Ko'ox Boon

Carambamos 2016

The New Whitney, Motley

The New Whitney, Motley

Isla Mujeres, México

Isla Mujeres, México

Mérida house

Mérida house

The New Whitney, NYC

The New Whitney, NYC

Billi via kaleidoscope 

Billi via kaleidoscope 

The New Whitney, NYC

The New Whitney, NYC

The market at Oxkutzcab, Yucatán

The market at Oxkutzcab, Yucatán

The breath of a new year rejuvenates people in the most obvious ways. Everyone gets taller and walks a little bit faster, smiling at people wearing hats, laughing at themselves when they trip. First in New York City, then Mérida, Isla Mujeres, Yaxhachen & now Mérida again, I can't stop listening to music about place (put the album Currents  by Tame Impala on your Spotify queue) and making new connections. Feeling global. Still stupidly smiling at cats and people, too.  

The North Point at Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Riviera Maya. Foto by Allie Jordan <3

The North Point at Isla Mujeres, off the coast of the Riviera Maya. Foto by Allie Jordan <3

I set place-oriented goals for myself as I sink into the life of someone who lives abroad. This year I will read a novel en español, and I'll visit at least 3 new countries. I expect a year of a lot of firsts and new connections. I made resolutions to be happy and to put personal spiritual health first, which definitely hasn't been the case in 2014 and 2015. Beginning Ko'ox Boon felt equivalent to having a newborn (no sleep at night), then a toddler (always falling down and in danger of head bumping). Now Ko'ox Boon is a precocious kindergartener. She speaks for herself, and she has many more friends that she likes better than me half the time anyway. I used to have to articulate for her, now she chatters about with so much confidence. It's absolutely beautiful. 

Making dream catchers with my bae, Oscar&nbsp;

Making dream catchers with my bae, Oscar 

Science art with YAXHA Bordados &amp; Becca Haydu

Science art with YAXHA Bordados & Becca Haydu

This year is a parade of talent and activist enthusiasm coming from all corners. Starting out with a new Artist in Residence, Becca Haydu will use science to transpose the folkloric art of embroidery onto the realism of photography. The work that she cultivates through her connections with YAXHA Bordados and Ko'ox Boon will serve as her senior thesis project at the College of Atlantic, a liberal arts school where everyone studies Human Ecology. Allie and I look forward to hosting a gallery of her botanical-themed, socially-engaging work at our Mérida house on March 12. 

Meanwhile in Yaxhachen, we are expected to break ground on a bathroom in February, bringing running water to Casa Yaxha for the first time ever! Boasting locally-sourced materials and traditional Mayan architecture, the bathroom and running water symbolize cultural stability and community growth. With solid infrastructure, the center will provide a secure, hygienic, stimulating space for educational and community groups. This project was made possible thanks to generous support from The Pollination Project, an organization which empowers its grantees to be changemakers. I am so beyond honored to be on this journey with this incredible organization! <3

In late March, we will embark on the process phase of our Paris/Barcelona intercultural exchange with graduate students at the European Studies Institute at the University of Paris 8, Cleménce Thibault, Imane Hammar, Nikita Prin and Thomas Vassort. Clemence approached us in October with the idea to form a group within the "Politics and Management of Culture in Europe" Master's program to work with Ko'ox Boon, which she had just begun. She recruited Imane, Nikita, and Thomas, and they researched and conceptualized a stellar vision for stimulating exchange between 10-12 year olds from a culturually diverse neighborhood in Paris called La Plaine and our kids in Yaxhachen. The project involves correlative cultural excursions and the invention and filming of a collaborative shadow and sound film. We've recruited Mexican artists Orlando Dominguez, Astrid Cobb, Oscar Estrada and Fernando Baqueiro for facilitating the creative experience of our kids throughout April and May. In early June, Allie and I will travel to Paris for a screening and gallery exhibit of the project. Ko'ox Bonne!  

