Meet Our Citizen-Artists
Decorah, IA >> SUMMER 2020
Explorer of Food & Culture
Elisabeth A. Fondell is a recent transplant to Decorah, IA, where she enjoys foraging for morels, growing herbs on her countertop, and supporting the local food economy of the Driftless region.
Elisabeth received a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council in 2017 to create a body of work centered on food and the human experience, which launched her focus on food writing. By capturing images of food in everyday life, Elisabeth continues to use food as a lens to examine our storied relationship to tradition, identity, and home. Her work has been published in GRLSQUASH, Eastern Iowa Review, Image,and more.
As the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist, Elisabeth plans to collect and recount stories of culinary resilience during this unprecedented time. Her work will focus primarily on growers, food producers, restaurants, and residents of Houston County, with a glimpse at the greater Driftless region. The project will evolve as the summer unfolds with the overall goal of telling stories of rural Midwesterners and the food that sustains them.
Share a story, recipe, local product or flavor with Elisabeth here:
Minneapolis, MN >> JUNE 2019
Designer, Printmaker, & Community Organizer
Katie Blanchard is a community artist and designer. She grew up in rural Northern Michigan, where the immediacy of small-town politics gave her an early interest in grassroots organizing and creative community-building. As an artist and organizer, she explores the weight of meaning and possibility in our relationships during uncertain times. Katie paints and prints in a spirit of celebration—and also protest—creating images that evoke questions about how we might work together towards abundance, strength, and delight in our shared future. She has worked on campaigns to decriminalize immigration, as well as within food system initiatives. Katie currently creates great things for inspiring community organizations as an artist-designer with Bloom & Glory Art and Design.
NICK BYRON CAMPBELL
Los Angeles, CA >> AUG 2019
Experimental Environmental Musician
Nick Byron Campbell started life in Cincinnati, Ohio, but began his journey as an artist in New York City, as part of the band Arizona. After releasing multiple albums and touring alongside artists including Band of Horses and the Indigo Girls, the band came to an end and Nick started his next project, Wages. This project took him to Los Angeles where his experiments in sound art began.
Frustrated by the limitations of traditional recording and performing, Nick started finding unique ways to present music that would be visually interesting, sonically beautiful, and conceptually compelling. This led him to his first art gallery presentation in Los Angeles, a piece titled "Pull Through" that was installed and performed on guitars played with automated motors, falling sand, and fishing line that was pulled through the strings. A video of that piece led to invitations for installations and showings across the United States, from New York's Sheila C. Johnson Design Center to Montana's Hatch Festival to San Francisco's Zoo Labs and beyond.
At the center of each piece created by Nick is his initial desire to create music in a unique way that allows listeners to engage with it as art, outside of commerce and the normal set of expectations for music.
JAMES SPARTZ, Ph.D
Unity, ME >> AUG 2019
Ecomusicologist & Environmental Communications Scholar
James T. Spartz is a Driftless Minnesota native now teaching environmental communication at Unity College in Maine. His teaching and research interests include understanding the role of place in environmental communication, perceptions of land use change, and cultural ecosystem services.
As a graduate of the Mass Communication Ph.D. program at University of Wisconsin’s Dept. of Life Sciences Communication, he's served as a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory and the national R&D lab of the U.S. Forest Service.
Spartz also holds an M.A. from the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the UW-Madison and a B.S. in Psychology from the UW-La Crosse.
Duluth, MN >> SEPT 2019
Place-based Artist & Community Storyteller
Nik Nerburn is an artist working in collaboration with place. He makes films, books, photos, and zines. While working as an educator and exhibiting artist, he also develops long-term documentary projects that tell stories about communities and enlarge the common life. He organizes free family picture days, storefront photo shows, live- narrated neighborhood home-movies, marathon polaroid portrait giveaways, and rural outdoor experimental cinema screenings.
Guided by the belief that sharing stories can create bridges across great differences, he collaborates with neighborhood organizations, public housing residents, churches, corner stores, families, small businesses, after- school programs, non-profits, libraries, and museums. He lives and works in Duluth, Minnesota, on the far western shore of Lake Superior.
Freeburg, MN >> JUNE 2018
Rural-focused Architectural Designer
Miranda Moen is an emerging architectural designer originally from the Freeburg area in Houston Co., MN. She is currently a graduate student at Iowa State University pursuing her Master of Architecture degree and received her Bachelor of Design in Architecture degree and a minor degree in Neuroscience in 2015 from the University of Minnesota. Her interests lie at the intersection of how cultural background, history, and lifestyle influence built structures, especially in the rural Midwest. As an aspiring architect her work centers around rural design, housing, cultural architecture, and the social workings of place. After working in two Minneapolis architecture firms from 2015-2017, she enrolled in a 6-week summer course entitled, “Norwegian Architecture and Design” at the University of Oslo in Norway. The experience left her enamored with rural design of her ancestors, being half-Norwegian herself, and has carried into her graduate work where she studies the ties between ancestral heritage and its role in redefining the architecture of the rural Midwest. She is currently fascinated with Norwegian heritage structures around Houston County, MN and the architectural foundations of Norwegian-American farmsteads.
