An Anthro-Historical Artist’s Journey Through the History of a River
Secret History is a journey to discover and collect the lost narratives of people who live and work on the river from the deck of a recreated shantyboat and present these stories through web-based digital archives and a touring art installation.
Find out more about the Secret History project here.
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One of my goals in returning to the Upper Mississippi was to talk to people using the river in its frozen state. I’d been hearing stories of ice fishermen for years on Prairie Home Companion, but had never seen or experienced it.
The river was only partially iced in and so there were few ice fishermen out there. But I passed by Lake Winona nearby and saw fishing shacks out on the ice. I walked out carefully on the slippery ice and talked to Bud and Sparky who were spending the evening fishing.
I went down to La Crosse Wisconsin to track down Jim Ehrsam who I couldn’t find. So I went back to the boathouses on the Black River where the shantyboat Dotty was docked for several days this summer.
I hung out on the train bridge for a bit taking photographs and then went down where boathouses line each bank. I sat for a bit and watched the partially frozen river which inexplicably had large fish carcass out upon the ice.
The other day I had just finished talking to the great people at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum which boasts an amazing collection of art by European masters and contemporary artists.
I had a moment or two before my next interview so I went down to the river where the boathouses on Frog Pond had already iced in. I experimented walking on the frozen river. It was so strange to see places where the ice was completely clear and you could see rocks and driftwood along the bottom.
Tomorrow I am leaving for Minnesota and Wisconsin for a week of intense interviewing. 14 interviews in 6 days.
Along with river experts, artists, and community engagement people, I hope to be talking to Hmong, Vietnamese, African-American, and Prairie Island Indian folk who are connected with the river.
Along with all my cold weather gear, computer, books and so on, I have to bring all the audio and video equipment to conduct interviews. And of course Sam the Cat.
It is supposed to be a balmy low 30s this week, a virtual heat wave in the Minnesota winter.
Wish me luck.