The Columbus art scene is such that once you see someone at a show, gallery, hang out, you're very likely to see them around EVERYWHERE from there on out. To my delight, such was the case when I met Joanne. With her trademark septum piercing, warm smile, and learned demeanor, Joanne Jones is a visual artist, designer, and recent OSU graduate who spent her childhood developing her love of the environment whilst romping around in the woods. I sat down with her one blustery, goosebump-inducing afternoon to discuss art in Columbus, what needs to change in this world, her sustainable beehive and more.
Editor’s Note: some of Ms. Jones' responses were abridged for the purpose of this interview.
Loose Films: Where did you grow up?
Joanne Jones: I grew up predominately in a small town about an hour south of Columbus called Chillicothe basically romping around the woods and being outside. I spent more time in Columbus as I got older because I was in the symphony. So half and half Chillicothe and Columbus.
LF: Was art apart of your childhood?
JJ: My mom was an art teacher so I grew up going to museums and taking art classes and my mom had an art studio in our house so I was always in there doing something. I made a lot of collages, painted a lot, drew, and did a lot of found object art.
LF: Was there a distinctive moment where you knew you wanted to design things/frame things?
JJ: Design just kind of fell in my lap. I read a novel when I was in high school about a graphic designer. It wasn’t the book that changed my mind about everything but it definitely influenced me a little bit to think about graphic design being a really cool thing to do. It helped me realize that I love making things. I originally went to school for linguistics but, like, 2-3 weeks before classes started I just decided to go into the pre-design program instead. That gave way to me entering the industrial design world. I realized that I wanted to pursue my creative endeavors and influence the world in a subliminal way. Design has that power.
LF: Talk about the role of the environment, sustainability in your art.
JJ: Well I grew up hiking all the time and grew up in the woods. I have fond memories of going to Yellow Springs and Hocking Hills and other nature preserves in my hometown. I would go hiking almost everyday after school. I definitely grew up being enraptured by what Mother Earth has to offer and my town was really polluted and has been affected negatively from manmade structures and processes. I realized that a lot of the problems we are enduring are created by human activity and I’m a firm believer that if we create a problem we can create a solution. Designers can definitely offer solutions to these problems. I make things that I care about and love so my influences come into play. And from my travels to New Zealand - the landscape is out of this world. It’s a combination of my passions.
LF: Working with sustainability can be taxing, there’s a lot that needs to be changed. How do you deal with these pressures on a daily basis?
JJ: It’s so monolithic, something I think about everyday but I try not to let it weigh me down because it is such a behemoth of a problem. We really need a societal paradigm shift and I currently feel like a little, tiny grain of sand. But I have hope that there are so many likeminded people that do what I do. There’s so much potential in design for it and there’s a hole in design for it so I could create my own job.
LF: What do you see that’s exciting in environmental design right now?
JJ: There are so many people studying alternative materials to what we’re currently using for everything from our phones to cars. Industry is pushing towards alternative methods even though it might not seem the government is. There are a lot of designers today realizing that it’s better to design for people rather than for pure profit.
There’s a newish process called co-design where you go into communities and bring those people into the design process asking them what they need, want, how this will influence their lives. You actually create with them.
LF: How does design help people
JJ: It makes peoples lives more efficient. It brings joy or beauty to people’s lives. It can bring simplicity and it can bring meaning to space.
LF: In your opinion, what needs to change the most in this world?
JJ: I think people need to love more and be open to it. because when you’re loving you’re caring about people. and when you’re caring you’re valuing people over profit and status or gains. When you love it’s a mutual connection and you start having empathy and taking action when you see someone hurting or in need.
LF: Where do we start?
JJ: On a tangible level, I’d start with access to clean water. That’s such a huge deal. We can’t survive without it. I studied abroad in Rome to study the city architecture and how it was built around water. There are so many old aqueducts that spew water out of the walls that’s very pure - you can drink it right there for free. In Rome, the homeless at least have water. Where do people living on the streets here get water?
LF: What’s the easiest thing we can all do on a daily basis to help foster a more sustainable world?
JJ: Deny plastic as much as possible. Use public transportation. Shop local. Sustainable food. It’s really a lifestyle choice, think about where your money is going.
