Editor’s note: Multi-media artist Jonny Stax of West Branch, Iowa, will be leading discussions during Art Week Des Moines (June 19–26) and the Iowa Arts Summit (Aug. 7) to encourage people to create art that promotes justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We recently posted his first open letter and are posting the following one to jump-start the conversation.
Dear Iowa’s Creative Force,
We have kicked off our potion-making journey at Art Week Des Moines!
It’s exciting to engage in these conversations and make a little magic. Our friend Black Benatar gave us a lot of great frameworks, definitions and practices that we can use this week as “ingredients” for potent, change-making potions. (Check out the recording.) I hope you’ll join us during one or more of the lunch-hour sessions this week as we brew potions for justice on Tuesday, equity on Wednesday, diversity on Thursday, and inclusion on Friday. (Sign up right here.)
We’ve been developing this project for a few years out here in southeast Iowa, exploring how artists and entertainers can sharpen their JEDI powers — with justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
So many people want to create a more JEDI world but are unsure how to begin. I feel personally called to invite more people into JEDI work, to help people understand how to integrate JEDI transformation it into everyday life.
This work should always begin from the inside out. And it starts with a question: How must we transform ourselves and our actions to equitably distribute justice, honor the diversity of our great nation, and include everyone in the American dream?
The answers aren’t simple, but I’m committed to the learning process for as long as it takes. Here in West Branch, we are gathering every week to reflect on the realities of the world as we understand it, learn how bias affects how we organize ourselves, and act to become more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive. We recently gathered at the Peace Pole in front of the Friends Church to begin this vigilant and diligent journey.
So what similar journey can Iowa’s creative force begin? How should we transform our artistic practices, creative communities, and cultural institutions? As artists and creatives, we have special powers to accelerate JEDI transformation, but we need to begin with ourselves. We need to figure out how we can spark change in our institutions, communities, state, and country.
Over the next few days of Art Week Des Moines, as we make JEDI potions, I hope we can conjure powers within to transform our artistic practices, creative communities and cultural institutions. Think of this week’s sessions (which we’ll record and post) as instructional videos to help individuals and cultural organizations make potions of their own throughout the month of July. Then we’ll curate and distill these potions during the Iowa Arts Summit on Aug. 7, when a diverse panel of Iowa potion-makers will help us uncork the potions’ JEDI powers for artists and communities across the state.
I pray this letter is received with all the love and appreciation I feel as part of Iowa’s creative force. I am a relative newcomer, having moved here only five years ago, but becoming an Iowan has been a dream of mine since I first visited the state 20 years ago.
It took a while for my Iowa-born and -raised husband to bring us here to live. And I am not leaving. (When people ask what the appeal is to living in Iowa, I always answer, “The wonderful people and the lush lawns.”) Iowa holds a powerful place as a geographic and political center of the country, where we can effect change that reverberates far and wide.
In pursuit of creative justice and equitable love,