Thursday, May 29, 2014

Citizen artists

Our "Imagine the IMAGINING" meeting last night drew about a dozen of us to the upstairs room at Coffee Talk in Taylors Falls. There'll be another gathering tomorrow night at 6 PM Friday, May 30, at Pub 112 in Stillwater, MN. We're trying to figure out how to engage lots of folks ("citizen artists") in imagining what we would like the St. Croix Valley to be like in 2034 (twenty years) and how arts and culture can help it get there and become more mainstream along the way.

looking downstream to St. Croix and Taylors Falls
looking downstream to St. Croix and Taylors Falls     © harrington

One thing that occurred to me is the valley is geographically large, about 160 miles long and approximately 7,760 square miles in size, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It's divided between two states and among a number of counties and cities and townships in each state, plus the federal National Park Service is a major stakeholder. This all presents a challenge in creating an identity residents of, workers in, and visitors to the valley can relate to. The valley is also one of the more ecologically diverse regions of Minnesota, encompassing parts of three biomes: the coniferous forest, the deciduous forest, plus some prairies interspersed. It has long been a region to which people came looking for a better life. For the most part, we've found it. Now, a large part of our job is to not screw it up.

Wild River State Park signage
Wild River State Park signage    © harrington

The valley has some great things going for it that complement its natural beauty. Much of the built environment exists at a very human scale. There are a number of organizations protecting the watershed while promoting responsible use and development (think gooses and golden eggs). There are also continuing challenges to the proper balance between use of the commons and private initiatives. One of the things I'm hoping the arts can do is to help improve our understanding of the uses and benefits of our commons. I'm also hoping this effort strengthens a sense of community throughout the valley. Stay tuned for further developments. Meanwhile, please read and think about this 17th century folk poem.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

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