Listening 101 | Alison Holland

There’s a dirt lot at 101 Forest Avenue West, just down the street from my house in the middle of downtown Mora (a rural community of less than 3,600). There was once a run-down feed mill here that the city purchased to demolish after it was no longer in use. There was talk of building a new library, police station, apartments, etc., but that was in the beginning of the recession. Since then, it’s been used a day or two here or there, but there has been no collective energy to move toward a better utilized space.

So in April, May, and June of 2013 I hosted a series of conversations around what a variety of community members would like to see there. And in our conversations, the motion stopping word “no” wasn’t allowed. As an artist engaged in “placemaking” I had a unique opportunity to foster creative conversations free from logistical constraints and prescribed outcomes. I met with people one-on-one, visited classrooms and coffee hours, engaged with families at a summer lunch program, and I even had the opportunity to host conversations with a few organizations (including the Mora Area Chamber of Commerce and the Kanabec County Art Association) during their regular monthly meetings.

On Saturday, June 22, at 11am during the annual Midsummer Festival in downtown Mora, I shared the community’s ideas with a pop-up art show, the project description, a generated list of ideas displayed, a brief movement/dance performance, and face-to-face conversations in the vacant gravel lot.

Though the future of the site is still unknown, the city’s Park Board has recently expressed interest in considering developing a “green space” or park at the site in the spring of 2014. It is my understanding that this would be an interim use as the city still has a long-term vision for creating a multi-use building potentially including a library, community rooms, retail spaces, and apartments on the site.

Video documentation by McGinley Motion.

This project was funded by Forecast Public Art with support from the East Central Regional Arts Council with funds provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

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