How did you become an artist?
I grew up in Southern California. I first started to see graffiti murals in the neighborhoods that my father traveled to for his construction work. I was very intrigued and wanted to paint the incredibly vibrant, colorful and complex shapes and letters that were being absorbed into my conscious and sub-conscious developing brain. As I grew older, I spent countless hours and years studying, mimicking, and trying to create the images that were clogging up my head and preventing me from paying attention in school. There wasn't a notebook, homework page, backpack or class folder that wasn't adorned with graffiti lettering and art. Graffiti art was the only thing that kept me moving forward and not getting caught up in the trouble my friends were getting into. I eventually became a full-fledged "Writer" or skilled practitioner of the art form, and continue to develop my skills to this day.
How has Intermedia Arts been a part of your story?
I became involved with Intermedia Arts in 1994. A friend of mine had started an open dialogue with the Executive Director, Tom Borrup, about working with some of the youth who were out painting graffiti throughout the city and in the Uptown and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods. I remember being introduced to Tom while I was painting the North wall of Intermedia. He just walked up to us and commented on how he really liked what we were doing and shook my hand. I felt I could let my guard down a little because he was allowing us to paint on his walls. Even more, I felt like he actually respected us sincerely, and when invited inside for a tour of the rest of Intermedia Arts, I felt at ease and even empowered to express myself vocally and artistically to him and to the organization. Over time, I developed a working relationship with Intermedia Arts, and we have partnered on many projets and ventures since then.
What is "The G.A.M.E"?
In 2007, I started to notice that Intermedia's graffiti walls were not at the same level they had been in past years. I approached Artistic Director Theresa Sweetland (who is now Intermedia's Executive/Artistic Director), and voiced my concerns. Intermedia Arts was at a crossroads with graffiti/aerosol art and it's practitioners, and together we collaborated on ideas as to how to create a better understanding for the walls, what was going on with them and how to "raise the bar", so to speak, of the art on it's walls and the current local culture of the art-form.
From there, we developed the program, so aptly named, "The G.A.M.E." From that point, I have been working closely with Intermedia Arts on continuing the philosophies of organization while incorporating, promoting, and supporting the art, art form and the best graffiti artists the Twin Cities has to offer.
What inspires you?
The hope of a better day. People around me and a world full of goodness. Others’ creativity. Fear and sometimes the evil in the world. It inspires me to be better, do better, live better. Myself. My Soul. My family, friends, my Wife and my Children. Other practitioners of the culture. The Universe. God, Jesus and the Heavens. I find inspiration in just about anything and everything.
“There wasn't a notebook, homework page, backpack or class folder that wasn't adorned with graffiti lettering and art.”
How can art be a tool for speaking out, for creating change in the world?
Art can express our inner-most thoughts, and can convey feelings or emotions for us all. It can be political and can change the way people think and view the world around them or elsewhere. It enriches and adds quality to life. Art is essential.
How has art changed you?
I really don't know what I would be like without art. It's hard to say. I can't imagine a world without art either. I often say I'm a realist but to anyone reading this, you would probably think I'm way too optimistic and positive about the world and my art-form in general. I just know I'm passionate about what I feel when I practice and share my art with others.
Has my art impacted the community around me and the way I interact with it? Of course! At least I like to think so. There are a lot of kids (more and more everyday) trying to pick up a can and express themselves. It also has opened many doors for me to work with companies within the community that I wouldn't have gotten without it. I've been lucky enough to travel many places and paint.
What do you see as Intermedia Arts' role in the community?
Intermedia Arts is a bridge between us all, no matter what our culture, race, religion, or whatever. If Intermedia gets the chance, they will open their doors to you and then bring others in to experience it together. Intermedia Arts’ community is a unique, eclectic group of people, cultures, and partners, all with the same principal ideas. They welcome anyone willing to just give new experiences and ideas a chance. They're hip. There are way too many reasons in the world right now to drive us apart. Any person, organization, or anything that has the power to bring us together strengthens us all as a whole. It may not be an easy thing to measure, but ask anyone with an open mind who has been there for a show or worked with them and they'll tell you, "We need more Intermedia Arts!!!"
One of the Midwest's most influential and pioneering artists within the graffiti art and hip-hop culture, JoJo has been a strong advocate for empowering youth and young adults through art for more than 15 years. An active mentor and role model, JoJo began working with Intermedia Arts in 1994. With over 21 years of artistic experience, JoJo's unique style and undeniable talent led him to a successful career as a commercial muralist, working with many Fortune 500 companies including Best Buy, General Mills and All State Insurance. He has had multiple gallery showings nationwide and has been a featured artist in over 100 magazines and books. JoJo lectures at colleges and high schools on the history and culture of the art-form, and works with local businesses to build positive relationships between artists and business owners.