Ideas // July 24, 2014
Enviro Design Lab installing swingset at JXTA

Enviro Design co-instructor Coal Dorius and youth artist Alaja install a new swingset in the pocket park adjacent to the JXTA gallery.

FLOW Northside Art Crawl is a key occasion to connect with our neighbors and supporters at JXTA. Emerson & West Broadway is one of the FLOW anchor intersections and our aim is to be an energizing space where connections happen. This summer nearly 50 local teens  are employed part time at JXTA. (About 1/2 are STEP-UP Achieve apprentices.) Ten youth work in the Environmental Design Studio where they are spending the summer renovating outdoor space around the JXTA campus.  Young people are putting their creative and technical skills to work in the real world in spaces on our campus, such as Saint Satoko pocket park (between JXTA and Urban Homeworks).

Sam Babatunde Ero-Phillips the long time lead of the Enviro Studio says, “For FLOW, we will set up the site model so people can see the initial ideas of the campus and essentially the work that went into creating what is literally in front of them. People will be able to move around the alleyway to view the model, see a new mural going up, and sit in a new seating area while checking out our pocket park. We’re hoping that they’ll really enjoy the experience.

Some of the things that the youth are learning through this hands on project is how to create a three dimensional object that is at a scale appropriate to the space it is located and in proximity to other objects in the space. These are fundamental to a number of different fields that revolve around form and function, such as urban planning, interior design and landscape design. They’re learning how to move from an abstract idea, sketch, study model, and then physically create the large  scale object – using a one to one scale. They understand ratio and what scale means for the very basis of design. Overall, something that is in line with the JXTALab program is an emphasis on practicing the skill of going from ideas into actions and objects. Through the current JXTA campus redesign, that’s what the young people have done.

Mural from Public Art

Public Art  and Enviro Design Studio’s work  can be seen in the alley way adjacent to the 2007 Emerson gallery building.  Local teens will be painting a mural here during FLOW.

Ideas // July 21, 2014

The starting point is oftentimes a sidewalk, block or street in your neighborhood. Then, you add local ideas for increasing engagement and social vitality. That’s when you’ll start to see tactical urbanism, a community-powered spin on traditional urban planning, in motion.

JXTA's tactical urbanism at Northern Spark 2014

All of the Lights: our bike-powered carts created a dazzling effect at Northern Spark 2014. Photo by Kory Lindstrom.

Using people-focused interventions like light up carts, art-making, bubbles, and games – tapping into people and local assets – to infuse vitality into public space, is the main premise behind the Juxtaposition Arts tactical urbanism projects. Beginning last year, we’ve had an influx of people hiring us to initiate engagement and place-making projects on the Northside and throughout the city, as a strategy to increase connections between people and boost safety. This summer we have taken our carts, bikes, surveys, and activities to bus stops on Nicollet Mall downtown, and to sidewalks and places where people gather in North Minneapolis.

We’re using tools like bicycle-powered carts that light up and play music, both to create welcoming, positive spaces in public places and to gather feedback from community members for a variety of development projects that are being planned. From our carts, JXTA apprentices and adult organizers play dominoes, spades, chess and Jenga with people who are passing by and ask folks for their take on the state of the neighborhood and city. We also have art-making activities that people can try, like designing buttons, or creating custom backpacks while listening to music and watching bubbles blow down the street.

tactical urbanism

Observation+engagement: feedback from neighborhood participants showed differing wants and needs in the social context of nearby urban spaces. 2013

One question we habitually ask ourselves in doing this work is both present tense as much as it is prospective: “what can we do to involve a range of people who have a stake in this place in meaningful ways in deciding the future of the place?”  The Trust for Public Land is working with community members to increase social connections and access to being active outdoors in North Minneapolis. The West Broadway Business and Area Coalition hopes to identify strategies that will make West Broadway a more inviting, safer place to be a pedestrian and shopper. We’re also working with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, which is part of the Downtown Council, to create spaces along Nicollet Mall that are more welcoming, creative, and fun, especially for young people who tell us they need more things to do downtown. 

Join us at FLOW on July 25 and 26 to see the JXTA tactical carts and much more!

Big ups to Roger Cummings, Sam Babatunde Ero-Phillips and Caroline Kent and their Creative City-Making project which informed many of the projects that we’re utilizing this year. Also shout out to our partners, youth apprentices and artist organizers, Roxxanne O’Brien, Tish Jones and Shelley Martin. 

Ideas // July 16, 2014

We recently sat down for a Q&A session with artist, drummer, educator and founder of Voice of Culture (VoC), Kenna-Camara Cottman, to find out a little more about her work as a choreographer, and what being a member and manager of the JXTA 1108 Artists’ Co-operative is really like.

