ARTISTS ON MAIN STREET GRANTwith
WITH ALEX KUSICH
in the spring of our content i called alex, who is one of the smartest people i know, and we talked about fish for 1.5hrs while i walked around downtown northfield after i got an instagram ad for this grant. It’s about “creative placemaking.” knowing that alex wrote his thesis (which won many awards and was advi
sed by one of my favorite professors) on the river i thought he might have some ideas because i was in a public art class and was feeling deeply conflicted about making something ethical or good. alex is also one of the most thoughtful people i know.and
so i trusted him to share this emotion.
I think this is the best statement so far:
“The freshwater drum is a species of fish, also known by the English name sheepshead and the Spanish name mojarra, that to us represents the ways that communities are always changing— reshaped by monumental events, and quietly evolving to create the world around us. The drum is a hardy, humble fish; it has swum in these waters since long before these lands were called Minnesota, redistributing specialized mussel larvae in their gills and filling an important niche in the ecosystem. When Euro-American settlers began building dams and planting wheat along what we now call the Cannon River, it created a moment of drastic change: soldiers forced Dakota communities onto distant reservations, farmers transformed deep-rooted prairie into orderly crop lands, hunters brought wolves, bears and bison to local extinction. The seventeen dams constructed between Northfield and Faribault in the mid-1800s forced out many native fish, such as sturgeon, paddlefish, and skipjack shad who were unable to make their long upstream migrations. However, in the churning currents below the Ames Mill Dam in downtown Northfield, the freshwater drum found a way to thrive in the transformed landscape, patrolling the clean-washed rocks at the base of the dam for crayfish, minnows and worms. You won’t see it in state-run hatcheries, much less celebrated in statues, murals or in cookbooks as you might see more famous species such as walleye or northern pike. But each day, people come from all over the state to catch freshwater drum below the dam— for many, an abundant and culturally important source of food, and connection to place. The freshwater drum reminds us of the ways that community can rebuild differently in response to a changed world, and also to remember the history of how our community came to be, and what this can teach us about rebuilding in the future.”