Deep Space After Thoughts by Michele Anderson

This July the Traveling Museum had the pleasure of working with an outstanding team of artists in Fergus Falls, MN for the launch of our Artist Residency Pilot Program.  The week long collaborative residency exceeded all expectations and included musicians Michele Anderson and Dan Olson along with visual artist Naomi Schliesman. We look forward to the continued expansion of the Traveling Museum Residency Program in 2015.  A special thank you to Michele Anderson for sharing her thoughts on the experience.


Deep Space after thoughts.   Michele Anderson                                                        

The day that Naomi Schliesman asked me to collaborate with her and Dan Olson on a sound/art installation for the Traveling Museum, I was complaining, no—whining to her, teary eyed, about how hard of a time I was having connecting with my musical identity while balancing my professional life as an arts administrator and community organizer.

But when she said, “Well, why don’t you do this Traveling Museum project with us,” I did a 180. I was terrified beyond words at the thought of sharing my music with my community, which had really never experienced it since I moved here three years ago. So, I tried to get out of it and to retreat back into my comfortable world behind my office desk. She didn’t let me, though. She is awesome like that.

Music has always been part of my identity. My body. My way of expressing myself when I really struggled to find words, or when my voice wouldn’t even work, especially throughout my childhood. In college, I spent more hours in the practice room than anywhere else, memorizing Berg’s piano sonata, analyzing twelve-tone music, and composing a one-man operetta called “The End of the World is a Love Story.”

Outside of the academic world, and especially in a rural town, it’s incredibly hard to find context for classical piano and new music. Sure, I could give a recital here, but I would have to find time to practice for at least six months first, and then people would sit there in silence and stare at me and expect so much of me – what if I f%&* up after all these years and just couldn’t perform anymore? And yes, okay, I can go to the Fergus Falls Space Station any night and “jam” with my pals, who are amazing rock musicians, but it’s just still not the same and I tend to gravitate more towards the tambourine than the piano, cause after all that training no one really ever taught me to “jam.”

I know for a fact that I’m not the only person out who makes excuses like these not to create, or who struggles to find context for their creative work while maintaining leadership roles (not to mention things that I don’t yet relate to, like raising a family). This is why I am so excited that the Traveling Museum exists and that I got to experience firsthand how it will impact artists as it travels around the country. They and their communities are in for a truly unique experience of creating and participating in art.

For the week that we hosted the Traveling Museum in Fergus Falls, collaborating with Dan and Naomi helped me to dig through layers of sediment that had piled up through the years of my musical rut, and start to see my experiences throughout all of that silence more as a tool than as a barrier. The intentional limited time (one week) and space (9’ x 6’) of this artist residency experience also took the pressure off of creating something that was “Worth It” for an audience to see, but instead something quite more special – a quick, invigorating splash in the deep and unknown waters of our creativity, and an invitation for others to jump in if they wished.

The incentive to collaborate with Naomi and Dan made for clarifying lessons about the unique ways we express ourselves, rather than how we should show off our talents. While Naomi sat in the front room extracting teeth from a deer skull, glue-gunning felted objects to a turtle shell, and installing metallic material around every surface of the inside of the museum, Dan and I worked in the sound booth, tinkering with three song ideas that were an answer to Naomi’s concept for her rendition of the museum: “Deep Space.” It turned out that my classical/folk background and Dan’s glam-rock approach were the ideal combination to create a soundscape for the ethereal and the archeological objects that Naomi was creating just yards away from us.

But the best part was that we didn’t allow ourselves to focus on perfection. Dan and I attempted to record each track on its first take, because the two of us also had a ridiculous amount of responsibilities that week (Dan has a one-year old son and was in the process of moving to a new apartment). The rawness of the recordings is something that sweetly reminds me of the relationships that are necessary to make great art and music. As we became more comfortable with this intentional imperfection, we invited several other Space Station “regulars” to add vocal tracks as they came in, a process which resulted in some moments with friends and strangers that I will never forget.

