September 2017, citizen-artist and human geographer Cimarron Corpé (Victoria, BC) fully immersed himself in a weeklong residency in Houston Co.
His community workshop at Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trail introduced locals to the practice of creating and learning from field recordings collected where they live. Photo by Erin Dorbin.

Artists reveal Houston County inspired work at capstone event


Inaugural 2017 Houston County residency program arrives at a successful conclusion

What do a singer-songwriter, a podcaster, a radio journalist, and a geographer all have in common? Well, for starters, they each spent a week in Houston County, Minn., last year. And together they produced an impressive body of work inspired by the area. Meet the citizen-artists and experience the culmination of their work, a result of the 2017 Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency, at their capstone event on April 7 at KARST Driftless Guidepost (111 Cedar Street) in Houston, Minn.

The 2017 program was the first year for the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency, the keyword being “citizen-artist.” A citizen-artist is one who engages in the daily life of the residency’s community, not working in solitude, but in conversation with the region around them. Unlike many artist residencies that simply offer a quiet place in which to work, the CAIR program encourages their artists to “be curious, ask questions, stop and have conversations.” This ensures a resulting body of work informed by Houston County itself, which provides unique perspectives on the area to both residents and outsiders.

The residency, based just outside Houston, and which worked in partnership with the Houston Arts Resource Council (HARC), encouraged creatives in non-traditional fields to apply, including public history, architecture and social sciences. Ultimately they received applications from all over North America, and chose four different artists over three separate weeks to champion its inaugural year.

Harry Graff Kimball, a New York-based singer-songwriter, started off the residency in July, and has produced an album of new songs inspired by his time in Houston County. Kimball was followed by podcaster Melissa Wray and radio journalist Todd Melby, both hailing from Minneapolis, in August. During her week in Houston County, Wray recorded 16 interviews in preparation for the first season of her podcast, MinneStory. Melby conducted a number of interviews as well, later producing two audio stories for KFAI’s MinneCulture series. Geographer and sound artist Cimarron Corpé, from British Columbia, finished up the 2017 residency in September, using his time to build a collection of field recordings and images from the area.

Join program coordinators and citizen-artists Harry Graff Kimball and Melissa Wray on Saturday, April 7, from 6-8 p.m., at KARST Driftless Guidepost (111 Cedar Street, Houston, Minn.), for a celebratory evening of music, stories, and sounds, collected and created by all four 2017 citizen-artists. Through lush audio recordings, striking visuals, and conversation, you’ll get to relive what each artist experienced during their residency, including never-before heard field recordings and unseen images. Kimball will perform songs inspired by Houston County, including a tune co-written with residents during his workshop. Wray will introduce season one of her new podcast, MinneStory.

For more information about the Crystal Creek Citizen Artist Residency, visit

About Crystal Creek Citizen-artist Residency

Each year, the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency invites three creative individuals from different disciplines to discover Minnesota’s driftless region and to connect with the people and places of Houston County. The selected Citizen-artists in Residence (CAIRS) will respectively spend seven days producing new works inspired by and in conversation with the region. CAIRS will also share their skills with the community in a series of hands-on workshops.

About Houston Arts Resource Council

HARC is a 507 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, established to promote the arts, artists, and artisans of the Houston area.


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