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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How did you learn about and get involved with JXTA?
Jahliah Holloman: I learned about JXTA when I was 14, in the summer of 2012. I came to JXTA through STEP-Up, which is a program that gives job opportunities to youth ages 14-21 in the Twin Cities area. As training for my apprenticeship, I completed VALT, a visual arts literacy course. After that, I entered the Contemporary Arts Lab as a paid apprentice in the JXTALabs program. After that summer, I came back to work at JXTA the following spring and have pretty much been here since then, working in different capacities.
I knew that there was a lot of opportunity for growth and access to a lot of things that I had been interested in learning about and practicing, such as public speaking and contemporary arts research. I also liked the culture at JXTA. It was very open and transparent, and overall pushed me to grow in ways that I didn’t know were available to me at the time. I had never been in a space that was so progressive, especially for people of color, and just being in the space to create that kind of change was very attractive to me, especially as a young person with so many opinions and no comfortable outlet to voice those opinions. For me, the Contemporary Arts Lab was the space for me to do those things and express myself in ways that I never had before.
How has being involved at JXTA impacted your creative practice?
JH: JXTA is a stepping stone – there’s mentors and instructors that teach you how to work with materials, software, and clients. They also push you to integrate these learnings into the production and sustainability of your own work. I definitely feel secure in my independence as an artist and see opportunity within myself as a result of working in JXTALabs and being pushed to go outside of the parameters that I set for myself as an artist.
Jahliah with JXTA Co-Founders DeAnna Cummings and Roger Cummings at Move the Crowd annual fundraiser in May 2019. Photo by Riché Effinger.
What meaningful connections have you made through your engagement at JXTA?
JH: The connections that I’ve built here will last for a lifetime. Before coming to JXTA, I didn’t know that the community I lived in was so vast and that there’s so much room and opportunity for growth. I went to Southwest High School because I was trying to figure out how to get out of my community. I was trying to figure out how to find more opportunities, but I didn’t know that what I was looking for was already in my community. In my current role as Program Assistant, those experiences make me more sympathetic and open-minded. It’s really important for me to relate to my community in the position I hold now because I have to do a lot of recruitment, outreach, and tabling. Holding an understanding of the different ways that people struggle and the different barriers within the community informs my work as well.
What is your connection to North Minneapolis?
JH: I was raised in North Minneapolis since elementary school. After being an apprentice at JXTA, I feel like I would have culturally benefited from going to high school in North Minneapolis. I really thought that getting out of the Northside was going to solve all my problems for some reason. These schools actually offer a lot, but that’s not the dominant narrative about this area.
What has it felt like to go from an apprentice to a JXTA staff person?
JH: As I’ve gotten older, it’s been a challenge to figure out how I want to position myself within JXTA. The experience has opened my eyes to the fact that I can make decisions and use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to create opportunities for myself and for my community. It’s hard to be in the non-traditional career trajectory that I’m in. I don’t hold a degree, but I’m still making progress and working my way up. It feels like an accomplishment to have been here this long and to have worked in all of these different positions. It just goes back to seeing opportunity and possibility. Some of the positions that I’ve held here were created because I saw a gap in program management and I offered a solution. It’s validating to see the plans that you make become a reality. I’ve learned a lot.
Jahliah gives a tour of the Juxtaposition Arts campus to a group of students and reporters from MPR’s 360 Radio Camp program.
What impact do you want to create with your neighborhood?
JH: I want to be able to create substantial and collective change. My mentors at JXTA have contributed to my own professional and personal development and this informs how I move through the world outside of JXTA. I hope that one day I can be in a position to create as much change for people on a professional level and a personal level. I wish this world was more compassionate and understanding towards peoples’ circumstances. I want to create and redirect people to the resources that they need, which is similar to what JXTA does. Even if we can’t provide the resources, we can redirect you somewhere that can accommodate you in the way that you need.
What dreams do you have for the Northside?
JH: I definitely want to see even more resources. Living over North, there’s not a lot of 24-hour open-late resources for people who just want to go work, want to go to a coffee shop late at night. I don’t want the people in my community to say I have to go outside of my community to find what I need. I want to shift the direction to say well here’s already what’s in North Minneapolis because there is a lot of business, a lot of life, and a lot of things that are being cultivated in the area. We just need to be amplifying these things. I’d like to have more collaborative work spaces. More cooperative spaces. More places to eat. There’s an African American museum here now, on Penn and Plymouth. I want to see a fully-resourced and accessible African American museum. More plazas. More skateparks. More dog parks. Things that make life more comfortable for community members. That sparks growth because once they see the change, they see what’s possible and can imagine further than the infrastructure Northside has been working with.
Jahliah poses at FLOW Northside Arts Crawl in July 2018. Photo by Riché Effinger.
How have you seen the work you’ve done at JXTA impact North Minneapolis?
JH: This work creates conversation and illustrates what is possible for young creatives and the Northside. I see my people working together and being more hopeful for the future. JXTA’s new skateable art plaza is an example of this. People are working together more to create useful, beautiful, community-oriented infrastructure and events for North Minneapolis. More positive environments and spaces. ITS Fest is another example. It’s a new Northside arts festival organized primarily by young folks. And ITS Fest happens on Lowry Avenue, which is an area of Northside that doesn’t receive as much creative, commercial, or nonprofit attention. It’s kinda like FLOW. But now there’s another arts-based festival and Northside has options, which isn’t normally the case. A major impact is that part of North Minneapolis culture used to be our festivals, our block parties, and those things don’t happen as often anymore. But now there’s these young people who see possibility for our community and are taking action to manifest it.
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 Jahliah. Thank you for making a gift today!