A Driftless Homecoming ... Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency program highlights 2018 artists

Jordan Gerard

Poems, food and architecture are the results from last year’s Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency program.

During a capstone presentation event held last Monday at KARST in Houston, the three citizen-artists presented the results of their one-week stay in Houston County.

Miranda Moen, Rachael Button and Peter Kraus enjoyed a week in which each explored their passions: architecture, poetry and cuisine, respectively.

Their goal was to find out how those three passions related to Houston County and what they could learn from the county and what the county could give them in return.

At the capstone presentation, the trio told stories and ideas of rural architecture, Driftless cuisine, and the people and places of Houston County through poetry.

Miranda Moen

Moen studied Norwegian and Norwegian-American architecture during her week. Even though she grew up in Houston County in Freeburg, she said the residency allowed her to have time and space to study and inhabit the homes and buildings “people like my ancestors built.”

It led to a “whole year of investigation and exciting things, personally and professionally.”

Through this program, it’s also how she met Spring Grove Economic Development Authority Director Courtney Bergey, who introduced her to the Habitat for Humanity Heritage House project, of which she was the architectural designer. 

Her career goal is for rural people to have housing and design with which they feel dignified, so it can be something that grows with them.

“There are architectural details that we can tap into that Spring Grove residents would connect to,” she said. “There are small adaptations of how Norwegians tried to keep in touch with their traditions.”

Stemming from the residency, Moen also started writing a book that will feature Norwegian-American architecture in Houston County. 

She is hopeful the book will show other architects the benefits of cross-cultural architecture and help them understand “you can’t plop urban architecture in a rural area.”

Currently, Moen continues to work with Habitat for Humanity on the Heritage House project and has also been published in the “Young Architect’s Forum” magazine.

She is also working with The Yes House in Granite Falls, Minnesota, a community gathering space that will have a space to host a resident-artist.


Rachael Button

Button spent her week in Houston County exploring locations on the Driftless area map produced by the citizen-artist program.

Her goal was to create her own narratives about the Driftless Region. She was particularly interested in the way art is connected to a place and what happens when you move it out of its place. 

“Places have a voice. For me, the voice I was writing with is a different voice than the one for Michigan and Detroit,” she said. “This landscape is shaped by rivers here.”

Button added the residency allowed her time to connect with a place, meet people and wander. She noted the ability to slow down is indicative of the landscape.

The community workshop she hosted focused on how writing can be used to deepen a sense of place.

Her essays and poems have appeared in several publications. Many of her works can be seen on her website at www. rachaelshaybutton.wordpress.com, including “The Stone Lady of Black Hammer” poem.

Peter Kraus

Kraus’s goal during his residency was to understand the cuisine of the Driftless Region and how landscape and food traditions go together. He foraged through forests and talked to farmers. 

“There’s food tourists and food pilgrimages. Tourists just eat the food, while food pilgrims understand the deeper cultural connections to it,” Kraus said. 

He said the residency gave him a precious place to learn the stories of Houston County. 

At the capstone presentation, he used sumac and mint to make lemonade, citing that the landscapes here have a lot to offer. 

“It was cool to learn about how each valley and ridge have their own micro-climate,” he added. Kraus also visited B and B Honey Farm, Buffalo Gal Ranch, the elk farm and Blue Fruit Farm near Winona. 

Though he didn’t quite capture the flavor of the land, he said he’ll continue to work on it. 

Kraus commented on the young farmers in the area and noted how brave, courageous, connected to the land, hopeful, steadfast and creative they are. 

“If they weren’t from here, they would come from elsewhere and they brought the driftless spirit with them,” he said. 

About the residency

After each artist presented, they talked about the residency program itself.

Button said she really liked the workshop piece and teaching part of the residency.

“It’s a tremendous privilege and responsibility to be here,” she said. “I loved having time to write, write poems and go meandering.”

Kraus said he enjoyed having a potluck dinner and cooking dinner with people. He’d like to see more public engagement if more culinary artists were to do the residency. 

“Food is so ephemeral. You make it once and it goes away,” he said. 

Moen said she wants “to be a voice for people who grew up like me in a rural place with a connection to solitude, farming and ideas not represented when you go into architecture.”

Session 2

This week James Spartz, PhD, and Nick Byron Campbell will see what music and sound can teach us about our immediate surroundings and eco-cultural community.