We will then walk directly into the counselor training week of the third annual Camp Ko'ox, which we project to serve 250 kids. We are dying to announce the lineup of artists and generally cool people volunteering this summer, but we can only give you this sneak peek right now! ⚡️ 

The Camp will run throughout the entire month of July, coming to a celebratory fin on July 30, when Yaxhachen will host a "Museo en Vivo." Everyone's invited! 

On August 1st, there will be a change. I will leave my job with Millsaps and seek a new funding opportunity. I am not sure what will happen--this is where the calendar ends--but I think I feel ok about it. I am exploring grant opportunities and potential intercultural exchanges with other cities, hoping that the voice of Ko'ox Boon articulates itself clearly enough to be noticed. For now, I'll enjoy the naive freshness of a new year in a pair of jean shorts and sandals, grateful for every second I live in the land of eternal summer. ✌🏽️

"Super Explorer," Mérida&nbsp;

"Super Explorer," Mérida 

Makin' the Medias in Mérida

Nestor,&nbsp;Raquel,&nbsp;Mandi &amp; Allie after recording for Telesur on Saturday, August 22, 2015 en la casa con la puerta azul.&nbsp;

Nestor, Raquel, Mandi & Allie after recording for Telesur on Saturday, August 22, 2015 en la casa con la puerta azul. 

The last five days have been a complete whirlwind for Allie Jordan & myself, Mandi Strickland. Last Saturday, with the help of our friends, we threw a couple of coats of yellow & turquoise paint on our Mérida house located in the Santiago neighborhood of the Centro, opened up the doors, and invited the people of Mérida to view and buy 40 unique pocket t-shirts. We created a small "store" in our house, featuring YAXHA Bordados products & telling the story of Ko'ox Boon through photography & video.

The party was set to begin at 6 pm. Allie and I were still getting dressed, when the crew from a local news channel "Telesur" walked into the blue front doors. I greeted them profusely, my hair in knots, and excused myself. My voice shook as I knocked on the bathroom door, "Um, Allie, I think you should probably get out of the shower. We have a TV interview in five minutes." 

Raquel & Nestor--the reporters from Telesur--made us feel right at home. At first, we were afraid. The big, red microphone very close to our faces, Raquel still managed to transfuse her confidence into us. We traded back and forth talking, then looking at each other in silent encouragement. After the interview, Raquel and Nestor went back to the office to drop off their equipment & return to our party, this time to have a few beers. 

On Monday we received messages from reporter Abraham Bote at Diario de Yucatán, the peninsula's longest-running, most respected print news source. He hurriedly made plans to interview us the next day. That night we made chicken curry and streamed our TV interview from the local news, picking apart our strengths & weaknesses, and prepared the Spanish words in the right order for our first print interview: conservar, desarollar, promover. 

Mandi &amp; Allie with reporter, Abraham Bote from Diario de Yucatán, wearing his new YAXHA Bordados pocket t-shirt by Ko'ox Boon. (Yes, Allie and I are wearing the same shirts in both interviews.)

Mandi & Allie with reporter, Abraham Bote from Diario de Yucatán, wearing his new YAXHA Bordados pocket t-shirt by Ko'ox Boon. (Yes, Allie and I are wearing the same shirts in both interviews.)

At 2:03 pm on Tuesday we arrived at the Diario, bringing along our trusty intern, Orlando Dominguez for Spanish back-up. We were all palpably intimidated. The ceilings were a million feet tall. There was marble and really, really big, practical paintings of pyramids taking up two stories of walls. Glass cases displayed antique typewriters and printing presses. 

The lady at the front desk called the reporter on a land-line, while Allie, Orlando & I sat in soft, black chairs and waited.  Abraham walked us through a maze of impressive architecture into a conference room with squeaky leather chairs and warm books. He interviewed us with patience, interest, and kindness, and in true, southern girl style, Abraham (like Raquel and Nestor) became our friend by the end of our 30 minute conversation.  

The next morning I proudly hustled two blocks to the news stand, where the lady who sold me two copies of the newspaper told me that she was grateful for the work of the foundation, Ko'ox Boon. She had already read the article, titled, "Un Mundo Más Igual." 

