(Minnesota) — April 4th, 2023 — A group of Minnesotans are harnessing creativity for a cause. Highly Favored Magazine is a new mission-driven, grassroots arts movement highlighting diverse voices from across Minnesota to open up the conversation on substance use.
“Art and creativity have always been valuable tools for promoting compassion and understanding — which is in fact what inspired us to launch the project,” said Jesse Veils, co-founder and creative director of the project.
The debut issue, available now, features a mix of essays, interviews, poetry, visual arts and more — all produced by artists in Minnesota.
“Even if you’ve never used or encountered substances, they appear, to some degree, in everyone’s lives — through friends, family and community members,” said Andrew Blake Stam, Highly Favored’s co-founder and marketing director.
Veils and Stam say the project began as a way to provide an inclusive and creative space where people can spark meaningful conversation on substances through art and creativity.
“Stories have the power to connect us,” Veils said. “Whoever you are, we all have a story to tell, and you never know whose story might resonate with someone.”
Core to Highly Favored Magazine is its affirmation of the inner value that exists in everyone, a theme reflected by its name. Veils and Stam say “Highly Favored” is a mantra that “I still matter” for anyone who has encountered substances and felt unworthy because of it.
“The voices of people who have used or encountered substances often go unspoken due to shame and stigma,” Stam said. “We hope readers gain a fresh perspective, a broader understanding and ultimately a deeper compassion for others.”
According to Veils and Stam, the ultimate goal of Highly Favored Magazine is to help save lives by breaking the isolation faced by people who use and encounter substances.
“More stories means more representation, which in turn means more understanding and compassion,” Veils said. “People who use and encounter substances have valuable experiences to share, and Highly Favored Magazine is our platform for their talents, ideas and passions.”
Kiki Vonn, a co-founder, development director and contributing staff writer was driven to be involved and give back to the community because of their own experience with alienation and feelings of inadequacy during substance use.
“At many step-based recovery meetings, a common refrain is a prayer of remembrance for ‘the addict still suffering and those left behind,’” Vonn said. “After receiving so much from society, family and friends for so long, I wanted to start giving back and helping those going through similar issues. At Highly Favored Magazine, we want to uplift everyone who is a part of the substance-familiar community, and it’s our mission to truly leave nobody behind in that conversation. If you’ve been affected by substances, your voice matters and you have a place at the table.”
“I’m in awe of the work that has come from all of the incredible artists and writers who submitted for our first issue,” said Caleb Fitz Craig, Highly Favored’s director of operations. “Talent is equal parts skill and passion, and to see the amount of talent shared with us from our community is humbling. We’re doing something important and giving voice to those who would normally be judged and dismissed.”
Jay Orne, PhD, Highly Favored Magazine’s editor-in-chief, similarly hopes that everyone, whether they are in recovery or embrace harm reduction perspectives, will consider contributing.
“Art allows us to show in vivid detail the complexity of people’s lives while using or recovering,” Orne said. “The experiences of those who have encountered substances are richer than what is often portrayed in mainstream media. We have such talent in this community. I remember a number of close friends from when I was using — artists who died without having a chance to show their talents to the world. All deserve a place to be heard.”
Highly Favored Magazine is now available in print and digital formats at www.highlyfavoredmagazine.com. Artists and creative writers interested in contributing to the next issue are invited to view the call for submissions.