From dancing onstage at the Walker to working with students in classrooms across the Twin Cities, her passion and commitment to creative outlets is limitless. No matter where Kenna goes, however, her dedication to both Minneapolis’ Northside and the Black community endures. Be sure to catch Kenna and VoC at FLOW on Friday, July 25, then at NEW SPACE hosted at First Avenue on Friday, August 1st at 7pm!

Kenna-Camara Cottman

Kenna-Camara Cottman. Photo by Gene Pittman.

JXTA: How long have you been a dancer and choreographer?

KC: I’ve been dancing since I was five, and I’ve been a choreographer since the late 90s, when I actually started making work that would be performed around [the Northside] by my colleagues and myself.

JXTA: What were the first things that you started doing?

KC: I danced with a couple of groups where we all collaborated on the work, so that was probably the first thing. One of the early groups was called Black Pearl. We did mostly hip-hop and social dancing, more so than Modern or Contemporary.

Then, I actually curated a show before I went off into choreography. It was called the Black Choreographer’s Evening (2003). I had danced in other people’s pieces at the Walker Art Center which has this annual choreographers’ evening. And at the time, I was like, “This is cool, but I would like to see a different kind of a focus for the evening, to get maybe a different kind of work.” I thought we could do it on what I consider to be Black forms of dance. There was hip-hop, there was contemporary from a Black perspective, there was Afro-modern, there was traditional African—just an array of whatever you consider Black dance. So I put that show together, had that at Intermedia Arts, and then I did that two more times, and then just going from there to different directions of making work, or being in other people’s work.

JXTA: How does the 1108 Artist’s Co-operative work and what kinds of work do the other artists produce?

KC: The Co-op is a way for a particular group of artists to have space to do our work, but also at times to try and come together and either have events for the general public or events just for us, to foster our development as artists. I was the first artist to get in here, and [I’m also] the liaison between JXTA and what would become the Co-op. We have film and video, we have hair design, we have photography, we have a lot of visual artists, we have architectural design. And then there’s me, who does drum, dance and movement. We’re figuring out how to be a co-op, and not just a place where we rent space. We’re all connecting with each other, in pairs and in trios, influencing each other and broadening our horizons.

Kenna Quote

JXTA: Tell our readers a bit about your work with Voice of Culture.

KC: Voice of Culture (VoC) is a professional drum and dance group, with ages from 5 to over 40. We do traditional West African rhythms, but with a Black American twist. We’re all Black, and we all recognize our place in the diaspora: some people are Jamaican, some people are Black American, some people are straight from the African motherland. So, we mix it up, because we speak to where we are: we’re here, we’re in the Northside, we’re in St. Paul, it’s 2014. The people are out there, so we can’t stay exactly traditional—we flip it towards the younger generation, to try to get people to latch onto our stuff. These beats are the foundation of everything that you hear, and VoC is all about performing that and presenting that. I teach that myself as an educator, but when VoC comes to it, it’s like we manifest it.

We just did a piece called “Congo Square.” In New Orleans, there’s a place where the ancestors were allowed to gather and play the drums on Sunday. We wanted to tell that story [of Congo Square], but with drum and dance. So we had the kids, and we laid out our storyline, and we made up a new song to go along with it. There was a story for us to tell, and we had the dance part to represent slavery and freedom on Sunday—we put it all into a story.

JXTA: What do you enjoy about being a dance instructor?

KC: I feel like being physical is a way to tap into connections, because it’s not always only verbal, or even written. The way we tap into each other’s energy, through physicality, sharing physical space, and doing things with our body rhythmically, makes us connect. I think what I enjoy about teaching, is actually more so about connecting.

Ideas // July 11, 2014

Young people remain the central creative force behind traditional graffiti art. Here at JXTA, the summer Free Wall: Introduction to Aerosol Painting workshop touches on the history of this art form while covering the technical fundamentals of aerosol painting, or “writing”, as it is known within the art practice. The next Free Wall session begins July 15, and you can still enroll here. 

Free Wall instructor Eli Esters teaches layering technique to artists from Contemporary and Public Art studio, while instructor Caroline Kent looks on.

Eli Esters and Ezra Nausner-Wilson have been the lead artist instructors in Free Wall since 2010.  Under their mentorship each summer, young artists learn the fundamentals of control of the can (i.e. the proper spraying techniques and positioning for ultimate mastery of the art form). “We learn how to create a mural, how to tell a story with your mural, what kind of objects and images go along with that,” Eli says. “Even if [we’re] just working with letters and spray paint, [we’re] learning about color, depth, perspective.”

