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Grin City to Restructure

Lily Bohlke

Visitors to Burling Library may notice a new addition to the north-facing windows. The writing on the windows of Burling Library is part of a project started by the ‘Grin City Collective,’ an artist residency program on the Lacina family farm north of town on Highway 146.

After almost 10 years of operation on the farm, the collective is preparing a transition away from the residency aspect of the organization and towards becoming a more community-focused, project-based organization.

The Lacina family farm is a 320-acre farm that has served as an agricultural farm and a tofu factory. The farm became an art residency when Joe Lacina founded the Grin City Collective in 2006.

For up to six months at a time, artists from anywhere in the world come to the farm and collaborate with local artists to make use of their creative time and space, according to

Now Lacina is planning to step down from Grin City, move his farm back towards agriculture and focus on his own art, which, according to co-director of Grin City Collective and Residency Coordinator Molly Rideout, can be hard to do with so much commotion on the farm. The transition is planned to take place in August 2016.

Rideout sees this transition as an opportunity for Grin City Collective to redefine itself. The essence of the collective revolves around three concepts: collaboration, social practice art and supporting artists, according to Rideout. Even without the farm, the collective can still act upon these ideas.

Although Rideout sees a great opportunity in this transition, a negative consequence of moving off of the farm is losing some fun, communal aspects of the residency itself.

“We built a dock out to our sea of alfalfa, and we would all hang out there,” Rideout said. “Things like that will be missing.”

Grin City Collective is currently exploring new project options as well as potentially expanding some that have been successful in the past. One public art project that Rideout is interested in expanding is public writing in public libraries. Rideout started the project to find an outlet for writing other than traditional literary publications.

“Nobody reads literary publications,” Rideout said. “Except those trying to get published in them.”

Rideout and other artists with the collective put excerpts from poetry, fiction and other contemporary writing on the windows of various libraries within about a 100-mile radius of Grinnell.

As Rideout and three other writers installed the art on the windows, onlookers were immediately curious, asking questions of the artists about the project.

“Confusion in a situation like this can be a good thing,” Rideout said.

According to Rideout, the collective is hoping to expand this project into Minnesota and even as far as Maine. However, Grin City Collective is currently under the Grinnell Area Arts Council, which is an umbrella organization with geographic limitations. Partly for this reason, the Collective is transitioning away from the Arts Council as well as the residency program to become an independent nonprofit organization, according to their press release.

In addition to creating more artistic and emotional connections with the community, Rideout hopes that the collective will begin to become more financially sustainable.

In the past, many outside artists would come to Grinnell through the residency and as a result some of the community relations may not be as strong as they could be with local artists.

Regardless of whether Grin City Collective continues their residency program or shifts to focus solely on community-based public art projects, according to Rideout, the essence of the organization and their mission will remain.

“It’s about connecting artists to the community,” she said.

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