LF: You're also a visual artist, when did you start taking photos?
JJ: As early as I can remember, I would bring point and shoots to summer camp. Film is essentially where I started.
LF: Describe your photography.
JJ: It has a lot of environmental influence. I’m often trying to capture the ephemerality of all things. I’m also often highlighting identity and the oppression of women and minorities.
LF: Talk about your experience with the Columbus art scene.
JJ: I feel like I got into it when I first started college. I found people through Instagram or events on Facebook and then I’d go to shows and meet people. They invited me to more things so it’s just been a really social atmosphere in my experience.
LF: Talk more about social media and the art scene.
JJ: Everybody just invites everybody. If you meet one person you most likely enter a web of so many different people that are involved in the arts scene. Once you see one person you see them everywhere.
LF: Is there an “art” to social media in the arts?
JJ: I think so. You kind of have to present yourself - sometimes there's a page just for your art or just for yourself and sometimes artists have pages that intertwine the two. I would say mine does that. People do curate in order to get recognized and get freelance work. You can use hashtags to get featured in magazines and it’s good exposure.
LF: What does Columbus do well regarding the arts community?
JJ: Columbus creates a welcoming community. If you want to put on a show you can likely find a place to do it. It’s about meeting people who can help show your work. If you have the passion and determination it’s definitely possible here.
LF: What could we work on?
JJ: Raising the voices that are so often stifled and creating spaces to allow artwork for intersectionality. But a lot of the arts community is creating work about some very real issues like police brutality, for example. It’s speaking up about those things but then the city isn’t doing anything about it. Sometimes there's this feeling that Columbus puts on a face that cares about the community, but then fails to act. But that leads into a larger discussion on the system in which we live.
LF: Art education?
JJ: From my experience it’s dependent on what school you go to. More privileged schools have more arts opportunities. One thing Columbus really picks up slack with is the awesome opportunities across the city to learn and to become a part of the arts community - like the Cultural Arts Center that has pottery and jewelry making. My mother goes to Clay Space to learn how to throw clay and Nolan and Sarah at Milo do the Columbus Film Lab. There are places like these all over.
LF: Where do you want to be in a year post-graduation?
JJ: I want to be living in New York working for a design firm.
LF: In 5 years?
JJ: Maybe grad school. I’ve definitely thought about opening my own design firm so going to grad school would probably be beneficial to that. Maybe I won't be in America.
LF: You've designed some insanely cool projects. Talk about your most recent project, Vive.
JJ: Vive was my thesis project that I worked nearly a year on - it’s my baby. It’s an educational beekeeping system. There’s a huge gap between knowledge and application when it comes to beekeeping and I wanted to help remedy that gap. I also wanted to promote beekeeping because if you create an emotional connection with something you’re going to care about it and talk about it and inform people. From there I designed a hive, a theoretical system around it, and a service so that new keepers can download an app on their phone and be connected to a mentor that can come out and teach them how to keep bees from the comfort of their own backyard. There would also be accessible pages on the app to answer commonly asked questions - a concise explanation to the problem. I wanted to create a space that was consolidated and easy for people to learn.
LF: Where will your hive be?
JJ: Stratford Ecological Center which is a nature preserve in Delaware, Ohio. It’s going to be in a children's garden.
**Update from Joanne**
There are bees officially living in it now. AND I just found out that the center has a partnership with a program for 4th & 5th grade students in 3 different counties around the area for them to visit and learn about plants and pollinators to fulfill their science requirements. The apiarist at Stratford is going to incorporate my hive into the program, so it's going to help teach approximately 10,000 students per year in the area about bees.
Joanne Quick Hits:
Coffee or Tea: Coffee, or tea. Both.
Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy: Scrubs, but neither really.
Fav candy: Dark chocolate.
Favorite spot in Columbus: The roof of my house, because the trees are really nice.
Man buns y/n: No. *editors note* Joanne reached back out to me to say, "slight addendum to the man bun answer - it's hair dependent."
If you could live in any decade what decade would you choose?: Now, I have rights.
Thanks to Joanne for spending the time to sit down with me. You can see more of Joanne's incredible work here - I strongly urge you to check it out!