Metro Detroit, MI>> JULY 2018
Writer & Place-based Educator
Rachael Shay Button is a writer, a teacher, an activist, and a place-based educator. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. Over the past nine years, Rachael has been (among other things) an adjunct professor, a farm hand, a naturalist, a middle school teacher, a wilderness trip leader, a marketing coordinator, an environmental stewardship teaching fellow, and a high school cross country coach. Rachael’s essays and poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pank, The Collagist, Creative Nonfiction, Diagram, and Redivider, among other journals. You can read more on her website.
Decorah, IA >> AUG 2018
Place-based Food Artist & Chef
Peter Kraus cultivates a love for farming and food that goes back to growing up on a small diversified farm outside of Decorah, Iowa, where he took part in growing produce for farmers markets and restaurants, in addition to tending a menagerie of sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and other fowl. Romping through the woods and pastures, Peter learned about foraging for wild foods, fishing, and ecology and found joy in the annual rhythm of preserving the harvest with canning, dehydrating and fermentation projects. For Peter, identifying the local flora and fauna, going to farmers’ markets, making wild raspberry jam, and feeding the chickens is what started and continues to provide his deepest sense of home and joy.
In the process of placemaking and returning to his Driftless roots, Peter works on his parents’ farm, teaches classes, and makes beautiful locally-grown food. He dreams of a Driftless cuisine that is celebrated and shaped in community, and made up of the native flavors of its forests, pastures and rivers, and supports the many small farms well suited to the region’s beautifully diverse and awe-inspiring landscape.
Harry Graff Kimball
New York City, New York >> JUNE 2017
Harry Graff Kimball is a songwriter, producer, and builder-storyteller who strives to capture places and spaces in lyrical story-songs. Kimball works in American idioms—musical, mythical, and historiographical—while searching for authentic, individual truths. His compositions surprise with the depth of emotion he brings to the odd and the everyday. As a songwriter, he borrows Neil Young’s apocalyptic streak and Warren Zevon’s playful world-weariness, adding the lyrical density of Stephen Malkmus and the literary sensibilities of Bill Callahan.
Kimball is a lifelong New Yorker who maintains spiritual homes in rural Connecticut and the Adirondack mountains. A classical guitarist by early training and a member of the late '90s, almost-almost-famous NYC indie group Ensimismada, Kimball is also the bassist and co-founder of Los Chinches, the only group ever described as a “Pavement-meets-Dead Kennedys" revelation. He is also a halfway-decent carpenter, an inveterate tinkerer, and a budding amp maker. He writes speeches to pay the bills.
Caledonia / Minneapolis, MN >> AUG 2017
Community Builder & Podcaster
Community and stories are at the heart of Melissa Wray's creative work. She grew up on a sheep farm near Caledonia, MN, and often feels an internal tension between her rural roots and her present urban life. This tension informs much of her writing and community work. Melissa, along with her sister Amanda Wray Ninneman, founded Hazel & Wren in 2011, a community resource organization for writers. As a writer herself, she mostly writes poetry and creative nonfiction. She is the Marketing Coordinator at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where she produces The Loft Podcast. She graduated with a Masters in Arts & Cultural Leadership from the University of Minnesota in spring 2018.
Minneapolis, MN >> AUG 2017
Media Artist & Journalist
Todd Melby is a reporter, interactive producer and filmmaker. He 's best known as lead producer of Black Gold Boom, a public media project documenting North Dakota's oil boom—and bust. His radio stories have aired on MPR, Marketplace and The World. He's also a senior producer at 2 below zero, a public media nonprofit. In 2013, he was awarded a McKnight Media Artist Fellowship.
Victoria, BC >> SEPT 2017
Sound Artist & Human Geographer
Cimarron Corpé is a human geographer whose interests focus on landscapes and the role sound and images play in our spatial orientation and construction of place. His doctoral research at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia examined the interconnections between residents' sense of place, place-based strategies, and climate change adaptive capacity for a rapidly developing peri-urban coastal region. He employs a variety of artistic mediums and draws inspiration from the convergence of environmental psychology, topography, cultural practices, and the built environment. Cimarron's work spans sound and image installations, photographic exhibits, audio recordings, and sound and visual performances. His creative works have been presented in Berlin, Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Sydney, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Portland, and Seattle. Cimarron is currently Director of Policy Development with the Province of British Columbia where he leads projects including technical building requirements, energy efficiency, accessibility, and climate leadership in the built environment.