Architectural designer to explore local architecture in week-long residency


Citizen-artist residency in Houston County begins its second year on June 24

When someone says “architecture,” a sleek contemporary city building comes to mind more immediately than this aspiring architect’s current source of inspiration: hidden remnants of stone foundations, only found by parting tall grasses in the old farmsteads of rural Southeast Minnesota. That, and the rough-hewn textures of an aged log cabin, its construction dropping clues of its Norwegian heritage. Miranda Moen, an architectural designer, is the first citizen-artist kicking off the 2018 season of Houston County’s Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency program in late June.

This marks the second year for the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency. 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 Citizen-Artists-in-Residence (CAIR) program encourages its 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 in Mound Prairie, and which is continuing its partnership with the Houston Arts Resource Council (HARC) for the second year, hosted a musician, radio producer/podcaster, and geographer/sound artist during its inaugural 2017 season. This year’s CAIRs include a place-based poet and a food artist, in addition to Moen.

Originally from the Freeburg area of Houston County, Minn., Moen is currently a graduate student at Iowa State University, pursuing her Master of Architecture degree. As an aspiring architect, her work centers around rural design, housing and cultural architecture. Many of her interests lie at the intersection of how cultural background, history and lifestyle influence built structures, especially in the rural Midwest.

So, forget those tall shiny skyscrapers; Moen’s inspiration is actually found in a more unexpected place — the quiet of nature. Moen said of her childhood, “As a kid, I spent a lot of my time in the fields, hills, and forests surrounding my house and felt completely connected to the world around me. Looking back, I can see how formative my time with nature was for my creative development and how that rural space ignites my passion for architecture.”

Then, last year, after working for a few years in Minneapolis architecture firms, Moen enrolled in a six-week summer course at the University of Oslo in Norway. The experience left her enamored with the rural design of her ancestors, being half-Norwegian herself. “My experience growing up in rural Minnesota has since developed into a passion for my Norwegian cultural heritage,” said Moen.

During her residency, Moen will be studying the Norwegian-hewn log cabin, exploring it “as a special artifact of Houston County that deserves to be celebrated for more than just its aesthetics.” She’ll also be searching for and “documenting other Norwegian farmstead architecture that is connected to the Southeast Minnesota identity.”

Not only does she want to study Houston County’s Norwegian buildings, Moen also wants to start conversations with residents. “I would love to get others’ take on identity in Houston County and how architecture does or does not impact them in their daily lives. I would also love to interview members of the community on their views of ‘what is architecture and design?’ As the daughter of a mechanic, I see my dad’s work and think of him as an innovative designer, but I know it isn’t traditionally thought of as ‘design.’”

Moen will be in Houston County from June 24 until June 30, 2018. She is hosting a meet and greet on Tuesday, June 26, at 6 p.m. at The Wired Rooster (Caledonia) and a community workshop on Thursday, June 28, at a location as yet to be determined. At the workshop, Moen will lead participants through a historic property and give a quick lesson on architectural sketching and local history research. She’ll lead a lively group discussion on why rural architecture is both important and relevant to our lives. Both events are free and open to the public; pre-registration is required for the workshop. To register, or to help support the Crystal Creek Artist Residency program with a donation, please contact Residency Coordinator Erin Dorbin at, or visit

About Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency

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 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.

Residency one is from June 24-30 with Miranda Moen, Ames, Iowa, with a meet and greet on June 26 and a workshop on June 28.

Residency two is from July 29-August 4 with Rachael Button, Land O’ Lakes, Wis., with a meet and greet on July 31 and a workshop on August 2. Button is a writer, teacher, activist, and place-based educator. She holds an MFA in creative writing and environment from Iowa State University, and has published essays and poems in journals such as “The Rumpus,” “Painted Bride Quarterly,” “Pank,” “The Collagist,” “Creative Nonfiction,” and more.

Residency three is from August 26 to September 1 with Peter Kraus, Decorah, Iowa, and includes a meet and greet on September 28 and workshop on September 30. Kraus is a place-based food artist and chef hailing from Decorah, Iowa. Working from his parents’ farm, Kraus teaches classes and makes beautiful locally-grown food.

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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