Filling the Well is a new podcast created to nourish, provoke, and inspire artists and arts leaders hosted by reporter Marianne Combs. Hear from creative changemakers as they share their takes on how to shift power dynamics, avoid burn-out, build authentic community, share resources, and advocate for support. With each episode you’ll find links to explore these ideas further and act in your own community.
Filling the Well is a forum for dialogue, conversation, and learning. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Arts Midwest or the Barr Foundation
Episode 1: Resiliency, Self-Care, and Joy
Creativity can be an antidote to challenging times, but we can’t show up for our communities if we’re burnt out. Dive into the art of taking care of you with two radical self-care strategists, Dr. Joi Lewis and Joe Davis. After the episode, go deeper and explore ways to put self-care at the core of your organization’s culture over in our Ideas Hub.
Dr. Joi Lewis
CEO, Joi Unlimited
Dr. Joi Lewis is a visionary community healer and facilitator of liberation and social justice As a speaker, author, scholar and the CEO of Joi Unlimited, and President of The Healing Justice Foundation, she’s on a mission to put healing in the hands of anyone, anywhere. Dr. Joi helps individuals, institutions, and communities heal from oppression-induced historic and present day trauma, using Healing Justice as an on ramp to reclaim our own humanity and each other’s. Dr. Joi’s book, Healing: The Act of Radical Self-Care, educates individuals on the Orange Method of Healing Justice, a framework to interrupt historic cycles of oppression through both self and community care. She offers this meditation to all who believe in freedom: #MayTheRevolutionBeHealing
Artist, Educator, & Speaker, Joe Davis Poetry
Joe Davis is a nationally-touring artist, educator, and speaker based in Minneapolis, MN. He employs poetry, music, theater, and dance to shape culture. His work has been featured on BET, CNN, and VH1. He is the Founder and Director of multimedia production company, The New Renaissance, the frontman of emerging soul funk band, The Poetic Diaspora, and co-creator of JUSTmove, racial justice education through art. He has keynoted, facilitated conversation, and served as teaching artist at hundreds of high schools and universities including programs in New York and Boston. Please visit JoeDavisPoetry.com to book, connect, or learn more.
Learn about several practices that you can integrate into your organizational culture to help you get grounded, get connected, and get creative with episode guest Joe Davis.
Episode 2: Shifting Power Dynamics in Philanthropy
For any non-profit, funding is a perpetual worry. But what if philanthropy shifted power and encouraged organizations and communities to dream big? Explore trust-based funding models with two thought leaders, DeAnna Cummings and Tish Jones. After the episode, go deeper and consider how you could shift power and unlock creativity in your organization and beyond over in our Ideas Hub.
Founder & Executive Director, TruArtSpeaks
Founder & Executive Director of TruArtSpeaks, an arts & culture nonprofit based in Saint Paul, MN, Tish Jones is a poet, educator, cultural strategist from Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has performed poetry in venues throughout the United States. Her work can be found in A Moment of Silence(Tru Ruts and The Playwrights Center, 2020), the Minnesota Humanities Center’s anthology entitled, Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2015), and more.
Currently a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Next Step Fund and Waterers Future Building recipient, she has been awarded fellowships from the Arts Matters Foundation, Springboard for the Arts, the Intercultural Leadership Institute, and more. Former Director of the Brave New Voices international youth poetry slam festival, her work explores the ways in which art can function as a tool for social transformation, liberation, and education. Jones has always had a passion for bridging arts & culture, civic engagement, and youth development. For more on her personal praxis, see Jones’ TEDxMinneapolis Talk on Spoken Word as a Radical Practice of Freedom.
Arts Program Director, McKnight Foundation
DeAnna Cummings joined the McKnight Foundation in June 2020 as Arts program director. Cummings is also a co-founder and former CEO of Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), a social enterprise business in north Minneapolis that trains and employs historically underestimated youth as a springboard to higher education and careers in art and design. Established in 1995 as an after-school program in the North Side’s Sumner-Glenwood neighborhood, JXTA has become one of the most important cultural institutions in the Twin Cities.
