25 stories for 25 years. Since 1995, Juxtaposition Arts has provided arts education, employment, and development opportunities for young people in North Minneapolis. In 2020, 25 years since we started our work, we’re sharing 25 stories that help illustrate the impact, growth, and learning opportunities these 25 years have provided. We’re asking some of our alumni, artist collaborators, donors, clients, board and community members, and current program participants to share their stories. Follow along as we share the impact JXTA has had in just a quarter of a century.
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Her trajectory through programming and as a staff member offers a unique case test for the outcomes of JXTA’s investment in budding talent.
Like many, Adrienne’s understanding of what JXTA is and does started with a vague recognition of the iconic building on the corner of Broadway and Emerson in North Minneapolis. “I moved to the Northside when I was 14, and I would always see the building from the backseat of my mom’s car.” After living on the Northside for a few years, she graduated high school and learned about JXTA’s programming through Step Up. “I knew that [JXTA] did murals, from the Step Up job description,” she says. “I thought: ‘tight, this is where I can do murals, meet other artists, and be mentored.’ And, maybe, art could be seen as a viable career opportunity, instead of what I had been told my whole life.”
This mentality proved to be key in Adrienne’s career at JXTA, simultaneously echoed and emphasized through the organization’s mission and values. At JXTA, young talent is encouraged, and resources are invested to provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. This is the foundation of JXTA’s core programming in VALT and in the JXTALabs. During her time in these programs, Adrienne found mentors in former JXTA teaching artists like Caroline Kent and Nate Young. “The connections I made at JXTA have greatly influenced the trajectory of my professional career and my self-concept as a Black artist. I’ve spent 10 whole years–a big chunk of my life–building relationships and doing work here. Work that has built me as a human, as an artist, that has influenced the values that I hold and the work that I see myself doing around Black folks and communities of color; redistributing resources through art and collective work.”
These mentorships helped shape the kind of work Adrienne would end up pursuing, reinforcing the conviction that making art is not only a possible career trajectory, but indeed a robust, rewarding, and economically sound one. Not only that, but much self-discovery happens through the pursuit of art. “[My mentors at JXTA helped me] understand that art is a viable pathway and a useful tool for figuring out who I am and what is important to me…what I wanted to be doing. They reinforced that the ideas I had were interesting and important and could be built upon.”
Adrienne (left) and Katie Robinson at a rehearsal for An M Archive Event in April 2018. She worked with Robinson to produce a performance/ritual commissioned and directed by Signe Harriday and Erin Sharkey.
One of JXTA’s priorities is ensuring that the creative genius of young people is properly tended to and nourished. Adrienne is an embodiment of the potential outcomes of this investment. In 2015, she was hired on JXTA’s programs staff and developed a number of skills including grant writing and project management. Eventually, the role of Fund Development Associate was created specifically for her when JXTA leadership recognized her knack for writing.
Now, in addition to a promotion to Head of Institutional Giving, Adrienne is also one of the Tactical Lab leads, where she works with youth apprentices to develop culturally-relevant community engagement methods and action-based research projects. In the Tactical Lab, the philosophy directly mirrors JXTA’s ethos, prioritizing collaboration, placing community voice first, and approaching the work from an anti-extractive framework. Most recently, through funding from Youthprise, Tactical developed an empathy-building simulation training game called the Social Service Run Around, using YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research). This method centers the ideas and leadership of young apprentices.
“With YPAR, youth are at the core of every stage of the project. This is a youth-centered research method that understands young people as the experts of their lived experiences and of the needs of their communities. It understands western research processes as typically extractive and exploitative. There isn’t a lot of relationship-building between researchers and their ‘subjects’. There typically isn’t ownership of the data by the subjects themselves. The YPAR method is a participatory alternative to that way of working.”
Currently, the Tactical Lab is working on a new YPAR project funded by Youthprise. This project will research how the Minneapolis Police Department addresses bias in its training and accountability practices and will zero in on how culture and identity influence the creation, purpose, and implementation of community-led safety strategies. “For our team, this can exist on any scale; interpersonal to institutional, or larger. The idea is to prioritize strategies that ensure safety from inside the community outwards.”
Adrienne is a 2019-2020 fellow in the Emerging Curators Institute. Here she is pictured with her collaborator Gabby Coll (center), and mentor Esther Callahan.
Values present in the Tactical Lab, and in JXTA more broadly, that Adrienne found early on in her time at JXTA are still pervasive in her work within and without the organization. She’s found a way to not only synthesize the many threads of her work at JXTA, but as an independent artist, producer, and writer, she’s bringing others who wouldn’t traditionally have access to resources along with her; the ultimate embodiment of relationship-building, the prioritization of community, and the undoing of hierarchical and oppressive structures. “In the past 5 years, the Twin Cities has seen the disappearance of numerous, vital cultural spaces that centered POC, queer, and trans communities, despite the consistent need for these spaces. Within this context, I’m interested in ‘freaking the form’ of fundraising by experimenting with relational fundraising tactics to support local projects that center women of color and gender non-conforming folks of color. Artists with these identities are typically under-resourced. I know there are opportunities for our communities to support ourselves and fund the things we need in our community that don’t rely on the field of philanthropy and the violence that is inherent in that work.”
No two people follow the same path at JXTA. That proves almost impossible in a place that prioritizes that which is iterative, creative, experimental, and unconventional. But Adrienne’s trajectory through and now beyond JXTA serves as a test case for outcomes when talent is nurtured and invested in. It offers a glimpse of the symbiotic nature of this work: JXTA provides resources, tools, and mentorship, and that talent comes back around to sustain the work happening here. Now, Adrienne is amplifying that work and bringing it to more spaces, expanding what is possible.
Amid so much uncertainty we aren’t uncertain that JXTA should be a resource for generations to come. Help us invest in the creative futures of the next generation of artists and designers, like Adriene. Thank you for making a gift today!