Jodi Reeb. Lee Jin / Artspace Projects
This artist profile is part of a larger story detailing the history and legacy of the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts located in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN. Traffic Zone was created to meet the needs of a group of mid-career artists who approached Artspace in the early 1990s because they were being forced out of their studios in another building in the area. The cooperative was established in 1995 with the goal of preserving affordable artist studios in the area while also allowing the members to build equity over time.
We were able to sit down with member artist Jodi Reeb to chat about her art, how she chose to become a member, and what memories she’ll take with her as the Traffic Zone artists begin the next chapter of their careers. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tio Aiken: We’d love to get to know your art more. How would you describe the work that you're most known for and what is your creative process like?
Jodi Reeb: I would define myself as a contemporary abstract expressionist painter, I guess. If I met you in the elevator and was gonna tell you about my work, I would say it is nature-based and that the circular panels have been part of my work for 30 years. Although, that is changing again because I am doing more sculptures. Working with the circular panels is something that I love because of the repetition. I have a printmaking background, so I tend to like a meditative process where you get into a rhythm of repetition and create multiple originals. I think of my work as very much about emotions, mark-making, and reactions. I describe it as stepping stones across a pond where I will make a mark, have a reaction, and make a mark. Because of that, I don't really plan out my paintings that far, but I kind of have a general idea.
TA: How has your art evolved over time?
JR: I originally started with more landscaped-based works, so I have this bigger umbrella of nature-based works. Now it's spilling into sculpture. I've started painting more dimensional wall sculptures. I have been playing with different spaces and collaborating with the space, so to speak, and I think of those pieces as geometric seeds blowing in the wind. Now my work is going more toward wire sculptures that are actually seed shaped.
TA: Besides working on your own art, what are the different ways you use the space?
JR: Once a month, I teach encaustic painting workshops. I also have events where I teach acrylic painting or hold private study workshops where artists come into my studio and I help them with sales, marketing, and social media. Sometimes, I just do demonstrations or artists will bring in their paintings and I'll give a critique and some feedback on their work.
TA: How did you choose to be a part of Traffic Zone and what particularly drew you to the building?
JR: I came to the very first time Traffic Zone had an open studio night, and I was completely impressed with the studio spaces and the caliber of artists. That was 10 years before I became a member. At the time, I had a studio in my home, and I was working by myself. I knew I wanted to be a part of a community, and I could sense that camaraderie from the artists in the building. And definitely the professionalism. I noticed all the kinds of work artists were making. They were serious. They were focused. That type of community was really enticing to me. And now I’ve been at Traffic Zone for 17 years.
TA: What's one of your favorite events that happened in the building?
JR: Probably my first open studio. That was 17 years ago. Our open studios are always the first Saturday of May, and it was our 10th anniversary. I had just moved into the building that March, so I had six weeks to move in and get ready at the same time. It was just a beautiful, fun evening. It was a four-hour event, and we had about 900 people come through the building. Everybody just seemed to be so engaged with the artwork, and that just set the tone for the rest of my time here.
TA: Was the building ownership aspect important to you, to own your own space?
JR: Yes. It wasn't just me buying a building by myself– I was with a community. I had this confidence and security of being in this building knowing that I was an owner and that we were all in it together. I knew that a developer wasn't going to come in and kick all the artists out after being in the building for a while. So that has been a huge aspect for me. And then also the possibility that there would be some kind of financial return if we were to ever sell the building.
TA: What would your life be like if you didn't have a studio here at the Traffic Zone?
JR: I've really enjoyed having my studio in Traffic Zone because we’re all mid-career artists–we've got some museum shows or some other shows under our belts. Without this space, I know I would not be as far as I am as an artist. I do come here every day. I'm focused. I work from nine to five, and I don't really wait for that lightning strike of inspiration to hit me. I sort of joke and say, “Get to work and it's gonna happen.” If you only make work, what, a couple of hours a day, once a week, I mean, that's going to take so much longer for you to develop your work. And having this space makes me want to come in every day. Friday night when I leave, I'm so excited to come back here on Monday.
TA: You've given us a couple of great memories of your time here. What's a particular one that you'll take with you?
JR: Probably just having spontaneous parties, to be honest. Sometimes, I would go out to dinner with my friends, and then we would come here afterward to have a nightcap, play music, and just relax. Those memories were the more meaningful, especially having different kinds of groups of friends come together. We also used to have what we called emergency meetings. The artists of the building would get together at about four o'clock after the studio day was done, and we would share our work and our processes. Those memories were very meaningful to me too. It's kind of how you got to know everybody in the building.
TA: Would you like to give a shout out to someone else in the building?
JR: Harriet Bart was one of the original members, and as a printmaking major at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, I knew about her work as a book artist. Her being in this building made it all the more enticing to become a member. I thought I'd really made it if I got into this building and was within her company.
TA: How would you describe the building and the people in this building in three words?
JR: Focused. Fun. And free.
This interview was conducted by Tio Aiken, Vice President of Communications & Community Engagement at Artspace Projects.