Prior to co-founding JXTA, Cummings served as a program officer for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and as a senior administrator for the Council on Black Minnesotans, since renamed the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage.
Cummings has served on the Bush Foundation’s board of trustees since 2013. She is a 2016 Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business awardee and a Minnesota Public Radio 2013 Arts Hero. From 2016 to 2018, she was a DeVos Institute Fellow in the selective fellowship program in arts management at the University of Maryland, College Park. She holds a master’s in public administration from Harvard University and studied sociology and psychology at the University of Minnesota.
Tish Jone’s photo by DigieMadePhotography, DeAnna Cumming’s photo by Ryan Stopera,
Deepen your understanding of power and learn about power-shifting practices that you can integrate into your organizational culture or community with Dr. Deryn Dudley.
Episode 3: Building Belonging & Creating Welcoming Organizations
What does it mean to be a truly welcoming organization and how can arts leaders be more inclusive hosts who foster belonging? Dig into a discussion with two artists who regularly tackle these questions, Ananya Chatterjea and Marcus Young. After the episode, go deeper and explore tangible tools to apply in your own spaces in our Ideas Hub.
Ananya Chatterjea/ অনন্যা চট্টোপাধ্যায়
Founder & Artistic Director, Ananya Dance Theater and the Shawngram Institute for Performance and Social Justice
Ananya Chatterjea/ অনন্যা চট্টোপাধ্যায় ‘s work as choreographer, dancer, and thinker brings together Contemporary Dance, social justice choreography, and a commitment to healing justice. She is the creator of Ananya Dance Theater’s signature movement vocabulary, Yorchhā, and the primary architect of the company’s justice- and community-oriented choreographic methodology, Shawngrām. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Choreography Fellow, a 2012 and 2021 McKnight Choreography Fellow, a 2016 Joyce Award recipient, a 2018 UBW Choreographic Center Fellow, a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow, and recipient of the 2021 A. P. Andersen Award. Her work has toured internationally to the Bethlehem International Performing Arts Festival, Palestinian Territories (2018), Crossing Boundaries Festival, Ethiopia (2015), Harare International Dance Festival, Zimbabwe (2013), New Waves Institute of Dance and Performance, Trinidad (2012), Aavejak Avaaz Festival, India (2018), and Ocean Dance Festival, Bangladesh (2019). Domestic tour venues include the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh), John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Sheboygan), Dance Place (Washington), Maui Arts & Cultural Center (Maui), and Painted Bride Theater (Philadelphia), among others. In response to the Twin Cities Uprising (2020), she created the Kutumkāri (Relationship-making) Healing Movement series with a particular invitation to BIPOC women and femme healers. Ananya is Professor of Dance at the University of Minnesota where she teaches courses in Dance Studies and contemporary practice. Her second book, Heat and Alterity in Contemporary Dance: South-South Choreographies, re-framing understandings of Contemporary Dance from the perspective of dance-makers from global south locations, was published by Palgrave McMillan in November 2020.
Marcus Young 楊墨
Stage Director, Ananya Dance Theater & Artist-in-Residence, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Marcus Young 楊墨 makes art to expand the repertoire of human behavior and the expressivity of social forms, for the stage, museums, mindfulness practices, and the public realm. From 2006 to 2015, he served as City Artist in St. Paul, MN, where he transformed the city’s sidewalk repair program into a publishing entity for poetry, an ongoing project called Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk. Since 2008, he has been creating Don’t You Feel It Too?—a participatory public dance practice and liberation project. He is a recipient of awards from the McKnight, Bush, and Jerome Foundations. Marcus is currently Stage Director with Ananya Dance Theater and artist-in-residence at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. DYFIT.org
Ananya Chaterjea’s photo by Laichee Yang
In this companion article to Filling the Well podcast episode “Building Belonging & Creating Welcoming Organizations,” deepen your understanding of belonging and discover how to make your space more welcoming with Welcoming America.