It means, "A more equal world" in English, and it's nestled in page two of the Local section underneath a header titled, "Nuestra Gente." Our people creating a more equal world. This, in itself, feels like a step towards equality, across gender, class, and race. Allie and I are the people of Yucatán, too. 

At the end of the week, we send out a million thanks to the people of Mérida, Yaxhachen, Oxkutzcab & Jackson, Mississippi alike. Thank you for the constant support & for always wanting to share our story. We love you! <3


Links to Mérida Media!

MACAY ArteConexión Radio interview, July 31st, 2015: Part 1 & Part 2

Telesur TV interview: August 24th, 2015

Diario de Yucatán news article: August 26th, 2015 

Blog post about our YAXHA fiestita by Eclosión Cultural 

Meet the Ko'ox Krewe: Liz Allen & Meriweather Bean

Meriweather Bean, Liz Allen &amp; I (Alex Melnick) will travel to Yucatán in late May to work with the community of Yaxhachen, the home of Camp Ko'ox. Learn more about how to show your support for the camp  here !&nbsp;

Meriweather Bean, Liz Allen & I (Alex Melnick) will travel to Yucatán in late May to work with the community of Yaxhachen, the home of Camp Ko'ox. Learn more about how to show your support for the camp here

I always say this, but I will say it again. I have the best co-workers in the world. Part of the reason Ko'ox Boon works so well is that all of us get along famously, and all love to spend time with each other. (We better, if we're going to live at Kaxil Kiuic, Millsaps College's 4,500 acre Bio-cultural Reserve, together for six weeks this summer!)

I hold in my heart a special place for two particular Ko'ox Booners: Meriweather Bean & Liz Allen. These Boon Babes, as I call them, are to thank for much of Ko'ox Boon's success in Jackson. Bean and Liz are the wind between my wings and the frijoles to my arroz. We all spend a lot of time together and go on adventures, from Cafe Ole to late night facetimes & phonecalls & giggling endlessly.  The Boon Babes all have each others' back and want nothing more than to help each other succeed. I'm always chatting it up on the Arte y Vida blog, so I figured it was time for me to give them a little shout-out. Meet the Boon Babes!

Meriweather Bean

Major: Anthropology with a business minor
Fav Drink:   Sparkling Water
Fav Song:  "How Will I Know," by Whitney Houston
Fav Spanish word: frijol 

In her lessons for Camp Ko'ox, Meriweather will focus on nature walks, connecting Maya heritage to present day life in Yaxhachen, and having some good clean fun with the kids this summer. She's teaching the six to eight year olds ninos, whose group in Camp Ko'ox is informally known as the "corn grinders." She's really excited to do yoga & dance with co-leaders Alex Melnick & Shaun McDonough, despite none of us knowing how to dance. (The kids will have to teach us.) One of my favorite things about Meriweather is her "can-do" attitude and tireless cheerful spirit. No matter what obstacle or crazy thing that stands in our way, Bean (as I call her) is ready to meet it. Meriweather is also quite the traveler, having visited Yucatán before & studied abroad in Tanzania the year prior. Meriweather is the real exploradora of our group, and a very kind spirit. 


                                         Liz Allen

Major: Communications Studies, with an art history minor
Favorite song: A tie between 500 Miles by the Stranglers and Big Poppa by Notorious B.I.G.
Fav Drink:Coffee
Fav Spanish word: Oso

Liz is focusing on teaching Media Literacy this summer to the older children & helping them explore their world. From cameras to book binding, Liz & her co-leader Sara Sacks hope that they can empower students to tell their own stories. After camp, Liz will begin her Millsaps College 1 Campus 1 Community Fellowship, and spend the year connecting community members in Jackson to Millsaps & facilitating community engagement.  My favorite thing about Liz is her sense of humor, & her commitment to the Jackson community. ( Also her love of possums.) Liz has the silliest sense of humor of anyone I know. We once went to  a Mississippi's Museum of Art's Pop-Up Show & I'm pretty sure I made her cry laughing when I pointed to a (very nice) drawing of an aardvark & gravely told her: "This is a terrible cat."  I'm the least funny person I know, but Liz will always laugh with me, if not at me.  Liz is also a selfless friend and an excellent travel buddy, & an incredibly talented artist.

