The Listening House in Milan was a housing engagement process rather than an example of a bricks-and-mortar housing project. The project began when a team of four artists transformed a vacant house into a gallery. In this space, the artists invited community members to engage through a postcard and in-person conversation at the listening house to answer the question “What does home mean to you?”
The City of Milan participated in the Partnership Arts Program through the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and ArtPlace. The intent of this program is to infuse arts into community development projects to solve problems.
UMVRDC staff member, Kristi Fernholz (photographer), teamed up with three other artists: Lucy Tokheim (designer), Lauren Carlson (poet), and Brendan Stermer (new media) to work with Milan community members to use art to explore the many meanings of home. The team rented a house that needed rehabilitation and developed the “Milan Listening House” to serve as a gathering space, work space, and gallery space. Through the conversations and coordination, this project worked to identify shared values and priorities of what changes would help Milan address housing issues. The community-generated art installation centered around the question, “What does home mean to you?”.
After months of listening sessions and public exhibit hours, the artists presented a guiding document of concrete suggestions for housing and community planning to the City of Milan. The top three priorities are:
- Visual revitalization of public spaces
- Better relationships between community members
- Develop leaders