Residency: Emily Reo – Week 2

In her second week as April’s Artist Resident, Boston’s Emily Reo explores the “Midbest” aka Minneapolis, Minnesota, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Chicago Illinois’ DIT (do it together) communities.

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Residency is a four-part weekly journal entry brought to you by one of our favorite artists every month.

In her second week as April’s Artist Resident, Boston’s Emily Reo explores the “Midbest” aka Minneapolis, Minnesota, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Chicago Illinois’ DIT (do it together) communities.


Welcome back, pals! This week I’m very excited to hike under a different waterfall with you, to a part of the country that is much more foreign to me—The Midwest (which will henceforth be referred to as *The Midbest*). Upon visiting Wisconsin and Minnesota for the first time last summer, I was so inspired I nearly packed my bags and moved to Minneapolis. The myriad of geographical wonders, sustainable food resources, bike greenways, and smiling faces made my time traveling throughout *The Midbest* entirely unforgettable. This post is going to be a three parter, focusing on some of my favorite communities within *The Midbest*, with assistance from some knowledgable residents and enthusiastic friends.

Tree in Minneapolis

Let us begin in Minneapolis! Minneapolis felt like being in the middle of nature and a modern city all at once. During our day off, we swam in three lakes and visited two waterfalls. Between our havens for relaxation were streets lined with beautiful murals, greenway bike paths, cultural centers, vegan restaurants, and food co-ops. Every person we encountered was friendly and seemed genuinely happy. And unlike many densely populated cities, Minneapolis appeared loved, cared for and clean. I left with the impression that I could find anything I could want in a city here for a fraction of the living cost I’d pay nearly anywhere else.

Minnehaha Falls, MN

My stay in Minneapolis was made even sweeter due to our temporary living quarters, affectionately referred to as The Metrodome II by inhabitants Ben Larson, Ronnie Lee, Charlie Collier and a very special cat named Syd Nics. I almost decided to write this whole post on Nics, but alas, I’m still typing. During our stay, TM2 was home to a 9 band house show alternating between the basement and dining room, with a Mario Kart tournament taking place simultaneously in the living room. After the show, bands and showgoers chilled out in front of the living room’s AC and watched Point Break together (the greatest movie of all time).

Ben, Charlie and Noah in Lake Nokomis

The Metrodome folk do much more than host incredibly unique shows. Ben (FARMS, Merlin Monroe, HAXXXORS) was recently featured on PORTALS for his 2 dimensional and multimedia art, as well as his Tunnel Sessions project where he invites friends from around the country to record in a mile long train tunnel. Ronnie is a wonderful visual artist as well as the brains behind some of my favorite musical endeavors (Panda Teeth, Vats, Sad Ghems). He’s also the Cat Person behind TM2′s in-house cassette label called Cat People. Charlie is 1/2 of the MJMJ founding team along with Andy Todryk (Vacation Dad). MJMJ is an accomplished cassette label focusing not only on music local to Minneapolis and Wisconsin but discovering unheard talent from all over the country. Some of my favorite MJMJ releases have been their splits (such as ‘Messy Hopping‘), pairing up artists that compliment each other impeccably while enabling new friendships and collaborations in the process. And because Minneapolis is amazing, there are great things happening even outside of The Metrodome II! For one, Ben just introduced me to a diverse Minneapolis based art publication called Wopozi where I’ll probably spend the rest of my night exploring.

A potentially relevant sidenote: I met Ben and Andy at the first Total Bummer in Gainesville, FL in March, 2010. This is also how I met Caleb (of Truman Peyote), which will become more relevant in the next section of this piece. Then in July 2010, Caleb, Ben, Andy and two other pals they were touring with (Sam of Orchard Thief and Tim of Maymok) stayed at my house before we all played at Endless Bummer. If it hadn’t been for Total Bummer, I may have never visited Minneapolis (or Eau Claire), met any of these friends or been exposed to this amazing community.

Wopozi Issue #2 Cover

Ronnie Lee

Traveling East about an hour and a half, we’ll come across a beautiful river town in Wisconsin called Eau Claire. Home to some of my best friends and favorite musicians (Yohuna, Truman Peyote, Adelyn Rose), Eau Claire is small in relation to it’s supportive community. UWEC is likely responsible for a large portion of the creative output coming from Eau Claire’s youth (boasting a renowned Music Department), but folks under 21 don’t have many outlets to see and play music with many of the local venues being bars. In an effort to provide a network for folks of all ages to connect creatively with no specific focus on profitable legitimacy that can sometimes be spawned from academic culture, DITEC (Do It Together Eau Claire) emerged.

