Jes Reyes, Artist We Admire

Editor’s note: As the national platform for Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange has long been a platform to highlight the artists, resources, and efforts in our national network. In this pandemic, as Springboard for the Arts’ work is increasingly online and accessible nationally, we’ll be turning the spotlight on Springboard staff and our Artist Career Consultants, to share more about who we are, and the work we do. Enjoy!

Jes Reyes is everywhere! Jes is a multidisciplinary artist practicing in drawing, painting, mixed media art, poetry, book arts, and video. Her practice also takes her to teaching and working with organizations, including a long history with Springboard for the Arts, where she is an Artist Career Consultant and Work of Art workshop instructor. She is featured in the new Work of Art toolkit that was recently launched, sharing her experiences and insight. Jes runs a blog series called “Artists I Admire” where she talks to other artists, so it’s a delight to turn the tables on this artist we admire. Learn more about Jes below, and find her work at

A woman in a teal sweater stands at a tabl with two children, working on book-making creative activities with Jes Reyes, in a blue floral dress.Jes at Mac Grove Fest 2019. Photo by James Ebert.

Share a little about your creative practice.
I am someone who dabbles in making art all day. I like to have materials nearby so that I don’t have to carve out time for creativity. I may have near me a sketchbook, a watercolor pad, or my laptop/tablet to do something digitally like write, draw, or make a video. If I have two minutes, I can do art! I work quickly and often have more than one project going on. I don’t like focusing on one piece at a time or something that I have to spend a lot of time on. I like to move onto the next thing or between artwork. I have trained myself to work this way because I can get distracted quickly or frustrated with tedious tasks. Poetry, short film, abstract art, and doodling have best suited this kind of approach for me.

Ironically, though, I am someone who loves project management, teaching, and arts administration. This kind of work takes a great deal of time and energy so how I manage this work as compared to my art making is drastically different. I would say that I spend most of my time as an artist in this capacity as I get the most out of it professionally. It’s an extension of my practice – connecting with and supporting other artists is essential to my creative mission. I have curated film festivals, developed art exhibitions, managed an active shared art studio, and developed a blog dedicated to interviewing artists about their practice, challenges, and life. All of this represents and reflects upon my values and vision of my creative practice. I believe artists need other artists to survive so I do what I can to build connections and networks. I also want people to learn about artists, especially living ones that are making and creating within our own communities. I feel the more people know about artists, the more they will see how important artists are to our lives, communities, and economies.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
This is kind of a long story! I got connected to Springboard through a Career Development Residency through the Arts Hinge Arts Program. Naomi Schliesman was my direct contact and support during my project period. Not only did she promote my involvement as a resident artist but she ensured that I was connected to the career resources I needed based upon goals I shared with her. This included signing me up for a marketing class, referring me for consultations, and registering me for tax preparation for artists workshop. During this time, she introduced me to the Work of Art: Business Skills for Artists. Through Naomi’s knowledgeable and experienced instruction, I gained new skills in career planning, pricing, as well as promotions.

My love of the Work of Art grew and it became a resource that I wanted to offer to other artists that I was working with at Avivo ArtWorks, a multifaceted art program supporting artists living with mental illness. Later in the year, I applied for a scholarship to attend the Train-the-Trainer program to do just that. Through that week-long program, I was trained to teach and facilitate the Work of Art at Avivo. Afterward, Naomi recommended me to become an Artist Career Consultant at Springboard, where I could expand and strengthen my goals at supporting artists. Without Naomi’s mentorship and acknowledgment, I don’t think I would be the teaching artist I am today. She once told me that, “Artists are the true social workers of the world,” and I have to agree with that!

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
It wouldn’t be surprising for me to say, especially after I just told you that I work on a few things at once, that yep, I have a handful of projects that I am moving between.

I have been working on a collaborative art by mail project with my friend Kiera Faber. We have art that we mail back and forth to each other, adding onto it and working off of each other’s ideas, and sending it back. It’s all on paper and it’s similar to an Exquisite Corpse game. We started it in March, shortly after the emergency shutdown. Collaborating with Kiera has expanded my creative practice and it’s helped me cope with life during COVID. I hope one day that we will be able to exhibit the work!

Also, shortly after the shutdown, I started collaborating with composer Tess Nordstrom on a found footage collage film I had been working on called Cyclical. I generally make video poems so this film is a stretch from what I normally do! We are almost done with it and are hoping to submit it to screening opportunities, including to our local Film Score Fest.

Earlier this year I launched Moonplay Cinema, a microcinema screening program for women and nonbinary filmmakers and moving image artists. I had a successful crowdfunding campaign back in February. Funds were raised to hold our first year of programming. We were scheduled to screen our first show in June but obviously it was postponed due to COVID. I am really excited about this project and look forward to the day when we can return to theater programming.

I am also working on expanding Avivo ArtWorks. We’ve restructured due to COVID and are fortunate to be able to expand and strengthen our community-based arts programming and artist career support during a very stressful time. I am so thankful for this and excited! I have been spending a great deal of my time lately dreaming and envisioning the potential of ArtWorks, especially as we build a larger team dedicated to supporting artists living with mental illness. We will continue exhibitions, challenging stigma, and providing arts access opportunities through workshops and open art time, but I know we are moving into more in-the-community art approach. Normally, you would find us hunkered down in a basement art studio! COVID has transformed how we are reaching folks since we can’t do in door activities. We also realize how important outreach is during this time. For example, we have just finished a social justice mural at 19th and Chicago in Minneapolis. I have never coordinated a mural like this before so it’s been amazing. COMPAS Teaching Artist Katrina Knutson has been facilitating it. She’s someone I have wanted to work with on a mural for a long time! She has supported over 20 community members and artists to completed it, all over a 4-week period. It’s so important that our voices are heard and represented, and that we can discuss the injustices our communities face through art. I am thrilled that Avivo has supported this work. The mural speaks to police brutality, racism, homelessness, mask-wearing, hope, equality, justice, and more. It’s a snapshot of Minneapolis in 2020.

Painters working on a mural featuring a cityscape, protestors, and a rainbow,Avivo ArtWorks Mural, located at 1900 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis (August 2020). Photo by Jes Reyes.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
When I was 15 I was interested in becoming vegetarian because of my love for animals. I had a friend who was a little older than me that stopped eating meat so I asked them for support. They gave me some literature and challenged me to quit meat for a week. I took up the challenge and have continued to be vegetarian since 1995. I have to thank my mom for being supportive of my goal then and helping me with meal planning! Now, I tend it eat vegan wherever I can!

Springboard Resources
Artist Career Consultants, available for virtual consultations:
Work of Art: Business Skills for Artists toolkit:
Hinge Arts Residency:
National Training Opportunities:

Cover photo by Marilyn Lamoreux.