"The loans in and of themselves got us through, but more than that, we started to gain a sense of confidence."

DeAnna Cummings, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Juxtaposition Arts

Juxtaposition Arts (or JXTA, for short) is a year-round visual arts program for youth. They strive to help North Minneapolis youth gain the confidence, skills and connections they need to accomplish their educational and professional goals, and to eventually contribute to the revitalization of the communities where they live and work. JXTA offers a Visual Arts Literacy Training (V.A.L.T.) program—when students reach a level of mastery, they can apply for paid apprentice positions and work with professional artists in graphic design, screenprint, environmental design, contemporary arts or public art studios.

NAF’s partnership with JXTA dates all the way back to 2002—when JXTA was just emerging as a dynamic, creative organization serving Twin Cities youth. “I kept hearing about them,” said Kate Barr, Executive Director of the Nonprofits Assistance Fund (NAF), “Everyone in the arts community was talking about the amazing work they were doing.” JXTA acquired their main building on the corner of Emerson and West Broadway in 2001. They also purchased three additional buildings at the same time. 

“I quit my ‘outside job’ to go full-time at JXTA. My cofounders and I knew we needed someone paying full-time attention to running the operations for the organization, especially having just purchased new buildings,” said JXTA executive director and co-founder, DeAnna Cummings.  “As a new Executive Director and property owner, I had never managed loan monies before. I didn’t know the first thing about what a lending relationship looked like in a commercial or business setting.”

The first loan JXTA obtained from NAF was used to rehab their studio space. “It was one of the things that helped them establish themselves in the neighborhood,” Kate said. “They played a significant role in helping that area of North Minneapolis thrive. They said, ‘We’re here. We’re going to put down roots. And we’re going to help kids do creative work.”

2002 was also a difficult year—following the September 11 attacks and economic downturn—it was not an easy time to be growing a business. In addition to supporting JXTA with a construction loan to help build out their new space, NAF also provided mentorship and coaching for DeAnna and the JXTA leadership. “The loans in and of themselves got us through, but more than that, we started to gain a sense of confidence,” DeAnna told us. “No one at NAF ever made us feel bad about where we were at, financially, or how much knowledge we had about commercial lending, cash flow, or anything else.”

Over the years, NAF has provided a number of cash flow loans or lines of credit to help support the continued growth of. “There were times we would be counting on a grant to come through, but it wouldn’t get to us in time—and we’d need to make payroll,” DeAnna said. “I’d call Kate, and NAF always could help us out in a pinch; we’d pay everything off when we received the grant funds.” 

Since 2002, the NAF-JXTA partnership evolved from funder-fundee, to one of friendship and trust. “People from outside the Twin Cities are often surprised at the strength of the nonprofit community here—and for that, I truly believe we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kate and the rest of the NAF staff,” DeAnna said. “I really believe that it’s due, in part, to their amazing work and support of organizations across our communities.”

JXTA has come a long way since the early 2000s. In 2002, the annual budget was under $100,000/year, and they served about 100 young people through their programs. Today, some 15 years later, their annual budget is $1.4 million. They serve 3,000 youth per year, employing around 60 of them in part-time jobs, in addition to about 35 artist teachers. They have 20,000 square feet of physical space, and are a pillar in the community. “Since we bought our building on Emerson and West Broadway, there has been about $70 million in investments in this intersection,” DeAnna told us. “Where there were vacant and abandoned buildings, there are thriving nonprofits and small businesses. Without a doubt, NAF helped make all of that happen.” 

“I love to think back to the early stages, and observe DeAnna’s evolution into a true financial leader,” Kate said. “She’s exactly the type of leader that NAF loves to support—and all of us at NAF are honored to be a part of the JXTA story.”