Thoughts on Parenthood

Thoughts on Parenthood is an interactive arts project examining the unique experience of being a parent in Chicago. In partnership with activist and photographer Tonika Johnson and 14 cultural organizations, Lyric's Learning and Creative Engagement team connected with families across the city of Chicago and gathered personal stories of parents—their greatest wishes, biggest needs, and proudest moments. 

To learn more about Blue, an opera by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson that served as inspiration for this project, visit us here. 

Meet the families

Meet the families

Parents featured in this project were virtually interviewed by Tonika Johnson during the fall of 2020. Excerpts of these audio stories are available to listen to, and are accompanied by family portraits. These audio stories deal with themes of race, education, health, safety and identity, and offer a glimpse into the varying experiences of what it means to be a parent in Chicago. 

Tonika Johnson

Tonika Johnson

Tonika Johnson is a social justice artist and photographer from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. As a trained photojournalist and teaching artist, she has been engaged in building an artistic legacy that gained citywide recognition in the last two years. Tonika Johnson is the creator of the Folded Map, a project that visually connects residents who live at corresponding addresses on the North and South sides of Chicago. 

What does "parent" mean?

For the purposes of this survey, a “parent” is defined as anyone who has taken legal and/or social responsibility for a child. The goal of this project is to include as many unique stories of parenthood as possible. 

Examples of parents include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Biological parents
  • Adoptive parents
  • Step-parents
  • Foster parents
  • Caregivers (grandparents, aunts/uncles, family friends, etc.)
  • Parents who conceived through alternative means (surrogacy, IVF, IUI, etc.)
  • Parents whose children are adults
  • Estranged parents or parents separated from their children

Blue is made possible by support from

A co-production of The Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Lyric Unlimited - Learning & Creative Engagement Sponsors

Anonymous Donor

Nancy W. Knowles Student and Family Performances Fund

Dr. Scholl Foundation

BMO Harris Bank Logo

Walter Family Foundation

The Richard P. & Susan Kiphart Family

Shure Charitable Trust

Eisen Family Foundation

Robert and Evelyn McCullen

Marsha Serlin and Jerry Sloan

Charles and M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Inc.

Terry J. Medhurst

Mazza Foundation

Buehler Family Foundation

Wintrust Community Banks

Helen Brach Foundation

The Siragusa Family Foundation

Polk Bros. Foundation

Lloyd A. Fry Foundation

Raynette and Ned Boshell

John and Rosemary Brown Family Foundation

John Hart and Carol Prins

The Simon Family Foundation

Header photo is from The Glimmerglass Festival production of Blue (Karli Cadel). 

Thoughts on Parenthood photos provided by program participants.