100 Dallas Creatives: No. 14 Janeil Engelstad, an Artist with Purpose

100 Dallas Creatives: No. 14 Janeil Engelstad, an Artist with PurposeEXPAND
Courtesy the artist

Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Janeil Engelstad is an artist. A photographer. A curator. An educator. A producer. A former Fulbright Scholar. A tea drinker. One of the busiest people in town. And she's turned that "busyness" into an asset. Engelstad knows everyone, and knows the people you haven't met yet, and wants you to get to know them.

How? Through her organization Make Art With Purpose (MAP), which was founded in 2010 as a resource center for creative projects that are meant to shape and transform our world in positive ways. The MAP website is an open-source, interactive, virtual resource center that includes how-to plans for people to replicate similar projects in their own communities. MAP partners with artists, NGOs, scientists, and others to produce projects, exhibitions, conferences, and other public programs that are rooted in consciousness and include ideas for positive environmental and social change. While it was founded in 2010, it was not until 2013 that Engelstad organized the first MAP festival, and we were lucky enough to have it in our city. It brought awareness to public art and local artists working with a community mindset; and it also brought national and international artists to Dallas to create original pieces of public art.

It is Engelstad's hope to one day have a festival of this magnitude once every three years in a new city, but for now, we're able to call Dallas the inaugural birthplace of the MAP Festival, and Engelstad one of our own cultural ambassadors.

How did you first find your way into your craft? Growing up in Seattle, a progressive city, I went to dynamic public schools and my family supports creative and intellectual independence and development. From this place anything is possible, and it is where the journey to my craft began.

What motivated you to pursue this career path? Right after I got out of grad school in New York [she has a MFA in photography from a joint program between New York University and the International Center of Photography], I started volunteering to teach photography to homeless youth living at a shelter in East New York, Brooklyn. Through this, I experienced the transformative impact that the arts can have on individuals and groups, and on social concerns. At the time, I was also a photo editor and realizing success exhibiting my photographs in galleries and museums, but it was the social advocacy work that had the most meaning; thus, this is the direction I went with my creative practice.

What prompted you to create MAP? MAP was created to provide an international platform for artists, other professionals, and organizations to share work, ideas and knowledge, and to come together to create projects that start conversations about social and environmental concerns and contribute to our individual and collective evolution and the evolution of the planet.

If you had to describe your aesthetic in a few words, what would they be? Deep listening, respect, collaboration, love.

What in your daily life inspires you? Twice a day I practice TM (Transcendental Meditation) and I am a student of the Shamanic teachings and the medicine traditions of the Andes with the Peruvian Shaman/Teacher Jose Luis Herrera. This work, the knowledge contained in the Ageless Wisdom, and a deep connection to Spirit are the foundations of my inspiration. The people in my life - -my partner, my family, my friends and colleagues, the work of other artists -- give me much inspiration and joy. I am inspired and chill when I cook and I also dance around my house and studio a lot, it's often how I move from one place to another, while listening to my music collection from around the world. Music inspires and fuels dreams. 

What brought you to Dallas, and what's keeping you living, working, and creating here? My partner's job brought us to Dallas. It's fulfilling to work in a place that has potential and promise and to be a collaborative change agent in that place -- that's what keeps me here.

What's your next big project? Well, there are several starting around the world. In Europe, broadly speaking, concerning political and social history and the impact of that history on creative practice, in Asia concerning climate change, and here in the States we just announced that "Dialogues on Race," a billboard, mural, and community program project that MAP started in Dallas, is going national. MAP will collaborate with NYC based World Studio's "Design Ignites Change," and our joint misson is to expand "Dialogues on Race" to 25 cities and develop an open source "how to" project guide addressing Social Justice through the arts that can be adapted and replicated throughout the nation and world.  

What's one art trend you want to see die this year? MAP affliate artist and MIT professor Azra Aksamija and I are developing a project to be produced in Boston next year that questions the trend of artists working in Social Practice, a term that proposes an alternative model for creating that often includes communities in the production of the work, collaboration across disciplines and reliance upon funders with competing agendas and motivations. Many people are jumping on the Social Practice funding band wagon and do not understand or consider the ethics of this work. We are posing questions that explore this trend such as, what is the agency of cultural technologies in this work, which is often produced to advance "social good?" Should a code of ethics be developed for artists that addresses concerns such as what happens to community members when a project is completed, is it ethical to accept funding from an entity whose actions cause social harm in another part of the world? What is the role of aesthetics? I would like Social Practice as a trend to die and Social Practice as authentic community work and engagement and a mode of working with these questions as the under pinning, to continue.

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What would you do with it? For me, money is a great Spiritual asset that increases my capacity. One of my mantras is, "to those who give shall be given, so that they can give again."

Thus, I would continue my work [you can see all that she is up to by visiting the MAP website] on a wider scale, empowering artists and others, and seeding projects around the world and I would start a school that takes the values of art and design, science, collaboration, respect and love as the foundation of learning. The MAP School. That has a nice ring to it.

If you're interested in hearing more from Engelstad, join her at CentralTrak on Thursday, January 22, as she and artists from MAP's Dialogue on Race billboard and mural campaign discuss the project and present their work. Participants include: Christopher Blay and Gerardo Robles--their design drew inspiration from the killing of young African American men in cities and towns across the country; Rebecca Carter and Daryl Ratcliff--their design is inspired by the human genome; Jin-Ya Huang and Thania Dominguez McElory,--addresses the situation surrounded organ transplants and race; Morheshin Allahyari and Engelstad--together they designed an electronic billboard that comments on the fact that when you type the words "People from the Middle East" into Internet search engines the search engine often recommends derogatory content.

Dialogues on Race, Thursday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m. at CentralTrak, 800 Exposition Avenue, Dallas. Free. 100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez 33. Triple Threat Giovanni Valderas 32. Cultural Connector Lauren Cross 31. Critical Artist Thor Johnson 30. Delicate Touch Margaret Meehan 29. Fashion Forward Charles Smith II 28. Dedicated Artist Carolyn Sortor 27. Political Cyber Banksy Wylie H Dallas 26. Dance Preserver Lisa Mesa Rogers 25. Rob 'Ain't No Creative Like A Bow-Tie-Wearing Creative' Shearer 24. Scholar of the Stage Susan Sargeant 23. Photographer of Record Justin Terveen 22. Music Man Jeffrey Liles 21. Keeper of the Safe Room Lauren Gray 20. Playwright Jonathan Norton, Man of Many Words 19. Filmmaker and Funniest Comic in Texas Linda Stogner 18. Gallerist Jordan Roth, the Art Scene Cheerleader 17. Artful Advocate Vicki Meek 16. Ballet Queen Katie Puder 15. Carlos Alejandro Guajardo-Molina, the Book Guy

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