Spring Break Forever: Alex & Shaun's Foto Blog

Adventures of Alex &amp; Shaun, circa SB2k15.

Adventures of Alex & Shaun, circa SB2k15.

Ko’ox Boon Kamp Kounselors Shaun McDonough & I were lucky enough to spend our spring break together this year, and we took some photos to share with all our friends on the  Arte y Vida blog! We packed an impressive amount of adventures into one short week, and spent a lot of time planning our lessons for camp & calling our fellow Ko’ox Booners.  When not researching the Yucatán or creating lessons, nostros fuimos a la playa y el manatiel. We also brushed up on our Spanish by visiting a restaurant called “Latin American Restaurant Cafe” on the side of the road, and had amazing plantains. (It made me really miss the Yucatán!) I also apparently turned twenty one, but forgot to have more than one drink. 

My favorite part of the break was probably when I convinced Shaun’s roommate to get a Lil Bub tattoo, or all the free time we had to create summer camp lesson plans! My least favorite part was when I found out Shaun hasn’t seen most of Harry Potter or even read the series. (He thought there were fifteen of the movies.)

I asked Shaun what his favorite part was, and he said "spending the day with my favorite person on Satellite beach ( my favorite beach) was the most enjoyable day of spring break. Being able to relax, have no obligations to worry about, and take a leisurely ride back to South Florida was exactly what I needed.  Even though the only place to eat was a Waffle House with a sticky floor, it was an excellent adventure."

Shaun & I really love photography & documentary making, so we couldn't resist sharing a few shots from this spring break. 

Reflections of Emily Simmons

Emily Simmons has the most relaxing presence. Her conversational tone is as intimate as her art and her smile always implies that she’s letting you, just you, in on a slightly embarrassing secret. Her work focuses on nautical themes, and Emily is in love with the sea. It is this love that is projected in her work, as only a lover could create pieces depicting the object of their love in such innovative ways, sketching out creatures in coffee grounds and wine stains. Emily takes the ingredients of her everyday life and then recreates it into the extraordinary into something bigger than herself.

imageEmily wants art to be comprehensible to all. It makes sense she wants to be an art teacher. An art history Senior at Millsaps College, Emily tells me serenely that she doesn’t have a “thought-out thesis or anything.” She instead tries to just make art that is authentic to herself, and that reflects her personal thoughts and experiences. (This is why there is glitter and seashell fragments everywhere in her recent work.) “I don’t like making artwork in a scholarly sense,” Emily continues. “I just like it for myself.”

When I asked her what the readers of the Ko’ox Boon blog should know about her artwork, Emily paused and said with a trace of amazement, “ I don’t know. I’ve never really had think about my artwork.” That might be the best answer. Emily’s artwork is reflexive, and as intrinsic to her as breathing or the ocean flowing through its tides. Her art is where she “wants to be, and just a representation of myself.” It’s not something she wants to write papers about. It’s something she wants to embody, and something she wants to embody her. It’s a reciprocal relationship, like the interplay between the ocean and the sand, feeding into one another.


Favorite Food? Anything. I love to cook.

Beer or Wine? Beer.

Favorite JXN Restaurant? Aladdin’s Café.

Would you rather be deaf or blind? Deaf.

Do you speak any other languages? Spanish.

What fictional universe would you want to live in? The Walking Dead.

