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Letter Two: Iowa's Creative Force


This letter was originally published on the Iowa Arts Council blog for Art Week Des Moines.


Dear Iowa's Creative Force,


We have kicked off our potionmaking journey at Art Week Des Moines. It is so exciting to engage in these conversations and magic making. Black Benatar gave us a lot of great frameworks and definitions and practices that we can use as ingredients as we brew our potion this week. I hope you can join us during one or more of the lunch hours this week as we brea potions for justice on Tuesday, equity on Wednesday, diversity on Thursday, and inclusion on Friday. If you missed the performance on Monday, you can access it here.


This potion show project has been in development for a few years out here in Southeast Iowa. We have been asking what arts and entertainment can bring to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work (JEDI). I feel called to find ways to bring more people into JEDI work, wrapping their success up with creating a more JEDI world. I believe so many people want to create a more JEDI world but are unsure what their role can be in doing so. I feel called to create opportunities to see how we can understand our place in JEDI transformation and how we can integrate it into our life’s journey.


I believe this work should always begin from the inside out. So, I am committed to engaging with the communities of which I am apart to answer the question: What transformations must we undergo to reconfigure ourselves and how we operate so that justice is equitably distributed to honor the diversity of our great nation so that all may be truly included in the American dream? I am committed to sticking with the answering process and the actions and learnings that will emerge for as long as it takes. In my home town of West Branch, we are gathering every week to reflect on the realities of the world as we have come to understand it, learn how bias has affected the way we organize ourselves, and act to transform ourselves to become more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (JEDI). Tonight is the first gathering at the Peace Pole in front of the Friends Church to begin this vigilant and diligent journey.


What similar journey can we set up for us as Iowa’s creative force? What transformations do we need to undergo in our artistic practices, creative communities, and cultural institutions? I believe as artists and creatives, we have special powers to bring toward JEDI transformation throughout Iowa. We need to begin with ourselves as we figure out how we can influence transformation in our institutions, communities, state, and country. I am curious to discuss: What awakenings are required for us to see the world as it is? What visions can we conjure of new ways of being? What adaptations are required to manifest those visions?


This week, we are kicking off a summer of JEDI potionmaking with creative Iowans to conjure the powers within to adapt toward more JEDI artistic practices, creative communities, and cultural institutions. We will take the sessions this week and create instructional videos for people to make potions on their own or with their creative communities throughout the month of July. We will curate these potions and infuse them throughout the Iowa Arts Summit. We will also hold a workshop to explore the themes that emerged from potions submitted. A diverse panel of Iowa potionmakers will share their potions and plans for adapting towards more JEDI artistic practice and creative communities in Iowa.


I pray this letter is received with all the love and appreciation I feel being counted as part of Iowa’s creative force. I am a relative newcomer, only having moved here five years ago. Settling in Iowa 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. 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 one of the geographically and politically central states in the union where we can affect change and have it ripple out.


In pursuit of creative justice and equitable love,

Jonny Stax


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Jonny Stax Presents Inc.

Chicago, IL • West Branch, IA

773.895.1531 • jonnystax.com • jstax@jonnystax.com

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