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Welcome to UnBlocked Englewood

A Vision of Transformation

Overview

Join the Chicago Bungalow Association and acclaimed social justice artist Tonika Lewis Johnson on a transformative exploration, reshaping the story of a single Englewood block.

Tonika Lewis Johnson is an artist whose innovative approach to community revitalization is reshaping the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago through her arts-driven community redevelopment project, UnBlocked Englewood. Primarily funded through the City’s Public Arts Grant, which offers up to $500K for public art in historically disinvested neighborhoods, Tonika applied out of frustration with grants that highlight systemic issues without addressing them directly. Partnering with the Chicago Bungalow Association and Englewood Arts Collective, she argued that aiding homeowners in Englewood to repair and beautify their homes is public art.

We have already successfully repaired 12 homes, with 13 more to go. We also recently installed a new block club sign and a vibrant mural on one of the repaired homes. By providing immediate support to homeowners, we foster a sense of community and create lasting social impact.


Follow the journey with us on @unblockedenglewood and witness the evolution as we:

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  1. Empower Block Residents: We're breaking the chains of neglect by providing direct access to home repair funding and technical support. A testament to our commitment, $399,151 has already been invested in critical home rehab and weatherization projects, breathing new life into Englewood's historic structures.
     

  2. Unleash Creative Revitalization: In 2024, witness the magic as vacant lots are transformed into vibrant canvases of expression. Co-created with block residents and the Englewood Arts Collective, these arts-based physical improvements tell a story of resilience, innovation, and a brighter future.
     

  3. Ignite Public Engagement: Join the movement as we shed light on the impactful work taking place on the block. UnBlocked Englewood is not just about physical transformation; it's a call to action. Together, let's unravel the layers of historic injustice and pave the way for a more equitable future.

Your donation will help us preserve the neighborhood’s character and increase home values, demonstrating that community redevelopment and public art can transform historically neglected areas. Join us in making a tangible difference—restoring denied equity one home repair and vacant lot beautification at a time.

Progress on the Block

Hear from Ms. Justine, block resident, about unBlocked Englewood

Hear from Ms. Justine, block investor, about UnBlocked Englewood.

Press

 Chicago Tribune 

Repairing homes as a form of public art, Tonika Lewis Johnson helps Englewood reinvest in the disinvested

By Darcel Rockett

Published January 5, 2024

Segregation. Redlining. Land sale contracts, where real estate speculators in the 1950s and ‘60s sold homes to Black families on rent-to-own contracts for double — or more — what the property was worth. Artist Tonika Lewis Johnson has been highlighting these decadeslong injustices against the Black community in projects such as “The Folded Map” and “Inequity for Sale.”

Now, Lewis Johnson is working on “unBlocked Englewood,” an effort in the 6500 block of South Aberdeen Street in Englewood to showcase the transformative power that emerges when a community unites to heal and uplift.

Partnering with the Chicago Bungalow Association, Lewis Johnson is working with residents along that one block to beautify and revitalize 22 vacant lots and 24 residential buildings, and aiding about 75 residents in the process.

 WTTW Chicago Tonight 

Aired January 15, 2024

Tonika Lewis Johnson and Carla Bruni talked with Brandis Friedman about UnBlocked Englewood on Channel 11 WTTW's Chicago Tonight.

Project Aims to Repair Englewood Homes, Combat Disinvestment Through the Arts

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 Block Club Chicago 

How An Englewood Artist And Activist Is Helping Black Families Keep Their Homes

By Atavia Reed
Published January 25, 2024

Through “unBlocked Englewood,” Tonika Lewis Johnson and the Chicago Bungalow Association are paying for home repairs along one block, which the organizer hopes can help reverse decades of discriminatory housing policies.

 NBC News Now 

Aired February 26, 2024

Artist Tonika Lewis Johnson, Chicago Bungalow Association's Carla Bruni, Englewood Arts Collective's Janell Nelson, block resident Melvin Walls, and researcher Amber Hendley talked with Adrienne Broaddus about UnBlocked Englewood on national NBC News Now.

Social Justice Artist Fights to Keep Black Families in Chicago Homes

 ABC7 Chicago 

UnBlocked Englewood Repairs Homes to Help Rewrite Decades of Housing Discrimination

Aired March 1, 2024

Tonika Lewis Johnson is repairing homes in the Englewood neighborhood in order to rewrite decades of housing discrimination.

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 Axios Chicago 

A public art project is repairing the damage of racist housing practices in Englewood

By Carrie Shepherd
Published April 10, 2024

Artist and activist Tonika Lewis Johnson's "unBlocked Englewood" project is literally repairing the damage a racist housing practice, known as land sale contracts, has done to Chicago's Black neighborhoods.

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 Block Club Chicago 

Englewood Artist Tonika Johnson Raising $500,000 To Help More Black Families Fix Their Homes

By Atavia Reed
Published July 19, 2024

The funding will go toward Johnson’s program, UnBlocked Englewood, which aims to repair 25 homes at 65th and Aberdeen streets. Twelve homes have already been upgraded.

Join the Transformation

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UnBlocked Englewood is supported by:

  • A $250,000 Together We Heal Creative Place grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events and the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Justice

  • A $120,000 Growing Household Wealth grant from the Chicago Community Trust

  • A $50,000 grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities

  • A $25,000 contribution from The Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation

  • Weatherization services leveraged with the Home Energy Savings program, in partnership with ComEd and Peoples Gas, providing customers with free home energy services and improvements

  • A donation from Zoro.com of outdoor power equipment to help maintain vacant lots and sidewalks year-round on the block

More Info

Carla Bruni, Homeowner Navigator
Chicago Bungalow Association
cbruni@chicagobungalow.org

Tonika Lewis Johnson, Creator
Folded Map Chicago and Inequity for Sale
foldedmapchicago@gmail.com

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