3 Words to Describe Your Work. Ridiculous. Misunderstood. Personal.

@Couchcommunity Between the Lines

kooxboon_couchcommunityFormally trained in architecture, it's no surprise that J Humphries' visual artwork is an exploration of angles. He's interested in the way that lines intersect, the connection of forces, and how planes overlap. Within his artwork, layers and patterns pervade the visual plane and render an organic, distant familiarity that's reminiscent of architecture. A building on legs pries itself from the Earth, and the weight of gravity buckles the legs, causing a negotiation of forces--a diagram from imaginary physics. It is within this "buckle" or struggle that the artwork takes on its deepest meaning, ultimately suggesting that lines, or the built environment, are meant to bend. That we, as viewers (or more potently, as humans), are responsible for the built environment and the way that humanity interacts with this environment.

photo 4

Humphries' artwork brings to mind questions about cities, structures, environmentalism, and design, while begging that consumers prioritize design over functionality. We have long lived in an environment where design aesthetics are bastardized for one reason or another, and Humphries asks us to review our stance on this issue. These themes are timely and deeply appealing, perhaps even more so in the pieces where the artist sacrifices centrality for patterning, an exploration that is reminiscent of the art of textiles, which, like architecture, is an old art form that hinges on use-value. Humphries' reinvention of old world venues is exactly what makes his work both resonate and appealing, as well as why I'll be making a purchase at his upcoming show.



Here's sitting down with @couchcommunity

One road to drive down forever: Any road with that perfect tree canopy that makes a nature tunnel

If you could have one super power... I'd like to be better at reading minds

A metaphor for how you feel on Monday morning: Unfortunately, I don't think there is an appropriate metaphor for how much I loath Monday mornings.

Your favorite art project to teach: I'm always showing people how to relax. The best ideas I've ever had come from being comfortable and prepared for any obstacle. (Usually on a couch)

Beer or wine? Beer.

If you were to anamorph... I should probably say something that flies, explores, and discovers great things, but in reality I'd just be anything that hibernates.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Well as I said before; you just need to get comfortable for a second and let your mind be the only force. Then the ideas roll.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Let the dog out, as to not be attacked with slobber.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? Well this changes everyday, its like people always wanna be something they're not or so it goes, right? I have always liked Jack Nicholson though.

What are some of the things happening in Jackson that excite you? I am excited now and hope to continually be excited about my generation coming to the table with new ideas and ventures for this city. Jackson is so ready to be the progressive epicenter of the state (maybe region), and I like to think that these new creative strongholds will take charge to make this place greater.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? I love the idea of this project because it makes a connection between two places that have been isolated and so desperately need networking.

If you could take over the world, you would.

Couch-community already serves a large part within the Ko'ox Boon organization, and we are so proud to feature his art in the Fine Art Auction on December 11. On November 15 at the Hatch in Midtown, he will sell works at a show entitled "Works in Retrograde" along with upcoming artists Samantha Ledbetter, Audrey Bardwell, and Taylor Coleman. Be sure to make it out to pick up some pieces there! Follow @couch_community on Instagram and Twitter. He also manages Mississippi AIA's Instagram @aia_ms.

Painting Peace in Mexico

Click here to read PORTICO Jackson's feature 

Blog-ImageThis October, Portico Magazine featured Ko'ox Boon as a part of their annual Art edition. Chocked full of dynamic articles on rising Jackson artists, Ko'ox Boon is honored to be the nonprofit featured in the "Giving Tree" section.

Written by Assistant Editor Kristen Lucas, the piece is an artistic feat in itself. Kristen graduated from Millsaps College in 2013 with a BA in Communication Studies. Kristen is a creative with an eye for design, and she looks forward to working with Ko'ox Boon in the near future. She tells us, "Working at PORTICO has blessed me in innumerable ways—I’m constantly learning the importance of stories and the responsibility we have as communicators to listen and tell them. Interviewing the Ko’ox Boon team and sharing their story with our readers was humbling and inspiring. My entire Millsaps education and the work I’ve pursued since graduation came full circle as I listened to my dear friends and classmates tell me about seeds of change they’re constantly planting in places both near and far. I just hope I captured one glimmer of Ko’ox Boon’s light!" We look forward to Kristen designing the catalogue featuring the pieces up for sale in the 50//50 Fine Art Auction. Thank you Portico and Kristen Lucas .