Art and Social Justice: Examines Prez ft. GeeO-"KICKS"

 "Art is Business" BIOGRAPHY-PREZ  Renard Preston

Renard Preston

 The Chicago native has been paying dues since the late 1990’s with heavy involvement in the local hip-hop scene during his early days as a freestyle battle rapper. Possessing a variety of fast-paced hard-hitting flows, while still being able to deliver a smooth swagger infused cadence, Prez has the ability to adapt to many different styles of hip-hop. His versatility alone separates him from your average “rapper.” 

Originally signed to local hip-hop label 773 Records with then group “Fallin Angels” at the tender age of 18 under the guidance of legendary producer and former Ill-State member Riot One, Prez has been groomed to dominate the industry. After relocating to Atlanta in the summer of 2000, Prez was exposed to the Southern hip-hop domination during the height of its popularity. Being able to see that transformation before his very own eyes, it made Prez broaden his style and take his music to an even higher level. 

While in Atlanta, Prez was a key member of the hip-hop group “Chill Factor,” a collective of Chicago natives who were receiving label considerations from Disturbing The Peace and Def Jam South at the time. Opening up for artists like Mystical, Lil John and the Eastside Boyz and Ludacris, Chill-Factor was on the cusp of penetrating the game. However, the group disbanded after 2005 and Prez moved back to Chicago in the summer of 2008 to pursue his solo career.

 “I had to learn how to be a solo artist…being a part of two groups in my day, I learned how to play my position and compliment the group members. 

When you are a solo artist your entire thought process changes and I accepted the challenge and sharpened my skill set.” Now older, wiser and even better than before Prez is set to take off and take the industry by storm. After being featured at Hustle Simmons’ Hustlepalooza in 2010, appearing on Trailblazer’s MPC Smoker’s Club Vol. 1 mixtape and performing at numerous venues throughout Chicago, Prez is gaining much love and respect from local and national recording artists. “At the end of the day, I do this for my family and I represent my city to the fullest…Chicago MC’s have been overlooked for years, now they have to honor us.” With an “I can’t lose” attitude and tremendous grind, the question is not “if” Prez will be a star…but “when” will this star breakthrough.

PREZ (born Renard Preston) has a unique brand of lyricism, mixed with an undeniable energy and the work ethic that is unmatched.


"Art is Business", posted for Paula Robinson- Examing the State of Our Environment


Features the B&W images of a family of professional photographers. 

While they captured the moments of life and events for family, friends, and clients these candid shots mark the passages on the other side of the lens documenting the life of family, fatherhood and the fate of our communities.  

The story illustrated through one family, emulates the sentiments of us all.  

The team sought to use the full depth of the gallery space 
to communicate the passage of time and the inevitable passing of the family patriarch. 

The perpetual loss throughout our community. 

The Wakunda proverb suggest: A man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed his family.

The theme of Social Justice and the question, Where are we now?
are answered internally through one family's travails and externally through bold full-color graphic design posters that billboard the exterior boarded windows of the space and illustrate the modern icons of our century.

The future is in living color and the photographer's son is an Illustrator.

Paula Robinson

Paula Robinson holds a B.S. in Communication Arts from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.   She is a thirty-year entrepreneur and marketing communications veteran, was a vice president at several major communications firms including Burson Marsteller, Edelman, and Burrell before operating her own firm BR&R Communications Inc. and has been recognized with numerous industry awards. She has provided civic leadership as President of the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership (BCDP), a private non-profit community economic development organization revitalizing Chicago's historic African American community as an international tourism destination for more than two decades. 

Robinson is a long time advocate for local artists commissions, Public Art projects, cultural heritage placemaking strategies, and Artist Housing.  Her projects include  Bronzeville Art & Architecture Historic House Tours (Mid-South Planning & Development Commission); King Drive Walk of Fame (Chicago Public Art Commission); Bronzeville Portal (MPEA);  Great Migration Wall Sculpture/McCormick Motor Lobby (MPEA); Gerri’s Palm Tavern Signage Restoration (Chicago History Museum); Major Taylor Trail 111th Street Mural (CDOT/34th Ward);  2016 Great Migration Commemorative/35th Bridge (CDOT/4th Ward);  Sounding Bronzeville, Outdoor Gathering Space (CPD, Field Museum); Innovation Metropolis Classroom 110, Overton School (Creative Grounds).  

She is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, serves on the national board of advisors for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Calumet Collaborative Steering Committee transforming the southeast Chicago lakefront and northern Indiana region. 

