Janeil Engelstad, Make Art with Purpose (MAP)

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Make Art with Purpose (MAP) produces art and design projects that promote equity and inclusion and address social and environmental concerns throughout the globe. MAP projects inspire learning, creativity, and hope, advance models for producing art that are rooted in consciousness and respect the Earth’s resources. Founded on the belief that artists have the knowledge and skills to make positive and lasting change, MAP aims to make a constructive contribution to the world by providing opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange. 

CultureBank Questions

Where – in what community – do you primarily do your work?

Based in Dallas and Seattle, MAP currently has projects across the US, Canada, South America, Europe, and Africa. Typically, MAP works with communities that are undervalued and underrepresented for a variety of reasons, including race/ ethnicity, age, and social-economic status. We collaborate with artists, designers, scientists, and other people and organizations, thus, our community is broad and deep.

What gets you going each day and inspires your current work?

My day begins with meditation, spiritual alignment, and gratitude. This practice not only gets me going, but it keeps me going (especially in times of questioning or doubt). Having knowledge and the experience of energy that is greater than me is a constant source for inspiration and renewal. Every day is a gift and I remember that this is how I choose to spend my time.

Inspiration also comes from many places and many teachers. The adage, “we never know who our teachers are, or from where the teaching will come, until the teaching,” is a constant that runs through my life. Working in collaboration and across disciplines and methodologies, looking for creative solutions and learning from all kinds of people and places inspires, upholds, and strengthens the work of MAP.

“Every day is a gift and I remember that this is how I choose to spend my time.”

When you work in your community, what are the most valuable assets of the community that you experience aside from real estate and money?

The most valuable assets that I experience time and time again are people’s knowledge and experiences, which expand my own creativity, skills, and thinking. The knowledge sharing and learning that happens in MAP projects is an asset that helps me and our team to make new connections across different concepts and views and leads to new ideas and solutions. Communities that lack political and financial capital often have to be creative with their problem-solving. That creativity is an asset that fuels non-capital economies, such as social and idea economies, which can be as valuable and generative as real estate and money.

How does your artistic practice inform and/or is integrated into your enterprise?

MAP is informed by and an expression of my artistic practice. My training as an artist in an academic environment that encouraged experimentation across disciplines and fields, and social and political engagement, (long before “social practice” was a concept or field of study) is integrated into all of MAP’s projects. My artistic practice is rooted in media arts and text and those mediums often show up in MAP’s output and are a part of the organization’s literacy.

What is the impact of your work on your community? Today? Over a long period of time?

My impact is collective, thus any positive impact that I have is because of the work, dedication, and creativity of many.

One of the areas where MAP makes an impact is by providing space, capital, and other resources for people to create, express and participate. MAP projects are a place where people can experience or realize agency, and for that impact to last over time we are continually thinking about sustainability, building relationships that are long term and projects that continue to have an impact after the initial production has been completed. For example, in 2103 MAP was invited to do a project in partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Neither organization knew what the project would be exactly, but that we would come together to produce something rooted in communities. The eventual project, Translating Culture . . . Community Voices at the DMA grew out of a series of conversations, over several months between Susan Diachisin, who at the time was the Kelli and Allen Questrom Director of the Center for Creative Connections at the Dallas Museum of Art and myself. Taking place during a time when the DMA was in the process of embracing new ideas for engaging communities (and returning to free general admission), Translating Culture was grounded in a central part of MAP’s mission — to produce programs that are inclusive of multiple voices and perspectives and to provide access to cultural programs for communities that are often marginalized because of ethnicity and socio-economic reasons.

Eleven members of the Dallas chapter of the AVANCE (an organization that works to break inter-generational poverty in Hispanic communities) participated in workshops throughout the summer of 2013, where they learned about the DMA’s collections. Working independently, in pairs and as a group, the participants wrote personal interpretations about a work of art of their choice. Their texts, along with images of the selected art became the basis of the first ever bi-lingual, Spanish and English, printed guide to works of art in the DMA’s permanent collection.

As Translating Culture progressed, the participants took ownership of the museum and its collections, feeling comfortable and at home in a place that some of them had not visited before the outset of the project. They, in turn, brought their families and friends to the museum, expanding the project to include an ever-widening circle of community members. Three of the participants went on to become ambassadors for the museum, outreaching to Spanish speaking community members at DMA public programs and other participants worked on various projects for MAP. The project then evolved into Translating Culture 2, where students from a local high school created a virtual tour of the museum, which included video, animation, and interviews with people connected to ideas of themes expressed in particular works of art. The students launched the tour in 2014 at the DMA’s monthly Late Night open house where they talked with hundreds of people about their work.

Building on the relationships and working methods that we developed over a school year with the students, MAP invited the same class to help design and produce a permanent public art piece for a public park in downtown Dallas. This year-long program, which took place in 2015, included the students meeting with city planners, studying urban planning and landscape architecture, designing the work of art, building forms and pouring concrete, working with contractors, artists, and much more. A handful of the students from this program went on to intern for MAP on various projects throughout 2016 – 2017. So that initial project produced in 2013 evolved into 4 years of projects and programs across communities, age groups, and locations and the work that all of these people produced continues to have an impact both at the DMA and at Ferris Plaza, the park where the public art is sited. Rather than exceptional or a one-off, this way of working and evolving is typical of our work and process.

The Nitty Gritty

When was your organization or project founded?


What is your staffing situation like?

Staffing varies from city to city, from project to project to project. With that, there is a core four people in Dallas, two in Seattle, and one in Europe that consistently work with MAP.

What is your annual budget?

Varies from $50,000 – $350,000.

How does your revenue break down?

All revenue is from grants and individual donations.

Find out more about MAP:

MAP Radio Hour