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Shanai Matteson: Pop-up Art Experiences Cultivating Connections

Felt Here

"The Felt Here pop up is really... asking how the places we live connect to our family histories, the histories of industry and work in a community, and then also the stories that we tell about who we are and how that relates to the future that we imagine for the places we live....One of the things that I try to do with these art projects is really just create an environment where people can visit. I did one of these workshops in Aurora a couple of weeks ago and a couple of the women who showed up told me they were surprised because they kind of were expecting that it would be an instructional like step by step process like you might do at a traditional art workshop, but really I just put all the supplies out, I explain what we're doing, and then I make time for people to come up with an idea that they want to work on and while they're doing that we're just visiting." - Shanai Matteson on her traveling pop up art experience, Felt Here.

This Wednesday, Shanai Matteson will host a pop up art event in Cook, MN.  Her experience is called Felt Here and is open to anyone who saunters up.  Shanai is a cultural organizer passionate about the relationship between art and science being a catalyst for sustainable change.  She's one of the founders and co-directors of Water Bar and Public Studio which is an artist-led organziation that serves water to people with the intention of inspiring conversations about water and building relationships that transform culture. 

We spoke with Shanai about the Felt Here experience she is taking to public spaces around northern Minnesota.  You can take part in her next Felt Here event this Wednesday from 11:00am to 2:00pm.  She'll be popped up at the Northwoods Friends of the Arts in Cook.

"I really enjoy being in that space and hearing new stories all the time...Sometimes I have been really surprised by the stories that I hear. We start out talking about one thing really simple like felting or quilting and we end up sharing stories about our mothers and our grandmothers and the work that was done in our communities and that really leads to, I think, people having surprising connections...I really really think about a lot about how these conversations that we have in our families and in our communities that often happen in really personal spaces - when we bring them into public space and we're able to have those conversations among a wider group of people, how does that change the way that our community relates to one another and the sense of whether we belong in a place or not?  So I think about public art as just doing that relationship building and that creative process in a more public and open way."  - Shanai Matteson on her passion for public art experiences

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. She returned for a second stint in 2016-23. She produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota.
Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.