» DeAnna & Roger Cummings
How did you become an artist?
ROGER: Aside from "normal" doodling in 1st-5th grade, in 8th grade at Folwell Jr high English class I would draw comic book characters on my notebooks and begun to receive accolades and orders to do them for my peers. The same thing happened with letter that I learned from a friend who moved back from L.A. The crux came when I saw "style wars" on PBS in 84 and saw the culture of Aerosol Writers who looked like me and had similar sensibilities (non conformist, Anti authority, Risk taker, creative, problem solver) and a catalyst for urban culture and expression. I never strove to be an "artist” but I worked/studied passionately to become an Aerosol Writer.
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
Art is about expression of ideas, thoughts, stories, feelings, etc, art can and is used for many things. Change is always and constant and the world has always and will continue to change as will the art in it. [We] use art to organize people and to activate space and place in the form of community murals, small pocket parks, transit stations to classes, workshops and demos that provide models to think differently, work differently and relate to each other and the built and natural environment more creatively and leave it better than they found it.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
It was a venue that challenged the prevailing assumptions of what Aerosol art was and was not in the '90s. Intermedia Arts was the host wall when no one else would be; when we would bring up visiting aerosol writers Lady Pink, Kase 2, Blade, TATS CRU, Diam, Blue, Muck, Crash, Daze from '98-2001. Intermedia Arts also created the Creative Community Leadership Instutite (formerly ICCD), which helped refine [our] process of organizing and developing community through the arts.
“We use art to organize people and to activate space and place.”
- DeAnna & Roger Cummings
What is one of your favorite experiences with Intermedia Arts?
ROGER: Bringing together International, national, regional and local Aerosol Writers to rock the walls from front to back. I learned styles from the Bronx, techniques from Germany, Innovation from the Midwest and Aerosolic decorum from Cedar Square west, Little Earthand the North Side, all in a two-day event in the scorching heat of August 2000.
How has art changed you?
ROGER: "Art" by way of Hip Hop through Aerosol Writing grounded me and gave me purpose 1st in 82-84 B-Boying, than in Aerosol culture with its built in attributes of Apprenticeship, Autonomy, community, Values, attitude, Critique, style, discipline and entrepreneurial properties .It instilled in me a strong desire for achievement, Imagination, Leadership, risk taking, problem solving and competency. It has also given me power. The power to be self-determined and the power to live independently lively and to show others how they can do the same if they desire.
What inspires you?
Innovation, seeing others who have less or little resources do more than what people thought they could do. Victories for the underdog. Traveling abroad, talking with elders, talking with little people. Yoga, Tai chi. Deadlines.
Roger and DeAnna Cummings create authentic opportunities for youth and residents in North Minneapolis (and communities like it) to exercise creative leadership through hands-on experiences in the arts. They founded Juxtaposition Arts in 1995 to be a place where youth who were most often seen as “at-risk” could harness their youthful exuberance and develop their creative talents in order to improve their outcomes in life and make positive contributions to their neighborhood. The pair was recognized as having one of the top 50 out of school arts programs in the US by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
They have presented on their best practices to diverse audiences at New York University, Harvard University School of Education, the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, and the Walker Art Center to name a few.
In 2007 they were awarded fellowships to pursue full time graduate studies at Harvard University. As a Bush Fellow, DeAnna focused her studies at the Kennedy School while Roger was a Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design. With two teenage children in tow, the couple spent the year living and studying in Cambridge, MA and traveling to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, the South Bronx, Harlem, Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston, New Orleans, and Sao Paolo and Rio Brazil where they investigated non-traditional business, education and community development enterprises. They returned to their work in the Twin Cities empowered with new ways to engage the arts and traditionally disconnected entities in comprehensive and creative community building.