Toussaint Werner Bio

Toussaint Werner is an innovative and creative entrepreneur who brings more than twenty years of graphic artistry and design to corporate and community projects.  From assistant art director to an owner of a media group, his fresh, creative approach has established Toussaint as one of the most sought-after graphic designers for national brands such as Sprite and Sony Music Group; as well as community organizations (YMCA- Metropolitan Chicago) and municipalities including the City of Chicago and Atlanta City. His mastery of cutting-edge design tools such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, CS3 Suite, has resulted in moving, streamlined and vibrant marketing collateral for each of his clients owner of Calumet Curative’s, a social marketing solutions firm, Toussaint has trained children to create marketing campaigns that address social ills by using traditional and new media technologies.

Toussaint Werner is committed to creating safe and secure environments that nurture individual and community growth. Over the years Mr. Werner has developed expertise through rich experience that include work with some of the country’s leading African American owned production, event, and media entities. His love for community and politics have led him to leadership roles in numerous civic engagement projects, Including NOC (national organizing committee of the Nation of Islam). Chicago Chair of national cares mentoring movement in partnership with Essence Magazine and Susan Taylor. Werner also Servers as the Vice President of Breaking Bread (a community reinvest group in the Chicagoland area)

Mr. Werner also serves as a regular guest as political analysis and community commentary on a host of local and national media outlets.

Ayekoto Thutmose (Michael Thomas)

Ayekoto Thutmose (Michael Thomas) is a multimedia arts curator, native and resident of the historic neighborhood of Bronzeville, Chicago, Illinois, where his eclectic work pays homage to the Black Arts Movement of generations before. 

Owner and curator of Insit Studio (2014-16), Koto worked with community artists to present the No Color (2014), Kings & Killers (2014), and The Original Man (2015) exhibits. The gallery honorably displayed the works of such renowned artists as Fanta Celah and David Anthony Geary. 

At the creatives arts bar, Some Like It Black (2016-17), Koto curated a circuit of seasonal art exhibitions while producing several extended live music performance series, such as the still running and heralded, Young Lion Jazz Session (2016-  ), featuring Chicago’s most celebrated rising jazz phenoms. 

Koto’s current work centers around the development, production, and hosting of cutting-edge documentaries, impactful interviews, and artistic news programs. 

Larissa Johnson

Larissa Johnson is an interdisciplinary artist, social and cultural curator, arts advocate, youth tutor and mentor, and her greatest accomplishment; mother. She is interested in furthering the access of arts, technology, music and dance to young Black Bodies.  Known as a club kid of the 80's, for over 25 years Larissa Johnson has dedicated her life to the arts; ranging from dance, visual arts, fashion, music, and cultural preservation. 

In 2003, she founded  Rhythm’s  Production, a consulting, social marketing and arts advocacy firm that serves as a resource for Chicago DJs and artists and The Social Move in 2011.  

She is was the past coordinator of the 2016 Great Migration Centennial Committee and is working with other organizations such as Blacks in Green and Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, Social Curator for Sounding Bronzeville; a gathering space along Chicago's Lake Shore Drive; Burnham Wildlife Corridor, an affiliate of Deep House Page Chicago, and is part of the pop-up dance and music Excursions family. Larissa is the Creative and Promotions Director for Universal Dance Music, as well as other collaborative projects with Chicago artists, historians, and creatives. Larissa Johnson has been actively involved with the Honey Pot Performance an Afro-Diasporic, woman-focused creative collaborative community for several years in varied capacities, ranging from volunteer, make-up artist, stylist and now serving as auxiliary board member, as well as the Chicago Social Black Culture Map. 

Who gets to tell the Black American Story? We are the cultural stakeholders of our existence and it is extremely important that we record and tell our very unique stories. It validates and affirms our existence.

Rhonda Ingersol Hardy

Rhonda Ingersol Hardy

Rhonda Ingersol Hardy is an artist, entrepreneur, educator and community organizer. Rhonda is president of Designs by Urban Comforts. Her company’s, mission is to promote beautiful urban environments and increased cultural self-awareness for their clients. The company accomplishes this through the sale of handcrafted products that Rhonda designs and produces, and by providing home décor services through its Urban Interiors Designs program. Her work has been exhibited at the South Side Community Art Center and Gallery Guichard, and at the Beverly Arts Alliance.

Rhonda’s professional career also includes leading community development initiatives as an educator at the University of Illinois Extension where she worked extensively in Chicago communities such as Bronzeville, Englewood, and Chatham. After retiring from this position, she lived in Colombia South America for 3 years where she volunteered in at-risk communities. 

She currently serves on the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership Steering Committee, is a member of the Beverly Arts Alliance, serves on the Be the Miracle Youth Foundation Board and donates proceeds from her company’s sales to community development initiatives. She holds BS and MS degrees from the School of Environmental Design from Southern Illinois University has a certificate in interior design from the Professional Development Career Institute and is certified in environmental leadership management from the University of California Berkeley.

Walter Freeman
President and Creative Director
ef Design Group, Inc.

