The JAX Wake: Lowertown artist Cami Applequist: “Dear JAX, (Dear Lowertown,)”

May 6, 2016 | News

Dear JAX, (Dear Lowertown,)

This text is an edited version of the speech Cami gave at the JAX Wake.

Cami Applequist, Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative (Photo: Patrick Clancy)

Cami Applequist, Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative (Photo: Patrick Clancy)

There are not a lot of places in the world where I have been encouraged to speak my mind – to bring it on shall I say. To lay it out all there and talk about the things I care about, the things I find important. It feels like I ran around my whole life in search of a place that felt like home. And I finally found it a few years ago. Right here in Lowertown. Moving into the artists’ coop in the middle of this arts community became home.

The view from that home each day as I walk out my door is the JAX building. One of the very reasons that this is a place where I can feel safe opening my mouth without having to lift my hands to my ears to block out judgments or calls to shut up because it was too much or too loud or too anti-anything. This is a community where I can be turned on by the color orange in one of Barbara’s paintings and want to talk about it for an hour and I’m understood. Where I start drawing on the sidewalk with chalk and you all join me! Where I say: I don’t understand $2000 apartments and I’m not alone…

For so many years I thought I was fighting a losing battle, looking for “home.” Sure, I’d find you in classes, or in books, maybe movies, but I’d never find buildings full of you right across the street! But here we are, a great bunch of us willing to run for coffee in our paint covered pajamas, not giving a shit because we need that jumpstart to finish that painting…or that song… or that book…or that dance… that project that might just might do something to fight the patriarchy or injustice in this world…or explain the beauty we see in a peanut. Something we’ve been working on night and day to which the clans from which we all came might respond “Wha…?”

This is where we came to find courage and support and love to make our work to DO our work. This is where I have found my courage to bring personal stories to the surface, put them on the wall and share them with the world in hopes to bring others closer to their own stories – to the world’s stories. Because that’s what art does. That’s what we do.

All because our view included the JAX – all of your faces – your art – your hearts – your inspiration – your courage and spirit! Just by existing in the space around us and holding tight and fast to a passion for art and for humanity, you have made this community thrive for all – all of the artists here and for all of the people who visit and love what we create.

Seeing the JAX artists go is devastating to me. Seeing this view change is heartbreaking and it puts a cloud over the future.

Lowertown is not just a place – to me and so many. It is the landing pad for our angsty, artsy, passionate souls. It has become a foundation for our futures: the futures we want to create for ourselves and our culture.

It is sad. I am sad. And I am angry.

Our foundation is crumbling – our landing pad shifting – and no matter what anyone says it is of no fault of ours, the artists. We have worked and created and loved and stayed passionate.

We are allowed to grieve.

I stand here today having only been here for a few years. Myself having seen so many changes in Lowertown. I cannot imagine what it is like for those of you who have been here since the beginning – for the 39 years of the life of the JAX and the entire community.

To those of you who helped lay the first bricks of this incredible history that we mourn, I stand here in great gratitude to you and in awe.
I stand here in sadness and sorrow.

And I also stand here in hope. Hope that even though our physical and geographical foundation that we have ALL been a part of and have all helped create is now forever changed, and that even though the view is different and is destined to continue changing, we can be assured that our art spirit connections and our lives will always exist as long as we remember each other, what we have had, what we have today, and that we always remember everyone from the JAX. Because thank you JAX Artists – We are all so sad to see you have to go.

Cami Applequist ( “Being an artist for me means paying attention. Looking hard at everything I see and taking in as much of it as I can. I spend my days with children which gives me perfect opportunities to gather pieces of the world and discover what it means to be human. It also gives me great opportunities for play and laughter which is what feeds my current work. When I sit down to create, I gather paints, words and memories and I play. Sometimes I end up with a wall covered in chickens, sometimes a short poem or doodle, sometimes an essay. I know I am finished when a piece starts calling out for others to come and play too. Most often, I am smiling.”

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