Resident artist to explore what defines Houston County


A place can be defined by its geography, name, or property lines, but what really creates a sense of place? Duluth documentarian Nik Nerbum seeks to discover and document what defines Houston County as the final 2019 citizen-artist, for the interdisciplinary Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency (CAIR) program.

Nerburn lives and works in Duluth, Minn., on the far western edge of Lake Superior. He is “guided by the belief that sharing stories can create bridges across great differences.” A collaborator by nature, his process using non-fiction media requires an intimate understanding of a place, only achieved through collaboration, conversation, and deep listening with its residents.

During his residency, Nerbum looks forward to being a conscious observer. The multi-disciplined documentarian will “observe the romance of the human and natural geography, decipher the spirit and history of the landscape, and spend intentional time with Houston County residents, across a wide range of social and private spaces.”

“I want to meet farmers, truck drivers, artists, lock and dam operators, fishermen and women, retail workers, quilters, carpenters, computer programmers, thinkers, doers, and makers from all over Houston County. From Reno to Hokah, Eitzen to Black Hammer, down the Root River and back again. As a committed regionalist, senser of place, and deep listener, I want to spend time with these people and places. The landscape is a library, and I’m a browser,” said Nerburn.

Not only will Nerbum be gathering stories and an understanding of the current fabric of the county, the artist will explore the regional history through archives at the Houston County Historical Society in Caledonia as well as genealogy and local history through the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

In the past, Nerbum has organized free family picture days, storefront photo shows, live-narrated neighborhood home movies, marathon Polaroid portrait giveaways, and rural outdoor experimental cinema screenings, collaborating with neighborhood organizations, public housing residents, churches, corner stores, families, small businesses, after-school programs, libraries, and museums.

Nerburn will be in Houston County from September 15-21, 2019. He is hosting a meet and greet and artist talk, sharing his new photography book, “The Grand Terrace Photo League,” on Tuesday, September 17, at 6 p.m., at KARST (111 East Cedar, Houston, Minn.). You can have a chance to meet Nerbum and share a piece of local story at various “roadside shoptalks” he’ll host around the county, too. Follow his residency on social media at for daily updates about where and when he’ll be hanging out. You can share a cup of coffee, a slice of pie — or a beer — and fill him in on some local knowledge of your own. You may even go home with a free photo book! All events are free and open to the public. To help support the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency program with a donation, please contact residency coordinator Erin Dorbin at, or visit


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