The Friendship Committee

  • Felt, video animation, paper, photography
  • 70 x 216.5 x 20.25 in
  • Wesley Fawcett Creigh

MSP Terminal 2, Gate H10

Arizona-based artist Wesley Fawcett Creigh spent 6-weeks in Otter Tail County in the winter of 2018 as part of her Hinge Arts Homecoming Residency. During this time, she focused on recording and contextualizing the experiences of Pelican Rapids and Fergus Falls residents. The initial phase involved collecting audio interviews with residents that range the spectrums of age, culture, religion, race, and gender, centering these conversations around topics of “home” and “belonging.” This research period yielded a series of two-dimensional “felt paintings” and multi-media installations featuring video and audio.

Consisting of many recent immigrant and refugee families, the multi-cultural community of Pelican Rapids was an inspiration to Wesley. As an artist who lives and works primarily on the US-Mexico border, Wesley was interested in exploring the dynamics of immigration in a small, rural Minnesota town. Initially drawn to the visual contrasts that make this town unique, she soon learned about its legacy of community action, education, and strength.

Hinge Arts at the Kirkbride:

Wesley Fawcett Creigh was a participant in Springboard for the Arts’ rural artist residency program, Hinge Arts, based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Hinge Arts at the Kirkbride is a community development and artist residency program which activates cultural programming at or related to the historic Fergus Falls State Hospital, or the “Kirkbride Building,” a former mental hospital that was built in 1890 and closed in 2005.

For over 100 years, the labyrinthine history of institutionalized mental
health treatment evolved in Fergus Falls – a community of 13,000 in the heart of the lakes and prairie of West Central Minnesota. This treatment took place on the sprawling, pastoral campus of the Fergus Falls State Hospital, built under the design plan of Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride was a psychiatrist from Pennsylvania, a Quaker, and was one of many pioneers of “moral treatment” for the mentally ill, whose motto was “beauty is therapy.”

These buildings have been closed over time as modes of care and economies have shifted, and now Fergus Falls grapples with the logistical challenges of redevelopment, the complex history of an identity tied to mental health care, and rising to meet the challenges faced by rural towns all over America.

In 2011, Springboard for the Arts, with the Friends of the Kirkbride and the Otter Tail County Historical Society, saw the opportunity to engage artists in the past and future of the State Hospital building. They worked together on various projects and eventually launched Hinge Arts, inviting artists to live in
a former nurse’s dormitory to do projects related to themes of rural/urban reciprocity, community transition, wellness and healing, rural equity and history. Today, over 100 artists from across the country have participated in Hinge Arts.

Creigh participated in the “Homecoming” residency track of Hinge, which invites artists who have roots in West Central Minnesota, but now live elsewhere, to return to the region and reconnect with their communities and foster interaction about local issues with their art.

Unfortunately in 2019, selective demolition of portions of the campus began, and despite being on the National Historic Registry, the building’s future remains uncertain. We continue to believe that the presence of visiting artists on the campus helps the community take pride in the history and potential of this important national asset.

Learn more about this program and other ways Springboard for the Arts is building a national movement of “Creative People Power” at www.springboardforthearts.org/hinge.

Hinge Arts is made possible by ArtPlace America, the National Endowment for the Arts, and West Central Initiative’s Change Maker’s Grant.

  • Subject Matter: Community Engagement
  • Collections: Exhibitions (Past)

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