overbuRden / overlook

“At the deepest level, identity is lodged in the narratives of how people see themselves, who they are, where they have come from, and what they fear they will become or lose.”*

Overburden / Overlook is a collaborative public art project created to surface stories about life on Minnesota’s Iron Range—especially the overlooked stories of women, work, and water. Through a series of pop-up workshops, intentional relationship-building and network-weaving among a diverse group of local women and organizational partners, and the creation of a mobile overlook and exhibition that will tour across the region, this project will demonstrate ways that women and women’s leadership can transform conflict, build powerful coalitions, and heal relationships that have been broken by economic exploitation and political division.


Research + process

Overburden / Overlook emerged from an NSF research project led by my collaborator Roopali Phadke, a social scientist studying the green bargain and the politics of mining.

I was invited to participate as a listener and public artist in Roopali’s research process, with the idea that eventually I would help to create artwork or media that would be part of what NSF calls the “broader impacts” of science research.

I was invited by Roopali to bring my artistic vision to this social science work, as well as my personal experience as a woman with roots in one of the mining communities Roopali is studying, Minnesota’s Iron Range—a place that is and will be the subject of national political attention in coming years, in part because the 8th Congressional District recently “flipped” from a democratic stronghold to GOP control.

My artistic process is deeply collaborative, so from the beginning this project was co-conceived with Roopali and others we’ve met along the way. It continues to evolve, but in 2019 will coalesce as a series of public art workshops, a collaborative public art installation and tour, and in 2020, a gallery exhibition.

You can read a full Overburden / Overlook project description here.


Felt Here WorkshOp

In April 2019 we will launch this series of pop-up workshops as part of the Overburden / Overlook project.

FELT HERE is a pop-up art-making space designed by myself and other collaborating artists to look like an industrial shop, with work tables and a crew of people getting their hands dirty while making something together.

In contrast to the many workshop spaces on the Iron Range that manufacture parts for mining machinery, in this shop, the work of telling stories, healing, and repairing is led by women. Storytelling happens around circular tables as public participants are invited to felt wool taconite pellets.

These soft felted taconite pellets are made by hand from locally-produced wool and dyed with earth gathered from sites across the region. Once finished, the pellets can be used to make keepsakes, including jewelry that funds healing practices.

Most of the pellets and some of the stories shared in these workshops will be incorporated into an Overburden / Overlook gallery exhibition that will debut in 2020.

Read an Op-ed I wrote with Roopali Phadke in MinnPost about the thinking behind this workshop.



In September 2019 we will gather together a group of partners from the Iron Range and our Twin Cities arts and activist circles to collaboratively design and build a mobile overlook like those created across the Iron Range.

Our overlook will then tour to sites on the Iron Range where women will share overlooked stories about their relationships with land, water, work and practices of repair, healing and cultural regeneration.

This tour will be promoted to the public as a weekend-long experience. We will document the tour using panoramic photographs, video interview with women, and audio story collection on site.

Stories and other documentation gathered along the way will become part of an exhibition we will present at art spaces and galleries on the Iron Range, as well as in the Twin Cities and Duluth.

This tour and exhibition will be the final pieces of the Overburden / Overlook project, but it is our hope that the relationships and stories that emerge throughout this year-long process will continue to transform the conversation and experience of mining in this landscape. We will work with local partners to explore options to fund the continuation of this work in whatever ways they deem appropriate.

*Quote from John Paul Lederach, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation.