Erika Allen is a social change artist, with a focus on dismantling racism and the related healing and understanding of how structural oppression impacts society.
Her practice for the last 20 years has focused on community based transformation through the food system and integration of visual and installations of urban farms that integrate food, culture, spirit and the arts. Her art practice is multi-disciplinary and manifests outside of a traditional art world context, more akin to the practical arts of land based folk artists. She integrates farms, spirit groves, edible landscapes, earth shaping and sporadic installations and small and large scale painted works, often integrating text rifts and recurring visual iconography as pattern and texture. As part of this work she is a student of Traditional West African and indigenous iconography that deeply influences her arts practice and is key to the recovery from historic oppression and displacement of ancestral memory and traditions.
Allen earned her BFA from the School of the Art Institute in 1992 and MA in art psychotherapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2000. As Chicago and National Projects Director for Growing Power, Inc., Ms. Allen has integrated creative and therapeutic techniques with food security and community development enabling her to develop nine urban agriculture and food system projects and impact policy in Chicago. She also facilitates the planning and visioning of similar projects for clients from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and environments. She actively works to create healthy and diverse food options in urban-city and rural communities.
Allen is a Post Carbon Institute Fellow. Erika served on the Illinois Food, Farms and Jobs Act Council appointed by Illinois Governor Quinn and most recently served on Chicago Mayor - Rahm Emmanuel’s transition team – Energy, Environment and Public Space Committee. Erika was appointed as a Board Commissioner for the Chicago Park District in September 2012. She is the proud mother of 9 year old son Ayokunle, a Yoruba name meaning “joy fills the home and world.”