The sky was sunny and the air electrified last Friday afternoon as dozens of eclectics, woke wealthy, and commonfolk young and old gathered on the corner of West Broadway and Emerson Ave. North. There was valet parking, a rarity on that side of town. Food trucks, courteous greeters, live DJs, contortionists, entertainers and security personnel were also on hand to usher in a new era in servicing the often-marginalized Northside of Minneapolis.
Juxtaposition Arts, a nonprofit youth art and design education center, gallery and artists’ studio space broke ground on a breathtaking $12 million, 17,000 square foot facility that will house their new headquarters. Located at 2007 North Emerson Ave., the stylish high-tech hub designed by African American firm 4RM+ULA will have offices, a gallery, a fabrication shop, artists’ quarters, a textile lab and much more.
Juxtaposition Arts is an African American organization that has over 100 full-time and part-time youth employees who enjoy full benefits. It teaches thousands of youth each year how to develop and harness their creative energy with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Also known as JXTA, Juxtaposition Arts was able to raise the substantial funding required for the project by harnessing and developing young artists and building blossoming relationships with the philanthropic community over their past 25 years of service to the community. Their many artistic exploits are known globally.
The VIP reception at 3 pm was followed by a public celebration and groundbreaking ceremony in the parking lot. The atmosphere was full of excitement, promise, positivity, and talented young people.
There was much discussion about JXTA’s many innovations and accomplishments. Their youth have had many large-scale collaborations that include the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and other major events hosted by the Twin Cities, corporate partnerships with 3M, Target, and most recently with Red Wing Shoes through a designer who was once a youth in the JXTA program.
There were many speakers and well-wishers who graced the stage during the event such as local recording artist and iTunes Jazz chart-topper LA Buckner and his Band Big Homie, who kept the vibes hot. One who stood out was Fifth Ward Councilmember Jerimiah Ellison, who spoke about the importance of Juxtaposition Arts. He was a student of the program at the age of six.
“JXTA invested in my creativity,” said Ellison. “It’s not about a physical building per se. It’s about our youth and what we can do as a community. It’s about the Northside community, which has been deemed disposable by the rest of the city. We deserve a state-of-the-art building like Juxtaposition.”
Rodger Cummings, one of the founders of Juxtaposition, also shared some thoughtful reflections while on stage with the co-founder and his wife Diana Cummings. “This isn’t just another arts organization,” he said. “We are investing in innovation, environmental design, advocacy, and community safety strategies.
“We do this through young artists, designers, and problem-solvers of the future. If it wasn’t for today’s generation, we wouldn’t even be having these intense conversations about social justice and equity. We are building a legacy-based regenerative organization,” said Cummings.
Michelangelo is believed to have said, “Without art there is no culture.” JXTA’s cultivation of our youths’ artistic pursuits and innovations is vital and needs continuous support. Their can-do attitude and solutions-based models make JXTA a necessary asset to the community. Their groundbreaking event was a stunning game-changer on how services can be delivered to young people throughout the country.
Travis Lee is a contributing photographer and writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.com.