Advice from Paris on the last day of a quarter of a century

I could’ve never imagined the fullness of the beauty of Paris, the strength of the architecture & the unpredictability of its streets. The divine taste of the French overflows in the logic of the way of life: wine is cheaper than coke; “convenience” stores don’t exist; and being diverse is standard. 

Almost six months ago, a group of graduate students from University 8 of Paris contacted us with hopes of inventing a new way to interlace cultures by creating a dialogue between kids in Yaxhachen & kids from a suburb of Paris, called La Plaine. These students value art, language, and equal opportunity for all children like they value artisanal bread—there is no other way of eating. 

Allie, Oscar and I have spent the past week finally getting to know Imane, Clémence, & Nikita in person, and swimming through a whirlwind of new contacts. We are refining the details of our collaboration, as well as reflectively discussing the work of Ko’ox Boon on an analytical level. 

Their questions and interest in Ko’ox Boon has enlightened my own perspective of our work. They linger on the importance of the formation of Ko’ox Boon: that we knew the community before we developed our first projects. They emphasize that this is why they think that our model is more effective than traditional NGOs. They ask their questions and make comments with wide-eyes, cold beers in hand, clothed in impeccable style. 

In Paris, We move from academic contexts to making dream catchers with kids to hip-hop dancing, soaking in every moment like a new opportunity to plant seeds in French soil. At the end of the day, Clémence & Imane compliment us on our adaptability. This is the element which is most impressive to them, and which, to me, is a characteristic closely associated with emotional intelligence and mined through my favorite life experiences: travel, language-learning & listening. 

Many folks in our generation are interested in being change makers and working in arts and culture, but little opportunity for this type of work exists. The post-grad jolt is brutal. We finish masters programs where we are encouraged to be creative & invent ambitious projects, but when we graduate there are no jobs. The competition prevents us from being collaborative, so we work against one another, unraveling the complex net of open-minded ideas, which we so tenderly built during our University years. We are forced into restaurant jobs or nine-to-fives with little vacation time and no creative freedom. We are normalized, & this is our greatest nightmare, which we slowly learn to justify until we are completely reintegrated into the old system. 

Clémence tells me very seriously that Ko’ox Boon gives her hope in the face of this crisis. I’m turning 26 tomorrow, and, to her, the three years that separate us are the most difficult that she’s ever had to imagine. She feels like she’s walking through traffic blindfolded. I hardly feel sage, but realize the value of my own struggle through the past two years (the two most rewarding & difficult years of my life, the age of Ko’ox Boon & how long it's been since I finished my M.A.). So I thank her & think of something to tell her that doesn’t seem overwhelmingly cliché, and this is something that I want to tell all frightened Millennials fighting against normalization due to the pressure of the job market.  

The job that you want doesn’t exist yet. The career that perfectly harnesses your talents, forces you to grow intellectually & emotionally, and makes you so tired that you sleep soundly until the vibration of your alarm each morning isn’t out there. This job will be invented by you, and this job requires that you be brave; take risks; & consume the generous support of your friends & family like a melting ice-cream cone. Accept that failure will be annotated in your agenda on a daily basis, & you should recognize it, but don’t dwell, because that’s where fear comes from. Fear is your biggest enemy—not the person next to you who is trying out for the same job as you. And finally, you must live by one rule only: never give up. This is how you become the change you want to see in the world. 

Also, you can listen to the album Evil Friends by my favorite band Portugal. The Man any time you like for inspiration. It has always worked for me. Start with this one

Social Media meta-analysis by @samanarama

Samantha Ledbetter served as Curator for the KB Fine Art Auction in December, 2014. She will spend her summer teaching advanced art & bookmaking to rural Mayan youth as a part of Camp Ko'ox. She will also pursue her own creative work. 

Samantha Ledbetter served as Curator for the KB Fine Art Auction in December, 2014. She will spend her summer teaching advanced art & bookmaking to rural Mayan youth as a part of Camp Ko'ox. She will also pursue her own creative work. 

