DeAnna Cummings grew up in north Minneapolis and earned a master's degree from Harvard University. She was a founder 21 years ago of Juxtaposition Arts, a nonprofit art center and business on lower W. Broadway Avenue, the slowly reviving commercial artery of the north side. Hundreds of student and independent artists have learned and created art at Juxtaposition. Much adorns area businesses, homes and galleries.
Q: What are the roots of Juxtaposition?
A: Juxtaposition Arts was started in 1995, by three of us, who grew up together in Minneapolis. I was also working a full-time job at the state of Minnesota. We all had roots on the Northside. Our founding partner, Peyton Russell, who left more than 10 years ago, was a North High graduate who returned to the Twin Cities with a degree in print making from the School of the Arts Institute (SAIC) in Chicago. Although he learned at SAIC how to make great art, they didn't teach him how to make a living as an artist.
At the same time, Roger Cummings, my husband since 1993 and another founder, was working side jobs teaching art to kids at schools and various summer programs around the city and pursuing an art-based independent livelihood, while holding down a second job at a screen printing company. I was the third founding partner. I like to draw, sing, read, write. But my talent is on the business side of things.
Q: How are you an economic force and what is your role in transforming W. Broadway Avenue.
A: North Minneapolis had experienced decades of disinvestment. Today, JXTA is a thriving cultural institution that employs 100 people, including 65 youth, and connects with more than 10,000 audience members annually.
Our revenue has grown from less than $100,000 to $1.6 million this year. We have grown from conducting an after-school visual art program out of one 2,500-square foot building, which we leased, to five buildings. We have put in about $2 million in buying and renovating over the years. Artists' contributions to our neighborhood are prominent and visible. Our block, once blighted by vacant buildings … has been transformed by the presence and activities of local youth and artists.
Q: What's happened on W. Broadway in recent years?
A: In addition to JXTA developing our buildings, there has been upward of $70 million in investment by other people in the buildings adjacent to ours over 10 years. We have a coffee shop, sit-down restaurant, a major nonprofit housing developer, the Minneapolis Public School headquarters [Anytime Fitness and several dozen other businesses] on W. Broadway.
In 2016, JXTA employed 70 youth and 34 adult artists in part-time jobs as landscape architects, urban designers, screen printers, graphic designers, contemporary artists, and studio leads. That's up from 47 youth and 15 artists employed in 2012. And 20 youth and 15 artists in 2010.
Q: How does art create a better economy as well as a stronger neighborhood?
A: We know our presence as an anchor has made our neighborhood brighter, more vibrant and feel like a place of possibility. The development in our neighborhood has happened from within. JXTA has developed with, by and for the people who are here, who have held these blocks down for generations.
Our work seeks to be a bridge to connect to opportunities, resources and networks in other industries and places. We have a cascading impact with local youth, their families, artists … clients, neighborhood, business, education, policymakers and our region.
Our work brings people to our neighborhood who would not otherwise visit. Some recent and artists and projects we have hosted include visitors from Tunisia, Singapore, Virginia, Indianapolis.
Q: What is the future of Juxtaposition?
A: Our goal is to employ 150 youth artists and designers annually in a [neighborhood] with double the unemployment rate of the city at large. We want to partner with creative entrepreneurs and work together to develop and test new models of economic development that builds individual and community wealth. We need to continue to build a base of clients who buy what our artists produce. Logos. Fashion design. Printing. Designing pocket parks. We want to be a neighborhood that has [tapped] the genius of its youth. An area that is the source of creative talent for the region.