Milan Listening House

Organization and community: Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (Southwest region, MN)

The Milan Listening House was a community-generated art exhibit supported by the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership exploring the many meanings of “home” to the residents of Milan (a town with just under 400 residents, which was facing severe population declines until the recent arrival of Micronesian families). A team of local artists, Lucy Tokheim, Lauren Carlson, and Brendan Stermer, worked with community members to explore the shared concept of home in a dilapidated house lived in by both Scandinavian and Micronesian community newcomers. The goal of the Milan Listening House was to identify shared community housing values in Milan through art, play, and conversation. Artworks were generated by two methods: a photo campaign in which members of the Milan community submitted photos of objects that reminded them of home, or captured the essence of what it means to be at home; and bits of text and artwork (visual, media, and audio) generated inside the exhibit through a series of listening sessions with the artists. The artist team was such an inspiration to the property owner that he decided to invest funds in the rehabilitation of the vacant property, helping to alleviate the housing shortage in the community. This project will be the catalyst to encourage conversations on a larger scale rehabilitation effort, addressing poor housing conditions within the community and other community needs.