Juxtaposition Arts: The business in community art

Juxtaposition Arts tactical urbanism apprentice Qadiym Washington works on a project called

Chelsea Gortmaker

Juxtaposition Arts tactical urbanism apprentice Qadiym Washington works on a project called

Five art apprentices worked without shade on the street corner, dripping with a mix of spray paint and sweat.

This is Juxtaposition Arts — a North Minneapolis youth art school with strong ties to the surrounding community — in the midst of preparation for the upcoming school season. Part of proper preparation, of course, is spray-painting designs on backpacks and giving them away to anyone who happens to walk by.

The corner in question? West Broadway and Logan Avenue North — JXTA’s recently developed Freedom Square.

Freedom Square is one of the school’s many community initiatives in North Minneapolis. The space will hostevents all month, from bubble workshops to painting and button-making classes..

“The goal is to help kids focus on studies — boost the morale and confidence in kids to start focusing on school,” said Demond Bryant, a 16-year-old graphic design apprentice at JXTA.

Beyond JXTA’s storefront lies an entire apprenticeship department.

JXTA currently has around 75 paid youth apprentices in graphic design, textiles, environmental design, contemporary art and public art, among others.

Students busy themselves at computers drafting design proposals for industrial riverside real estate the city planson acquiring. JXTA regularly appears to be one, or two, steps ahead of the municipal government.

“We’re trying to bring the truth from the people to the decision makers,” said tactical urbanism apprentice Changó Cummings. The organization’s projects, such as the riverside real estate designs, are approached deliberately; JXTA’s willingness to put weight on communal responsibility is clear.

“We want to be a liaison between the primary stakeholders and the official decision makers, the municipal government,” said Davu Seru, JXTA communications manager and a JXTA alumnus. “The youth are the primary stakeholders in this community.”

This youth-centric attitude resonates throughout the organization. JXTA apprentices are encouraged to take responsibility for their community and are thus the creative engines behind public art projects such as a new mural outside of their studios.

Along the organization’s small corner campus is a clothing store where all of the designs can be attributed to JXTA apprentices.

“Our goal is to be the largest employer for youth in Minneapolis,” Seru said.

This strategic yet altruistic economical approach to art characterizes the organization. Despite sharp business strategies, JXTA has not lost its focus — the youth, exemplified by JXTA’s affinity for bubbles, which have been known to permeate the corner of West Broadway outside their studios.

Seru noted happy sentiments as the reason for the bubbles, along with the metaphorical significance of taking up space, which symbolizes JXTA’s active community participation.

Living up to its name, JXTA has found harmony in the proverbial opposition of art and business.