“DITEC is a Facebook page I started last summer as a place for people to try to gain support for their various projects—basically just trying to bring the FMLY to EC…I think we’ve done a little work in bridging the visual and musical art communities and making live music more accessible for kids under 21.” – Johanne Swanson (aka Yohuna).

Johanne states being inspired by the book In Every Town: An All Ages Music Manifesto—a book Noah and I received in the mail a couple years back from an anonymous friend (highly recommended for all PORTALS readers and also all human beings). Do-it-togetherers Brenna Signe (the current art director of NOTA, UWEC’s literary and arts publication) and Melanie Ripley are in the process of designing a collaborative zine created by the attendees of a DITEC zine-making party. More recently, the collective held a fundraising show for Hair Zine, a new upcoming DITEC endeavor. Through events like these DITEC is not only creating their art sustainably, but supporting the community by offering all ages events and exposure to different types of artistic expression.

Although I’ve never had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the DITEC crew proper (I have Johanne to thank for shedding light on this project), I was lucky enough to spend one of the best days of my summer experiencing what I believe to be the embodiment of a DITEC experience. Last 4th of July, the town welcomed my friends and I with an all-day outdoor BBQ show, showcasing some of EC’s finest bands and kindest attendees. The day begun with a water balloon fight in a large empty field, which was much appreciated in the 105 degree heat. Then as the sun dried us, we migrated to a nearby home that graciously allowed 12 bands to play music in their backyard (and many of us to camp out in front of the fan in their kitchen). The night closed with Caleb Johannes shooting off fireworks during his set with Moro, followed by an explosion of energy from former EC residents FARMS, ending right in time for the town’s fireworks display to begin. Although someone called the cops on me for robbing a house (aka loading my gear into our van) and we were questioned during the entirety of the fireworks show, I can say with absolute certainty that this was my favorite day of the tour.

Water Balloon Fight, Before

Water Balloon Fight, After

Poster by Shelly Chrzanowski, former Eau Claireian

Finally, let’s venture back even further east to Chicago. Our tour guide through the Windy City is going to be my best friend Jaclyn Miller, as I have to admit I am the least familiar with Chi-town out of our three *Midbest* stops. Jaclyn is an extremely gifted artist specializing in comics—for this I will call her a comicist. Jaclyn is an asset within the Chicago arts community, lending her helping hands as an organizer of Chicago Zine Fest. She also exposed me to Trubble Club, a comix collective that gets together on Sundays to create “jam comics” and Brain Frame, a bi-monthly series that combines comix readings with other art forms, such as music and dance.

CZF Fundraiser Poster by Jaclyn Miller

Jaclyn Miller

Jaclyn Miller

Within the music community of Chicago lives Nitetrotter, one of my favorite places to find live recordings. Described as a “free format multimedia online music magazine”, Nitetrotter provides touring bands with high quality recorded studio sessions and videos. Nitetrotter’s site is a treasure chest of sounds by nearly 100 bands, each accompanied by a unique illustration and available as a free download. Nitetrotter is run by the kind and talented Nude Sunrise crew, who I had the pleasure of meeting back in 2010 at Endless Bummer in Gainesville, FL.

On a different note, my explorations of Chi-town have lead me to a new collective called DIYCHI, who are working to eliminate alienation within the Chicago punk and hardcore community by creating a network of house spaces to hold affordable, all ages shows. Although I’ve never gotten the chance to witness Chicago’s diverse communities firsthand, I believe the ideas of collaboration and inclusivity promoted and shared by Trubble Club, Brain Frame, and DIYCHI are extremely important, and I look forward to getting a first hand experience upon my next visit.

Poster for Brain Frame 11, by Aaron Renier and Lyra Hill

Although I’ve only spent a handful of days at most in each of these places, the people and experiences effected me in such a way I felt the need to share this feeling with the world. If you get the chance to visit *The Midbest* at any point in time, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to swing through for a show at The Metrodome II (and snag some tapes for the road), contribute a page at a DITEC zine-making party or schedule your Chi-town visit around a Brain Frame!

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4