photo project is titled "Fathers Lead," and is on display at the Homan Square Community Center, from October 30th to March 6th. 

For more of his work, see Jay's Instagram or website