Walter Freeman is the president and creative director for ef Design Group Inc., a 25-year-old creative marketing and print services firm.  ef Design Group Inc. is a creative marketing services firm that specializes in developing visual communication strategies for website development, corporate identities, event & tradeshow graphics, consumer package design, point-of-purchase promotional materials, and political campaigns.

Prior to starting his firm, Walter served as graphics manager with the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs where he managed a graphic design and photography staff in the public relations office.

Walter has consulted on projects with Lockheed IMS in Washington, D.C., on their national tollway systems projects and managed a team of designers to create interactive proposals for bid.

Walter is credited with providing effective design solutions for several minority business entrepreneurs by helping them incubate their enterprises, providing product development strategies, and establishing new brands and a variety of private label products.
Clients include: Nanophase, Barcardi Rum Imports, Nutra Sweet, Diageo North America Inc., Baxter Healthcare, American Heart Association, Bethel New Life Inc., Chemdal Corporation, Amcol International, Rainbow PUSH, U.S. Postal Service, Bronzeville Visitor Information Center, Loretto Hospital, Loretto Hospital Foundation, Popcorn and More Inc., South Side Community Federal Credit Union, ShoreBank, Aramark, and the City of Chicago Department of Vital Statistics
• B.A, Fine Arts, Howard University
• Over 25 years of experience as an Art Director

Sponsors: (invited)

Woods Foundation, Illinois Tech Community Affairs Department, PNC Bank/Bronzeville
Alderman Pat Dowell, Rehab Construction Systems Inc,  Leroy Kennedy

Never the Same: Patric McCoy of Diasporal Rhythms

A Conversation About the Intersections of Environmentalism, Art, and the Neighborhood

"Art is Business" was reposted for Matthew T. Searle, Assistant Director, Experimental Station.

Arts & Events “Environmentalism, Art, and the Neighborhood”: Patric McCoy in Conversation with Kahari Blackburn

    Patric McCoy with his beloved bike
    “Environmentalism, Art, and the Neighborhood”: Patric McCoy in Conversation with Kahari Black
    Thursday, 10/18 - 6:00-8:00PM

    Doors open at 6:00, the conversation begins at 6:30.
    A public conversation between EPA veteran and art collector Patric McCoy and artist and staff member of Invisible Institute and South Side Weekly Kahari Blackburn about the intersectionality of concerns about the natural world, supporting living Black artists, and the history and changing the landscape of our immediate neighborhood. 
    Kahari Black in between cyclocross races
    Patric McCoy retired in 2006 from a 28-year career as an environmental scientist in the Air and Radiation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Office in Chicago. He has a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago and an M.A. in Environmental Science from Governors State University.
    Mr. McCoy has been collecting contemporary African American art for 41 years and has a collection of over 1000 pieces of fine art, 90% of which are done by Chicago artists. In 2003 he co-founded Diasporal Rhythms a not-for-profit 501(c)3 arts organization comprised of informed and passionate art collectors from Chicago’s African American communities. The organization promotes the collection of artworks by living artists of African descent.
    Kahari Black is a community member, working artist, and media maker. He is a Visuals Editor at the South Side Weekly and co-directs the Youth Police Project at the Invisible Institute, where he facilitates conversations and creates media projects about young people's experiences with policing on the South Side Of Chicago. His long-term vision is to one day make an audio/visual production house out of the Experimental Station as a resource to empower more youth through the arts and media. 
    Kahari is a graduate of Whitney Young Magnet High School, a former Americorps Public Allies fellow, a college dropout who wants an undergrad degree to make his mother smile, plus a member and advocate of Chicago’s booming creative and biking scenes.
    This event is part of our Environmental Concerns project, from September 26th to November 18th. Through exhibitions, installations, and public events, this project looks at local intersections between the natural world and social environments.

    Kahari's website
    Diaspora Rhythm's website
    A recent New York Times article with Patric McCoy speaking about collecting
    Patric McCoy Interview by Rebecca Zorach on the Never The Same Archive
    Patric featured in "Biking While Black" Chicago Tribune article

     Later Event: October 20

    Kahari Sylvian-Blackburn Invisible Institute

    We are fortunate to be able to host Patric McCoy and Kahari Blackburn this Thursday for a conversation about the intersections of environmentalism, art, and the neighborhood. 
    If you do not know them already, Patric co-founded the art collectors group Diasporal Rhythms, worked for the EPA for 30+ years, and is an avid cyclist. Kahari is an artist who works here in the building with Invisible Institute and South Side Weekly and can also be seen about town on his bike. This should be a fascinating conversation with these two amazing people, so I hope you can make it!

    The doors open at 6, and the conversation starts at 6:30. We will have beer, wine, and snacks! More info about the event is here.