Greetings followers of Ko'ox Boon! In preparation for KB summer camp 2015, I have been closely following all KB social media outlets. Posts grow in several varietals:

METHOD: Strap a go pro camera on to eleven year old Enrique, and give him ten minutes to take us to his favorite place in Yaxchachen centro.

ATTENTION: there are collection bins across the Millsaps College campus and in coffee shops in Fondren. Let's see who can gather the most art supplies and toothbrushes.

WATCH: your friends and professors try to pronounce "Ko'ox Boon" correctly on camera.

The short video of people pronouncing Ko'ox Boon and wondering if they were saying it correctly was charming. It did serve a practical purpose, though, reaching out to a nebulous audience in order to familiarize it with Ko'ox Boon. Viewers were left repeating the name to themselves, wondering just what Ko'ox Boon was trying to do.

Collection bins for art supplies and dental hygiene supplies spread KB's presence in our local community. The bins act as a visual clue. It easily says that Ko'ox Boon makes an art camp for children and it just so happens to encourage good health.

Enrique and the go pro is the most captivating aspect of the social media campaign. In a few minutes he pulls us through our screens and into his world. His landscape is vast, and it is beautiful. See the chickens? The murals? There is a moment when we have reached the first destination. He is showing us cows through a fence. Enrique gets off his bike, pauses to take the camera off of his body, and turns the lens toward his face. It is a long moment punctuated by the clumsy sound a microphone likes to make. Then we see Enrique smiling, asking, "isn't it beautiful?!"

Pictured outside of The Hatch in Midtown, Jackson, before her collaborative show, "Works in Retrograde." (November 2014)

Pictured outside of The Hatch in Midtown, Jackson, before her collaborative show, "Works in Retrograde." (November 2014)

It's the details that make Ko'ox Boon valuable to me. Your totally brilliant professor laughs at his pronunciation of "Ko'ox Boon." An ugly cardboard box covered in construction paper flags is asking you for art supplies in the coffee shop. For a moment you are right next to Enrique and you say, "Yes, the cows are beautiful."

I look up from these details and am back in my own world. I am learning that it is the expression of these details, these individual worlds that helps us grow, and Ko'ox Boon is facilitating that.


desde sus ojos ►


Method: GoPro Hero 4 camera, attached by head strap, bicicleta. Assignment: you have 10 minutes to show the world your favorite spots in Yaxhachen. In this video, 11 year old Enrique Xul Us, takes us on a bike ride through the pueblo where he was born and raised. The sights he reveals are enthralling -- traditionally constructed palapa houses, big beautiful Yucatan sky, and even a flash of the mural that Enrique painted this past summer with Ko'ox Boon in the Yaxhachen centro. Most importantly, we see Yaxhachen desde sus ojos... from his eyes.

Ko'ox Boon intern Alex Melnick figured she should give herself a little shoutout

Ko'ox Boon intern Alex Melnick figured she should give herself a little shoutout

I love Jackson almost as much as I love interning for Ko’ox Boon. (Who is this “I,” you ask? Read on. Even if you don’t particularly care who this “I” is, read on. I promise it’ll be worth it.

Yes please... more Claire Whitehurst

claireMeeting Claire Whitehurst is an exotic and unforeseen experience, always. Perhaps she was your counselor at summer camp or you bumped into her painting seascapes during her stint in Australia. Wherever you run into her, Claire's delicate face laughs and rummages for more jokes. The lightness of her presence draws everyone toward her, and in the dark of the hallway, your less detail-oriented friend will probably lean over and ask, "Dude, why is Amy Adams at this party?"---the likeness is uncanny.

Claire's effervescent aura is demonstrative of her creative success in the studio. For her, being an artist is a life practice. She takes lessons on forms from her surroundings, and, in her paintings, she activates the lost jewel of motion. Her self portraits tackle the serious task of being simple, honest, and unnerving, while her landscapes are nostalgic of a romantic era, when life's scenes were idyllic. In her more abstract work, she twists symbols and color in new ways, causing startling realizations based on the juxtapositions of these symbols. Color seems to imbricate emotion, and the thick strokes in her oil paintings convey sensuality in its most heated state. Claire's many years spent holding a paintbrush seem to have resulted in the bloom of a deeply mature artist, and Ko'ox Boon is  very proud to call her a 50//50 Fine Art Auction participant.