Episode 4: Advocating for the Arts
At a time when there’s so much need, how can we best advocate for the arts and make changes that last? For two leading advocates, Emily Ruddock and Michelle Ramos, the answer is to start by showing up for others first.
Dr. Michelle Ramos
Executive Director, Alternate ROOTS
Dr. Michelle Ramos, Executive Director brings a diversity of experience to her role as Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, and founder of Ramos Coaching. Her most recent experience includes working in criminal justice reform at the Vera Institute of Justice, philanthropic work as Program Officer for Women’s Foundation of California, and service organization leadership on the boards of Dance/USA and Performing Arts Alliance. A licensed attorney with a PhD in Psychology, she has significant organizing experience and has committed her career to serve communities and individuals adversely impacted by issues of race, gender, disability, class, socioeconomics, inequitable laws and systemic oppression. She has consulted for over 20 years nationally. She is the proud mother of Broadway choreographer, Ellenore Scott, and since retiring from her own dance career, Ramos has continued to teach ballet locally, performs with Ritmeaux Krewe, (New Orleans first Latinx Mardi Gras Krewe) is a competitive triathlete and Ironman finisher, and enjoys her Southern New Orleans lifestyle.
Executive Director, MASSCreative
Emily Ruddock is the Executive Director of MASSCreative, a state-wide arts and cultural advocacy organization in Massachusetts. Throughout her career Ruddock has worked to unite artists and communities for meaningful connection, understanding, and change. Ruddock serves on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. In her personal time, Ruddock is a potter who loves making original ceramic art and functional ware for her home, her family and her friends. She holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College.
Episode 5: Resource Sharing & Authentic Community Collaborations
Have a challenge that needs a creative solution? Rural arts practitioners Anne O’Keefe-Jackson and Ashley Hanson have a simple idea: ask your neighbor! Learn about their collaborations and ideas to improve quality of life through resource-sharing. Spoiler, you can do it too!
Executive Director, Mni Sota Arts
Anne O’Keefe-Jackson is the executive director of Mni Sota Arts, a mobile resource center that provides traditional materials to indigenous artists in rural areas. She’s an enrolled member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community and lives on her reservation in Morton, MN with her husband, three children, and three dogs. Anne recently graduated from the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship which provides support to promising early-stage social entrepreneur-leaders in southwest Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree in marketing and American Indian studies from Augsburg College and her masters’ in business and leadership from Augsburg University. Anne currently serves on the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Board and is an artist and advocate of the arts.
Founder & Executive Director, Department of Public Transformation
Ashley Hanson is a social practice theater artist, community organizer, and advocate for arts in rural areas. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Department of Public Transformation, an artist-led organization that collaborates with local artists and civic leaders in rural areas to develop creative strategies for community connection and civic participation. She is also the Founder and Director of PlaceBase Productions, a theater company that creates original, site-specific musicals exploring complex realities of small-town life. She was named an Obama Foundation Fellow and Bush Foundation Fellow for her work with rural communities. She is a firm believer in the power of people, places, play, and exclamation points!
Filling the Well Production Team
Marianne Combs is an independent journalist. For 20 years she covered Minnesota arts and culture for MPR News as a reporter, producer and host. She was named 2020 Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She lives in St. Paul.
Emily Goldberg has directed films and videos that highlight our shared humanity for over 35 years. Currently, she produces videos and podcasts for a wide variety of clients. She also guides others toward media-making enlightenment at VIDGURU (vidguru.co). Goldberg is a 2007 McKnight Artist Fellow whose Emmy award-winning work has been broadcast on PBS, TLC, and RAI (Italy), and screened in numerous film festivals around the world, from the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam to the Museum of Modern Art.
Dameun Strange is a sound artist, multi-instrumentalist, and award winning composer whose conceptual works are focused on stories of the African diaspora, often exploring afro surrealist and afrofuturist themes. Dameun is compelled to express through sound and poetry, the beauty and resilience of the Black experience, digging into a pantheon of ancestors to tell stories of triumph, while connecting the past, present, and future.
Filling the Well was made possible with financial support from the Barr Foundation. Based in Boston, the Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts.