JXTA For Generations: Why You Should Give
Posted August 12th, 2020 by Juleana Enright
As Juxtaposition Arts continues their Capital and Legacy Campaign, we talk with alumni Adrienne Doyle and Alex Smith as well as current apprentice Kylia McCurn-Porter about what the Northside arts organization means to them.
Exploring Minneapolis, it’s impossible not to notice how our urban landscape has significantly changed over the last few months since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the MPD. While the nation watched how Minneapolis responded, community-based public art — from George Floyd’s memorial site to vivid murals on the walls of businesses across the city — became a revolutionary statement of resilience and solidarity. Urban landscapes became a place of protest, of healing, of Black liberation, commissioned by the people against the city, against oppression.
For 25 years, the youth-centered nonprofit Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA) has been at the heart of community-engaged urban art and community development. As their Capital and Legacy Campaign gains momentum, now, more than ever, it’s crucial to fund and sustain their mission of visual art literacy and development programs. With roots in North Minneapolis, JXTALabs employ young artists in hands-on apprenticeships leveraging creative power to gain and harness the tools needed to emerge into the fields of urbanism and urban planning.
We caught up with JXTA alumni Adrienne Doyle and Alex Smith, as well as apprentice Kylia M. McCurn-Porter to explore the role JXTA plays in developing creativity and how it is working to challenge, empower, and springboard the careers of emerging young artists and expand the future of local art landscapes.
Adrienne Doyle (she/they)
Juleana Enright: What is your role at JXTA Arts and how did you get involved?
I’m the Institutional Giving Manager and a Teaching Artist/Lab Lead in JXTA’s Tactical Lab (part of JXTALabs workforce development program). The Tactical Lab focuses on design-based community engagement around the city’s built environment and youth-directed research projects around the systems that affect youth and Northside residents.
I got involved in JXTA through Step-Up as an 18-year-old. I was an apprentice in JXTA’s pilot year of JXTALabs in 2010 and have been at the organization in various roles since then.
As an alumni of the program and a teaching artist, how would you describe the difference between JXTA classes and workshops from other artist-run spaces?
JXTA is a truly intergenerational workspace. In the JXTALabs program, Lab Leads and apprentices collaborate on client projects and projects for JXTA in a way that acclimates young people into professional creative processes (how to prepare for and lead client meetings, public speaking and facilitation of community spaces, engaging with constructive criticism, etc.) and supports their creative genius. As an alum, it’s been a gift to see this program grow into what it’s become and to be able to learn from and support youth apprentices in my role.
JXTA's 25th anniversary branding, which was developed in-house.
How has the rebranding and revamp of the art space helped refine JXTA’s connection to the community?
JXTA has been located on the Northside, embedded geographically and socially within its community, for the entirety of its 25 years.
The refinement of our communications strategy and development of our 25th anniversary branding has provided us with a strong visual language to share stories about the depth of our work that people can connect to and get energized by. Our 25th anniversary branding was developed in-house by Lab Leads and apprentices in our Graphic Design JXTALab.
In addition to being a visual arts education center and youth workforce development program, JXTA is a community development organization, leveraging the Northside’s cultural and social capital to create innovative use of public space along the West Broadway commercial corridor. The skateable art plaza is an example of this part of our work. In 2018, we learned that our buildings that stood on the Broadway and Emerson intersection and housed some of our programs were no longer viable. With this information, and with years of planning already completed, we launched Build JXTA, our Capital and Legacy Campaign to raise $14 million to build a new facility and to support two-years of programming in our new space. This campaign will set JXTA up with the operational and physical infrastructure it needs to thrive as a Black-led arts organization for another 25 years. We tore down the two buildings, and instead of leaving the site vacant, we designed and installed a skate plaza, one of the only formal and intergenerational outdoor recreation spaces along the stretch of West Broadway. Since its grand opening in June 2019, the plaza has seen nonstop activity and has become a gathering space for Northsiders and visitors, adding to our ability to connect with our community on a day-to-day basis and further offering our space as a resource to our neighbors.
This plaza is a part of the larger vision that the Capital and Legacy Campaign aims to achieve. JXTA is the only Black-founded and -led art and design organization in Minneapolis and has become a pillar in the Twin Cities’ creative economy. We are committed to social and economic justice and supporting the development and vision of our young people and our artists. Our Capital and Legacy Campaign is an effort to build on the momentum our work has created and ensure that JXTA continues to be a resource and connection point for our Northside, youth, and artist communities for the next 25 years.
As in-house grant writer, where do you see mutual aid and community sourced donations fitting into the sustainability of JXTA’s future programming?
The amount of individual donations JXTA has received in the last three months is unprecedented for our organization and is a testament to the truth that abundance does exist in our communities. We are so thankful to our recurring and new donors, and are excited to share our work. Additionally, I think this moment is an opportunity for us as a society to reconsider our relationships with our resources and to what or with whom we make investments. I believe we should regularly be investing our financial and social capital into the self-determination of Black folks. We should be trusting them when they tell us what they need, and we should be ready and willing to support their work as an act of reparations. We should take what we learn from this social and political moment into our daily lives and into our future to ensure that Black-led organizations like JXTA and the young people and artists that work there can actualize their visions.
Why is having paid apprenticeships for youth and young adults an important element in JXTALabs and what do you witness it fostering in its participants?
Many youth apprentices have described JXTA as a college education without the student loans. We pay our youth apprentices because we believe in the value of their work, their professional and personal development, and their creative genius. Money is a motivator, along with marketable skill development and gaining in-depth experience in a specific craft. Apprentices understand the uniqueness of this program. It’s common for apprentices who have been at JXTA for a number of years to truly understand what they’ve gained through their training.
How have your experiences with JXTA influenced your perspective on art engagement and evolved your personal practice?
My 10-year tenure at JXTA has been my college-level education. In my personal practice, I am a writer, curator, and multidisciplinary artist. The JXTA community has been a sounding board and a testing ground for my work, challenging my understanding of what it means to make art in public space, to engage neighbors around hyper-local issues, and to accept and voice critique.
Alex Smith, at right, with Greta Kotz in the graphic design lab. Photo by Ryan Stopera.
Alex Gaiter Smith (he/him)
JE: What is your role at JXTA Arts and how did you get involved?
I am the lead teaching artist in the Textile/Screen Printing program, and assistant teaching artist in the Free Wall program. I started at JXTA as a student in 2001.
As an alumni, what have you learned from programming through JXTA and how has this translated into your personal practice?
What I learned at JXTA as a young person gave me the foundation that my practice would eventually stand on, and being at JXTA as an adult in a teaching role is constantly influencing my artistic practice. And vice-versa.
What would you tell young people interested in getting involved in JXTA’s programs?
If you are serious about developing your creativity, JXTA is here for you. You don’t have to know what kind of art you want to do, or where you want to go with your creativity. We are here to help you figure those things out. As long as you are motivated and willing to work hard, we are here to help you develop as an Artist/Creative Professional.
What significance does mural work and community engagement in public art hold in the political and in honoring Black and IPOC liberation?
Murals, public art, and art in general can create the visual landscape of a movement. We see that happening across the city and country right now.
How has JXTA’s Capital and Legacy Campaign influenced how you see the role of donation-based funding for the local arts?
It’s great to see so many donations coming from individuals. I believe that truly speaks to our values as an organization. It’s really amazing to see the support regular people are showing for the work that we do.
How have the Visual Art Literacy Training programs and apprenticeships benefited the pathway of your art career?
The art classes I took as a high school student, as well as learning how to screenprint through apprenticing in a print shop, provided me with the knowledge I needed to start my path forward as an artist. Our goal at JXTA is to continue to provide that type of knowledge and support for generations to come.
Kylia M. McCurn-Porter, at right, with Abdul-Hafeez Nakumbe at FLOW 2019. Photo by Riché Effinger.
Kylia M McCurn-Porter (she/her)
What is your role at JXTA Arts and how did you get involved?
My role at Juxtaposition Arts is Tactical and Textile lab apprentice. I’m a Northsider, and I used to see the building on Broadway all the time and was interested in what I saw, but I never went inside. I got involved with JXTA by reaching out to them over email to learn more about what they did and how I could get involved. I took their VALT (Visual Art Literacy Training) class and got a job as an apprentice after that. That was winter 2016.
What drew you to the design-based community engagement and urban planning department of JXTA, Tactical services?
What I saw. I was amazed by the discussions we were having. Tactical has always felt inclusive like that because everyone’s ideas are heard and contribute to the outcome of all the projects we do.
What does a typical day at the lab look like for you and how are classes tailored?
Before the pandemic, we always were engaging outside in the skate plaza and just occupying the space with vibes. If not that, we were sitting at tables in community meetings or at our own tables and having meetings and having active conversations, discussing the conversations we had, and documenting our findings. We always had a goal and stuck with it until we achieved that goal.
What changes have you felt or observed in the way the community views and responds to art and design in public spaces and mural work since the MPLS uprising and murder of George Floyd?
I’ve seen a lot of people getting together and creating art to make a statement. It makes me happy to see art being respected in a way that is getting artists paid hopefully what they're worth. Hopefully surrounding communities see this as an opportunity to fund the artists that reside in their own communities and create jobs that surround and include artists of all academic backgrounds.
How have the conversations and experiences you've had at JXTA translated into your day-to-day relationship with art and community?
They have definitely inspired my way of communicating. I first joined Juxtaposition as a high school student, and it felt unreal that I could use my art as a tool and a way of supporting myself. I feel like I am more forgiving and nicer to myself when it comes to my process. My community is more of my home than it has ever been. I didn’t know much about where I lived because I've lived in many different places in the Northside and Minneapolis. So I feel like I have unconditional love for how grounded and stationary JXTA has been for me personally. It is so awesome to me how we are all amazing artists here.
JXTA's skateable plaza. Photo by Mississippi Watershed Management Organization.