An Interview with Jacob Hey
Godsil. A famous literary critic after reading Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” was so astonished by the brilliance of the work, that, upon meeting Mr. Ellison, exclaimed, “How did you ever happen?!”
I have so impressed with your “Art Not Apathy” work in Milwaukee while yet quite young that I must ask: “How did you ever happen?” Do you have any theories about your dramatic arrival on the culture scene of Milwaukee?
Jacob Hey. How did I happen? What an amusing question to consider. Well through the process of reincarnation I must have chosen my parents well, my Father is a local Socialist, he got the opportunity to get to know Frank Zeidler before he passed on, and my Mother is a brilliant artist and a very spiritual person who was an activist in the plowshares movement where she was aquainted (among many other interesting people) Phil Berrigan, and has done work with Creativity Heals, an offshoot of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They are both very active in the community and both consider themselves artists, and as I was raised in Milwaukee, I got to meet a lot of very interesting people, activists and artists.
My parents would take me to demonstrations with groups like peace action, and to volunteer with them at the Casa Maria Catholic Worker house for the homeless. My dad would take me to the Socialist meetings where I would usually get quite bored, so I would go downstairs where Frank Ziedler would let me look through books in his office. My parents always encouraged my creative energies, and so at the age of eleven I made my debut on stage at the First Stage Children s Theatre of Milwaukee as Ralph the Mouse in “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” in which the Journal Sentinal said I “brought the stage to life with gusto”. Later I appeared in “The Best Christmas pageant ever” and with the Modjeska theater “Aida”. My last play was the Modjeska’s “Urban Sound Underground” which I was kicked out of before the premier for smoking a cigarette outside at the age of roughly fourteen.
My mother was in the mental hospital, and my acting career was caput, so in middle school I was a bit of a miscreant and detractor against the governance model. Me and a couple friends formed a punk rock group called The Calamities. Our drummer’s father was John Sieger, a popular local musician who performed at our first ever Art Not Apathy gathering. I dropped out of middle school, was home schooled and then found out about the Alliance School. So I strove toward completion of high school at the Alliance school of Milwaukee, a school that I consider to be one of the greatest in the country. My teachers introduced me to different groups in the community that eventually led to all of the connections I made for Organization for Inspiration. Through my high school experience I experimented with musical groups, film making, zine writing, poetry, creative writing and many other things. I was acquainted with and inspired by groups in the community including Bucketworks, the Cream City collectives, the Milwaukee Network for Social Change, the queer zine archiving project, and many others, including your site Godsil!
Godsil. Wow! You stand on the shoulders of yin and yang giants!
Hey. And I feel that I am always working with yin and Yang giants as well. I have met so many extraordinary people through this organization that have been so much help. And I’m sure I will always be meeting more. There are a lot of bodhisattvas in Milwaukee.
Godsil. Who were your most inspiring teachers at the Alliance School?
Hey. I’d have to say my most inspiring teachers at the alliance school were Paul Moore and Tina Owen. Paul Moore was more than a teacher to me, he became my friend. He could relate to the teenage consciousness and socialize with us while teaching, he could do that very well. He introduced me to authors like Robert Anton Wilson, artists like tool and Alex Grey, and things like the Mandelbrot set. I don’t know where I would be without his guidance. He would give me rides to school and we would talk about philosophy, music and all sorts of wonderful things. Tina Owen was one of the main people who really guided me to believing that I really can achieve what I want to accomplish. I remember my friend once told her that he really wanted to do something about the struggle in Darfur after learning about in in class. She told him to contact his favorite musical groups, and organize a benefit show. He replyed that all of his favorite musical groups are off on tour and wouldnt have the time for some high school kid’s benefit show. She told him that it can be done, that they are just folks like us, and they want to help the world as much as we do. She is a very inspiring person, and her energy contributed to the spark that ignited Organization for Inspirations mission. But I honestly do not wish to choose favorites when it comes to Alliance. All of the teachers are very dedicated, honest and intellegent individuals all dedicated to the common good. The school was started as a place for kids who had been targets in other schools for being gay, lesbian, punk, goth, nerdy, or different. They try to maintain an environment in which every student has equal rights and abilities to make change within the structure of the school. Wednesdays the have community meetings in which the students and many other people in the community attend, and help to make positive changes for the school. In class, students dont address the teachers by ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’, they address them by their first names. The illusion of authority is vacant, and everyone learns in a family-like environment. So if I was to honestly encompass my opinion of who were the most inspiring teachers at Alliance, I would say all of them. I never once encountered an un-inspiring teacher at that school.
Godsil. So have you spent any time yet with James Carlson of Bucketworks eye on the prize of a Bucketworks “harvest celebration” of the alliance of artists, artisans, and agrarians of Milwaukee this Fall?
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