The night that the museum opened, the Space Station hosted a studio performance of the band Air is Air, which drew a large, younger crowd. As the sun set and people stood outside socializing, they had the chance to step into this installation and reported experiences ranging from meditative, to disturbed, to confused, to inspired. The museums’ fleeting presence created a sense of lightness for me as an artist, and I relaxed away from my usual desire to hyper-communicate “the process,” and “the intention,” and instead enjoyed having people I knew talk to me about what they thought even if they didn’t know it was my voice or my music coming out of the speakers.

Did I mention that Fergus Falls is a pretty small town, and that Dan, Naomi and I also happen to make up the entire staff at Springboard for the Arts’s office here? Let’s just say that didn’t matter in this context. We really wanted this to be about our connections with one another as artists, rather than as colleagues. That said, I would highly recommend the Traveling Museum as a unique non-cheesy team-building retreat for other arts organizations – the three of us have a new understanding of one another and I’ve noticed that we’ve been laughing a lot more in our office lately. Which can only be good for the artists we work with, right? And hey, I already have two new music gigs lined up as a result of people in the community learning that I can do this stuff too. So I think I can call myself a musician again. That feels pretty darn great.

Deep Space artists: Michele Anderson, Dan Olson and Naomi Schliesman inside Deep Space with visitors
Michele Anderson, Dan Olson and Naomi Schliesman with visitors inside the Deep Space installation

Michele Anderson lives and works in Fergus Falls, MN where she is the Rural Program Director at Springboard for the Arts AND a musician.

For more photos from the public event visit our IMAGE GALLERY

Traveling Museum Launches Artist Residency Pilot Program

residency-logoThe Traveling Museum’s Artist Residency Pilot Program brings innovative flexibility through creative mobility to the artist residency concept.   When developing this program, the Traveling Museum considered the common limitations that may restrict an artist from participating in a traditional residency program:

  • Inability to travel due to family and/or work obligations
  • Limited residency opportunities within an artists’ geographic region
  • Desire to work in a specific location where residency facilities do not or cannot exist.

The Museum’s objective is to develop a dynamic and feasible residency program that will bring the flexibility of time, space and place for artists and communities to benefit from the art residency experience.

The Traveling Museum Artist Residency Pilot Program will take place in Fergus Falls, MN with a weeklong project by visual artist Naomi Schliesman and musician/sound artist Dan Olson.

The Schliesman/Olson team will be working collaboratively July 20-26th to create an installation of sound and art objects within the Traveling Museum. Stop by the Fergus Falls Space Station throughout the week to watch the project unfold and attend the public reception on July 26th from 4 – 8pm

The Traveling Museum’s Artist Residency Pilot Program is made possible by a McKnight Mid-Career Professional Development Grant through Forecast Public Art.

Naomi RaMona Schliesman is a multi-media artist working with the ideas of sculpture, installation and public art to create physically engaging environments. She was a recipient of a fellowship from the Ragdale and Kimmel Hardening Nelson Center for the Arts. Naomi has participated in residency programs at Vermont Studio Center, VT and Hospitalfield Arts in Arbroath, Scotland. She exhibits her work nationally and resides in rural Fergus Falls where she serves as the Artist Development Coordinator for Springboard for the Arts’ rural office.

Dan Olson has been writing and recording music for 15 years and founder of the musical group Radio On. Through the support of a LRAC Legacy Grant, Olson has launched Space Station, a multi purpose performance/recording venue in Fergus Falls. Space Station strives to be a resource for performing artists in the lakes area by providing the tools to establish an audio/video presence online.



Word Play by Mary Bergs

The Traveling Museum is pleased to announce Mary Bergs has been selected for the August Pop Up Exhibit at the Willmar Public Library.

Mary works with discarded materials and found objects. Through careful re-arrangement, she explores unexpected relationships and associations. Informed by the material and form of the familiar, her sculptures, installations, and drawings obscure and re-invent meaning in forgotten objects.

Word Play, for the Traveling Museum, will focus on her ongoing interest in altering found book pages from an unfinished manuscript by Robert Louise Stevenson. “For me, working with words in this way reminded me of the magical experience of learning to read, “discovering” the alphabet”, said Mary Bergs.