Sitting down with Claire Whitehurst:

One road to drive down forever: The Great Ocean Road

Favorite Jackson restaurant? Saigon annnnnnd High Noon! I love their half and half tea and soups.

A metaphor for how you feel on Friday afternoons: the Same way as when you can smell the seasons changing

Your favorite art projects as a kid: I liked making dioramas for stuffed animals and drawing horses.

Beer or wine? Yes please

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I remember the first time I really perceived the moon. You know... That's a ball and I'm on a ball and there are other balls out there. It freaked me out in a good way. I think about it a lot.

If you were to anamorph… Pegasus

What triggers your “aha” moment? Listening to other people and changing perspective. Coffee also helps

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Kick my covers around and roll up into a cocoon. Then give myself a pep talk

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? I have a lot of role models, but if I had to pick someone ... A mix of Amy Sedaris and Amy Poehler and Carmella Soprano. Also a lot of role models in my family.

How do you feel about the creative economy of Jackson? I think there are great steps being taken by a lot of talented and bright people. I'm glad I get to call them my friends.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? I think it's all about coming together and sharing cultural experiences. Connecting the community through the arts.

If you could breathe underwater, you would build a house made of glass down there.


We welcome Claire to the Ko'ox Boon team, and we look forward to sharing her art with you! You may contact Claire about information regarding her art at or visit her website at

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 .

How to: peace flags

DSC_0396 (1) Making peace flags was one of our most successful crafts in Yaxhachen this summer. Granted, the little ones can be a little difficult to organize, but after the first day, the routine was a breeze. If you’re not familiar with the peace flag, they come from an ancient tradition of Tibet. Traditionally, “prayer flags” hang throughout the Himalayas and are filled with symbolism. The different colors represent the five elements: Blue, sky; white, air; red, fire; green, water; and yellow, earth. The flags are loaded with text and image, which seek to bring around good fortune.

In our project, the peace flag maintains its ability to be symbolic, but each one might represent something different.



STEP 1: Encourage your students to discuss what they want their flags to represent, whether it be hopes and dreams for the future, or a celebration of friendship. Whatever they come up with will be great. :)

STEP 2: Have your students cut out their flags. Use a flat edge to draw the triangles on the paper first.

STEP 3: Create an image (and text) for your flag. Remember the point goes down! Instructors or supervisors MUST make a flag too.

STEP 4: ADD MORE! Due to growing up in fast-paced environments, kids sometimes have trouble sitting with a craft and adding detail. Or, they want “otra oja”--a new paper. Encourage your students to go back and add color or figures. Tell them to fill up the triangle. Reward them with positive affirmation. Notice what they changed when they return to show you their revisions!

STEP 5: Practice the order of you flag. After everyone completes their individual flag, practice what they will look like when they are all put together. Think about the order like a puzzle. How do they look best? Why?

STEP 6: Punch two holes into the top of each flag. I like to appoint a “Captain” for overseeing this step.

STEP 7: String them up! Keep the order in mind, and have everyone help thread the flags. The string can get long, and it takes a lot of little hands to hold it up and keep it organized!

STEP 8: HANG YOUR PEACE FLAGS. In order to maximize your impact, hang them in a public space. Or use them as decoration for an event.

STEP 9: Talk about it. How does the result embody the ideas that the artists wanted to convey in the beginning? Are there additional ideas that they hadn’t thought of?

SIGN UP AND WE WILL SEND YOU THE PEACE FLAG PACKET. Classroom teachers and groups of 15 or more can qualify to receive a packet in the mail with materials, instructions, and a treat for your class. The trick is: You make two! Keep one for your school, classroom, or public space, and send one back to us (plus a photo, obviously). Email us at!