The JAX Wake: Lowertown artist Kara Hendershot: “This is a magical place”
This is a magical placeThis text was originally posted on Facebook and is reprinted with permission.
For those who spent any time here, I mean enough time to really get to know it here, you know that this is a magical place.
I always felt like that kid who didn’t fit in anywhere. Sure, I knew how to make friends and make people laugh, but I always felt… not completely known. I suppose I still feel like that from time to time, but I’m okay with that because I’ve found something special. I found my place in Lowertown a dozen years ago. I found a place where my art and ideas and expressions were supported and appreciated, and this allowed me to feel known and understood in a way I have never been before. Even those closest to me got to know me better through my art, because I’m not the best at words and therefore painting is my best form of communication. I found a place where people take the time to ask curious questions, and who really listen, even if they don’t fully agree with everything I’m saying. Open-mindedness, that’s the word. Inclusiveness. Support.
And then there’s the enthusiasm and support from not just our immediate art community, but the wider Twin Cities community, like during the Art Crawl where thousands of people take time out of their busy lives to come see the latest creations by this community and to interact through arts experiences, because this is the place that encourages those kinds of interactions, where people can have a conversation around art and be introduced to something entirely new, or to empathize with a person or situation unlike themselves.
Lowertown creates connections through art, and it makes people feel a little less lonely and a little more understood.
Last night, I attended a memorial for the JAX Building, as we said goodbye to a place that was once full of artists and storytellers and community organizers. The building has been sold to redevelopment, as has the 262 Building across the street, a threat of disintegration to our community.
But when something like this occurs, you have two choices: you can quietly pack your things and leave, or you can go out with a strong voice.
We marched in a theatrical funeral processional through the neighborhood, lead by music by the Brass Messengers. We arrived in lovely Mears Park for a ceremony. (I think we crashed a wedding there…oops. Well, that’s what you get for choosing to have a wedding in a neighborhood full of weirdos, right Michael Savage wink emoticon ). Sendero Flamenco performed a beautifully somber dance upon a black coffin. DeAnne Lilly Parks and Cami Applequist spoke their memories and experiences of working in the JAX. (DeAnne, I LOVED your story of the young dog you adopted from the homeless family at the Farmers Market years ago). We marched back through the neighborhood, blocking traffic along the way (oops, well, that’s what you get for coming to a neighborhood full of weirdos). We arrived back at the JAX to pay tribute to a memorial site, followed by a reception at Goldens.
“This is where passion met hard work.
This is where private dreams found community support.”
(lines from the JAX Declaration of Remembrance)
Thank you Rachel Wacker and the community of Lowertown for holding this memorial. Thank you to the artists of the JAX. Barbara Evan, whom I’ve known for a long time from when we worked together for several years to help organize the St. Paul Art Crawl, thank you for your undying love and dedication to this community. Thank you to dozens of other artists and community members who were there last night in a combination of mourning and celebration.
Wow, I’m really glad I was there. Not just last night, but for the last 12 years that I have been fortunate enough to know this community.
I hope that we can stay strong as a community, and I hope that people stay supportive and appreciative of this magical place. A great thing can’t be kept a secret forever, and now that everybody else seems to know about Lowertown, something is missing, because it’s quickly becoming overkill and if you truly knew this community, you would not want to kill it. To completely exploit it, like the route it’s going now, is to crush the values that this community was founded upon.
Kara Hendershot (KaraHendershot.com): “Kara was born in Toronto, Canada in 1980. She moved to the United States just before high school, and later attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, graduating with a degree in studio art in 2002. Upon graduating, Kara spent a year with AmeriCorps, volunteering in schools in South Carolina. Today, Kara Hendershot resides in Lowertown St. Paul, Minnesota. She is very active in the Twin Cities art community – with the production and exhibition of her work throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul, and with the promotion and support of other local artists and organizations. Kara has been an active participant and volunteer in the biannual St. Paul Art Crawl since 2004. She has served as a Board Member of Altered Esthetics Gallery in Minneapolis, and as a mentor for Free Arts Minnesota, an arts healing program for abused children. Kara currently works out of her studio in Lowertown and serves on the Saint Paul Art Collective Board of Directors.