Saturday, May 25, 2024
Art & DesignEducationNonprofitsPublic Art

Juxtaposition Arts – New Digs on the Twin Cities’ New BRT Line

Late in 2020– a year you may remember owing to various things that happened– I packed my bags and headed to the Twin Cities. I brought the Matterport and was able to connect with Roger Cummings, Juxtaposition Arts’ Chief Cultural Producer. Cummings, a 2009 Harvard Loeb fellow and one of the co-founders of the nonprofit organization, gave me a great tour and also showed me JXTA’s new Annex space, which features a library and a DJ-in-residence spinning for community arts events.

A second floor classroom with computers at Juxtaposition Arts’ new headquarters in North Minneapolis. You can find me lurking in the corner, as I had to charge my phone.

Juxtaposition Arts, or JXTA for short (“Juxta”), is a community arts nonprofit that was founded in 1995 to create a cultural anchor for neighborhood youth. The organization provides a range of youth programming and art studios equipped with everything ranging from a woodshop to 3D printers to pottery kilns (and more). Beautifully lit rooms adopt minimalist industrial aesthetics plus a range of art on every wall.


Urban Character

This part of the city is known as either North Minneapolis or Near North Minneapolis, comprising diverse and historically Black neighborhoods. The nearby neighborhood of Sumner-Glenwood, for example, a bit to the south, is a case study in population transition from monumental planning decisions: a WPA-era public housing development was home to thousands of residents before its demolition in the 1990s, and this resulted in the neighborhood being entirely depopulated before being rebuilt in a mixed-density typology. Along Broadway, the major east-west drag that goes by JXTA’s new building, the stretch has seen a great deal of new investment in the past decade and some, including a huge Minneapolis Public Schools Community Education building completed circa 2012.

Broadway, which winds around a bit, sees a marked transition from the more urban character of zero-lot-line buildings of an approximately centenarian vintage, to a more suburban typology to the north and west, as it passes near Cottage Park. The street eventually becomes Bottineau as it enters Robbinsdale (an inner-ring suburb roughly analogous to Detroit’s Ferndale), and even the more suburban vibe of Broadway is gradually becoming densified with new residential development replacing car-centric single-story typologies.

Juxtaposition Arts in North Minneapolis. April 2024.

If you recall what was here before, it comprised several spaces across multiple buildings. One of those buildings has been replaced by a large multifamily residential building that is currently under construction. You may also recall that the old JXTA offices were quite cramped– even though it was a lovely space! The new space offers plenty more opportunities for creative expression but also office space, classrooms, and storage. There’s a pottery studio in the basement and there’s even a third floor roof deck!

A colorful basement storage room at Juxtaposition Arts’ new facility on Emerson Avenue in North Minneapolis.

I was able to get here from downtown– and from here to Brooklyn Center, a mid-ring suburb- by taking the new BRT connection, which runs the whole way up Emerson to the burbs. At the bargain price of $5 for an unlimited day pass, there were very few connections I wasn’t able to make on the combination of buses and light rail. A new light rail extension is planned to go through the area, since Minneapolis-St. Paul actually invests in transportation infrastructure and isn’t just married to the sinking ship of automobile dependency like Detroit is. And miraculously, the Twin Cities metro area has grown in the past two decades by more than the entire population of the city of Detroit.

Yes, I know– pollyanna, right, to think that transit investment is gonna save the day? No doubt the Twin Cities have plenty of problems. But it was great to be able to BRT up to Juxtaposition Arts, check out their gorgeous new space, and enjoy a sunny spring day while thinking about the future of community arts and sustainable transportation infrastructure. And for that I am grateful.

Learn more about the organization here or make a tax-deductible donation to Juxtaposition Arts here.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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