Mary Bergs is a visual artist based out of Minneapolis. She has exhibited her work throughout Minnesota, is a State Arts Board grand recipient, and was recently included in the Minnesota Museum of American Art 2014 Biennial.

Word Play will be presented at the Willmar Public Library on Saturday, August 2nd.

Thinking About Thinking by Mary Bergs
Thinking About Thinking by Mary Bergs
All She Knew By Mary Bergs
All She Knew By Mary Bergs

The Traveling Museum at Danebod Folk School

DSC_0024As part of the annual SMAC artist retreat at the Danebod Folk Art School, Rural Aesthetic Initiative was invited to create a collaborative, on-site project. Through research and interviews, the team developed short, visual, poetic prompts about the history of Danebod that invited attending artists to create responsive drawings.

The project examined ideas exploring collective memory, historicising place, building community, and the process of translating legacy. The day started with the Museum filled with blank pieces of paper that were an inventory of phrases and titles. Slowly, as images developed from these notes, a picture of Danebod’s past and present formed.

Thanks to Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, The Danebod Folk School and the artists who helped make this collaboration a success.

For more images of the day visit our IMAGE GALLERY

Rural Aesthetic Initiative awarded McKnight Grant

Rural Aesthetic Initiative has been awarded a McKnight Mid-Career Professional Development Grant through Forecast Public Art.  The team will use this funding to develop programs and opportunities to expand the territory of the Traveling Museum.

The Forecast Public Art Grant Program supports risk-taking, interdisciplinary approaches and collaborative problem solving. With support from Jerome Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, and Minnesota’s regional arts councils, the program offers financial awards along with training, technical assistance, career advice, networking opportunities, documentation, insurance certificates and promotion.

Rural Aesthetic Initiative is honored to included in this year’s outstanding group of grantees. You can learn more about the artists’ projects here.

Special thanks to Forecast Public Art and The McKnight Foundation for supporting public art and Minnesota artists.


OPEN CALL: one day pop-up project

One Day Pop-up Project

Proposal Deadline: May 26, 2014 

Stipend: $250 for the selected proposal

Project Date: August 2, 2014 Noon – 4pm

Project Location: In The Traveling Museum, parked at the Willmar Public Library, Willmar, MN

The Traveling Museum, in partnership with the Willmar Public Library (Pioneerland Library System), invites proposals from artists of all disciplines to create a dynamic, temporary, site-specific project in conjunction with the Library’s annual Local Authors’ Round Table Discussion. The proposal should spark dialogue between the public, the Traveling Museum space, and the idea of the written word in some manner. Any medium and strategy that employs a contemporary approach to Public Art will be considered. Projects proposed should be contained and presented within the Traveling Museum, which will be on site at the Willmar Public Library.

Eligibility: All Minnesota residents, at least 18 years of age

Application Materials:

1. Project Description  2. 5-10 work samples –  email Folder of images with labels and One page image list with description 3. Brief Bio/Resume

email application materials info at thetravelingmuseum dot com


Winter Painting On Green Lake

The Traveling Museum on Green Lake in Spicer, MN

On March 2nd (the last day for removal of fish houses for the 2014 ice fishing season) the Traveling Museum presented “Winter Painting” by Andrew Nordin.  Below zero temps and bright sunshine welcomed museum visitors which included; a family in a minivan, a handful of lone fishermen, a few dedicated art patrons, and a hero with a bobcat.


2/22/14 – Disco Infused – featuring DJ Black Lacquer


Traveling Museum Ribbon Cutting/Rural Aesthetic Initiative Studio Open House.

Check out the new mobile lab for contemporary art and enjoy a hot disco infused fever courtesy of DJ Black Lacquer (aka Scott Stulen). The Traveling Museum will also be taking your suggestions for future curatorial and programming ideas. Take a Disco Break and head inside Rural Aesthetic Initiative Studios featuring new work by Lisa Bergh and Andrew Nordin, a mellower soundtrack, great conversation and beverages.

Find us at Rural Aesthetic Initiative Studio – 28 Main Street in New London, MN. ENTER RAI STUDIO BEHIND BUILDING.   5:30 until whenever.