|Image by Kristina Fong|
A new placemaking project by Fiona MacNeill explores campaign offices of elections gone by through the lens of a faux candidate, Corey Dor
, who has set up an office along University Avenue.
MacNeill lived for three years along University Avenue at the Carleton Artists Lofts, a time that included the 2008 election cycle. "I noticed that there was so much transition with the campaign offices coming and going," she says. She was intrigued by the energy these offices had. "It was almost tangible," she says.
|Photo by Terry Gydesen|
When the opportunity came up to do a project with Irrigate, which supports art projects along the Central Corridor, she discussed with them the idea she had for doing a project about different historical campaign offices between Eustis and Vandalia along University Avenue. They have popped up along the avenue over the years, she says, because of its central location and affordable rents. "The neighborhood has a particularly strong history of grassroots movement and neighborhood involvement," MacNeill says.
She looked to see if there were any records of where these places had been, but she found that there was very little information, as most of the offices used P.O. boxes. Even in their finance statements the addresses weren't included. For the most part, most of the campaign offices have little to no record of where they existed, with a couple of exceptions, such as the Wellstone campaign office.
The fact that she had such a hard time finding the addresses got her even more excited. "This amazing part of the neighborhood that had been there for years wasn't recorded beyond the collective memory," she says.
|Photo by Tucker MacNeill|
The piece became about making connections to excavate and explore the collective memories of those places, MacNeill says.
She began by interviewing people. She started with a few people who were friends of friends, who then connected her to others who had been involved in various campaighs. She also partnered with the Anthony Park Community Council, where Amy Sparks, the executive director, introduced her to a whole network of information through the organization's list serve.
"Each connection I made opened up five more connections," says MacNeill.
MacNeill was able to meet Terry Gydesen, a longtime freelance photographer who has won three McKnight Fellowships over her 25-year career. Gydesen documented Wellstone's office and made a book about Wellstone and his campaign.
Gydesen gave permission for MacNeill to use some of her photographs in the show. MacNeill calls them "rich historical evidence."
The project entails two parts. The first is a storefront at 2401 University Avenue, which is part of Wellstone's former office. "You can still see where aspects of Wellstone's office existed," she says, such as places where you can see there used to be a door, or a window.
The space is going to become a faux campaign office and micro museum that encapsulates MacNeill's research about the area. It includes images of campaign offices, both before and after the elections. Work by Tucker MacNeill, Avye Alexander, Gydesen, and others will be displayed.
There will also be yard signs MacNell has collected from various periods. MacNeill has looked through all the historical images and taken inspiration from what different campaigns used on their walls. "These spaces are so transient," she says.
For the exhibition, MacNeill will be inviting visitors to add to the aesthetic, adding their own homemade elements. "People in these offices make these places magical," she says. "They bring an energy to it.
There will also be some large-scale photographs you'd expect to find in a campaign office, and an American flag, always placed near the back of the room so it's visible when you enter.
The other part of the project is a collection of yard signs posted in buildings that used to house campaign offices. The signs will have a phone number listed, where people can call and listen to a one-minute oral history about the historical campaign, or scan a code with their smart phone to visit the website.
Corey Dor for the House
will be up on Thursday, August 23, through Sunday, August 26. Open hours are Thursday and Friday, 3 - 9 p.m., Saturday noon - 11 p.m. and Sunday noon - 6 p.m. The opening reception is Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m.
The politician named in the show, Corey Dor, is a constructed personality, MacNeill says. Some people have already gotten confused, believing that Dor is a real politician. "I thought that was really great," she says. The opening, on Saturday, will have lots of activities, such as self-guided tours and crafts, like making a miniature lawn sign or protest signs, or "other things you would expect to have in a campaign," MacNeill says.