Students as young as 8, are given the wide expanse of the J&J Furniture Plus building on Emerson. They then have free reign to practice each lesson for 3 weeks.

“You have to be able to think outside of the box and be creative, definitely,” Ezra asserts of the workshop’s main objective. What he’s looking for from participants is dedication and willingness to apply what they’ve learned with their own interpretation mixed in. “There’s no right or wrong; it should be from the heart. That’s my definition of art.”

Free Wall

Youth artist Virdell practices painting curves and angles in preparation for a new JXTA summer mural.

The final session where the youth create their own visual piece to present to the entire class, is an important milestone for the budding artists. Eli associates this final stage as a conglomerate of each artist’s practice of setting goals, accomplishing them and then displaying the result of that process. “You have to stand by your work, not hide behind it. That can inspire you to do anything,” he states. “Sometimes, you can inspire other people, change them, with your work. It helps youth build their self-worth.”

Whether it’s a cereal box with shadowed lettering, advertisements with unique graphic design, or even other murals around the neighborhood, Ezra encourages his students to pay attention to detail and the environment around them for inspiration. “When you’re stopped at a red light and [a mural] catches your eye, it makes our world more interesting and it shows the creativity in the community.”

EXTRA: Apprentice artists from the Contemporary & Public Art studio joined up with Free Wall this week to learn the basics of aerosol painting, too. They will be unveiling a new, collaboratively designed mural for JXTA’s main building in the months to come.

The Crisis

Installation at Juxtaposition Arts

What is writing? How has writing been used as a political instrument? What is literacy? How have African Americans circumvented and subverted traditional education models? How have black American cultures developed alternative systems of writing, reading, and interpretation? What is an archive? How are archives used?

Alphas Bet is Not Over Yet: A reading room and public discussion led by New York artist Steffani Jemison

Tuesday January 14th, Wednesday January 15th and Thursday January 16th 2014
4:30 – 7:30 pm @ Juxtaposition Arts, Main Gallery, 2007 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Join us for a public dialogue and discussion with Steffani Jemison to explore her work, Alphas Bet is Not Over Yet, featuring hundreds of independent African American periodicals published during the 1920s and 1930s.  The workshops are inspired by the ideas of visionary theorist, artist, and rapper Ramellzee.  Rammellzee’s revolutionary idea that the alphabet is merely a bet—a gentleman’s agreement or a social contract—paved the way for our discussion of literacy, race, and power.

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The Bindery Projects and Juxtaposition Arts are honored to present Alphas Bet Is Not Over Yet is an exhibition, reading room, and discussion space inspired by the energy and politics of radical, independent Black periodicals published during the first half of the twentieth century. Borne out of “Book Club” (2010), a think tank and reading group organized by Steffani Jemison and Jamal Cyrus for Project Row Houses, Houston, “Alpha’s Bet” investigates approaches to language, the written word, self-education, and democratic distributions of knowledge. In an era marked by expanding digital networks and an abundance of information, the project seeks to bring together people in physical space, around a physical set of materials, not only to make this information accessible but also to offer it in a way that is intelligible, discussable, and useable toward new ends.

Steffani Jemison is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her videos, archival projects, installations, and mixed media works have been exhibited nationally and internationally at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, LAXART, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Laurel Gitlen, Team Gallery, and other venues. Recent performances, screenings, readings, and lectures include the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia) and the Menil Collection (Houston). In 2009, Steffani founded Future Plan and Program, a publishing project featuring literary work by visual artists; the press published its eighth book in 2013. Steffani has participated in artist residencies at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Project Row Houses, the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. She received a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an MFA in Studio from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently teaches at Parsons, New York, and Trinity College, Hartford.

Ideas, News // November 14, 2013

Genius Loci: Legacy of Change Youth Video Project   <<<<<  featuring youth, artists and alum from JXTA is a finalist for the Youthprise 2013 “Legacy of Change” video contest.  Created by filmmaker D. A. Bullock it gives a glimpse of the youth, artists and staff – faces and voices that make the magic happen at JXTA.

Invest in our legacy of change – donate to JXTA’s end of year Campaign >>  HERE.   Learn more about our work and how to get involved  >> HERE.  Together we develop and multiply our individual and collective genius.

Thank you THANK YOU!   

Photo of Namir (14 yrs) by Jahliah (17 yrs)

Namir 1st Ave by Jahliah (800x533) small

Ideas // April 24, 2013
BY: DeAnna Cummings

What do you think of this Pinterest board dedicated to street art inspiration?


TATS CRU – The Mural Kings in front of Welcome to North Minneapolis commissioned by JXTA. Pinned by Rosalina Cordova