ELGIN SMITH headshot


Graphic Artist & Educator
2018 3Arts Awards
Teaching Arts

Elgin Bokari T. Smith (aka Kari the Illustrator) is an artist, social activist, and educator who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Discovering a passion for art in elementary school while drawing his favorite cartoon characters on his homework, Elgin was encouraged to pursue art by his sixth-grade teacher. He then attended Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, where he studied visual arts, ceramics, and piano. In 2009, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Illustration and Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After graduation, Elgin worked as an assistant for Chicago artist Theaster Gates.

Elgin has collaborated with Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and Northwestern University School of Law on projects around juvenile justice, including producing the zine Youth Stories and creating illustrations for Your Guide to the Juvenile Justice System and Chicago Survival guide. He has worked as a teaching artist for organizations including Changing Worlds, Columbia College Chicago, Gary Comer Youth Center, and Kuumba Lynx. He led advanced youth Development Training for emerging teachers across Chicago through the Black Community Providers Network (BDCN). Elgin served as the former Program Director of Free Write Arts & Literacy and was president of the activist and artist collective Elephant Rebellion. He is currently the Executive Director of Stomping Grounds Literary Arts Initiative (SGLAI). SGLAI runs incubator spaces inside youth incarcerated facilities, hosting workshops ranging from visual arts, creative writing, and audio engineering. SGLAI also hosts monthly Open Stages at the Chicago Art Department while training formally incarcerated on Audio Visual Production (AVP). He is also the co-creator of Pocket Con, an annual comic book convention that celebrates characters and creators of color.

Featured Artworks

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Youth Stories By Elgin Bokari

    A zine about my first experience teaching a comics class in JTDC

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elgins Illustraations
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elephant Rebellion Performing
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Know Your RIght's Camp Chicago Resource Map
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork 10 Street Law Commandments

    My illustrations were used in a Know Your Rights workshops teaching how to survive basic encounters with law enforcement. Watch the video in the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRDIuY3bxJc

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elgin Working with Audio Visual Productions crew
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elephant Rebellion Performing at Coming Out of The Shadows
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Know Your RIght's Camp
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Stomping Grounds Workshops
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Open Stage Workshop at Chicago Art Department
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elgin Leading workshop at Elephant Rebellion event Uprise Against Police Brutality
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Stomping Grounds on zoom during the pandemic
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Open Stage live at Art Department
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Student comic book art work
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elgin hosting Pocket Con
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Facing Me - Student work from Elgin's comic class in the juvenile center
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Masking yourself- ceramic sculpture project in the juvenile center
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Your Guide To The Juvenile Justice System

    This comic was created to teach youth their juvenile rights if they were ever stopped in a police interaction. The comic was distributed across the Chicagoland area, turned into workshops, and used to create more guides for other states.

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Going Back To School What You Should Know

    This was created to help youth with recourses for retry after incarceration.

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork

    Album Art for Lee Howard

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Pocket Con 2023 flyer

    We pay a professional artist of color to create an original character for Pocket Con once a year, and that work is used for advertising throughout the year.

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Youth at Pocket Con over the years
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Youth winning prize at Pocket Con after answering Black Comic History Facts
  •  Advance Youth Development Training Cohort AYD Cohort

    Elgin co faciliated an Advance Youth Development Training for a cohort of amazing teachers across Chicago.

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Flyer of Stomping Grounds Open Stage

    Stomping Grounds is a monthly Open Mic streamed online via Twitch.tv/stompinggroundslai, YouTube, and recently Instagram Live.

  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Zion ALI with Stomping Grounds Open Stage artists
  •  ELGIN SMITH artwork Elgin and Walter (AVP Tech) at Open Stage

ELGIN SMITH has crowd-funded a project with 3AP

  • Pocket Con

    • $5,469 raised of $5,000 goal
    • 0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
      • 3Arts matched
      • 109% funded

    Pocket Con is a free single day convention for Chicago youth that focuses on highlighting comics and illustration work by artists of color, particularly African American authors and artists, as well as comics with a primary character who is Black. …

    Read more about Pocket Con