Canadian geographer and sound artist to explore Houston County

Imagine this: it’s a cool September evening, and you’re walking through the dusk, listening intently. You hear the crunch of gravel beneath your feet, hear leaves rustle as a breeze plays across your cheek, and ah! There: a bird begins to tut at you, a low yet persistent warning to continue on your way.

Sound like fun? That is the sort of moment that Cimarron Corpé loves, and pays attention to. A geographer and artist from British Columbia, Corpé will be collecting field recordings and visuals of the Houston County area in early September, as the final installment of the area’s inaugural Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency program.

In his position as the Director of Policy Development with the province of British Columbia, Corpé leads projects including technical building requirements, energy efficiency and accessibility. As a human geographer, he studies the interactions between people and their physical environment, and is particularly interested in the role that sound and images play in our understanding of place. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the tri-state area’s unique terrain was one of the main reasons Corpé became interested in this project. “I was attracted to the unique physical geography of the Driftless Region and felt that the topography, caves, sinkholes, springs, and subterranean rivers offered numerous opportunities to engage with the landscape and draw creative inspiration.”

Corpé’s creative works have been presented in Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States, and include photographic exhibits, audio recordings and other sound and visual installations. What does this mean he’ll be doing while in southeast Minnesota? Primarily taking field recordings, and documenting the area in other ways. Says Corpé of his plans, “I intend to explore the bluffs and network of caves, and visit the many small towns. Along the way I will be preparing a comprehensive audio and visual record of my observations and experiences.”

Besides the topography, the other draw for Corpé was the program itself. The Citizen-Artists-in-Residence (CAIR) program, based just outside of Houston, Minn., works in partnership with the Houston Arts Resource Council (HARC), a non-profit organization devoted to promoting arts in the region. Together they understand that inviting artists from different backgrounds can foster new ideas for creativity, growth and sustainability for the area. For this reason, the residency encouraged traditional artists, as well as creatives in non-traditional fields to apply, including public history, architecture and social sciences.

This, in particular, appealed to Corpé. “I found the broad criteria for applying for the residency to be very refreshing and inviting. There are very few other residencies that encourage chefs, podcasters, community organizers, and artists to apply. This is a very innovative and forward thinking approach.” The previous 2017 citizen-artists brought to Houston County by the residency program were a singer-songwriter, and a radio producer/story collector and podcaster.

Cimarron Corpé will be in Houston County from September 10 until September 16. He is hosting a Meet & Greet on Tuesday, September 12, at 6 p.m., at the KARST Driftless Guidepost (111 Cedar St., Houston), and a Community Workshop on Saturday, September 16, at 1 p.m., in Spring Grove. The workshop will meet at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center (163 W. Main St., Spring Grove), and will begin with a brief history and overview of field recording before taking the group on a “soundwalk” to the Norwegian Ridge Birding Trail, just outside of town. Bring a recording device (smartphone, tape recorder) to participate. Afterwards, the group will meet back at Giants of the Earth to share their recordings. Both events are free and open to the public; pre-registration is required for the workshop. To register, contact Residency Coordinator Erin Dorbin at [email protected], or visit

About Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency:

The Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency invites three creative individuals from different disciplines to discover Minnesota’s Driftless region and to connect with the people and places of Houston County. The selected Citizen-Artists-in-Residence (CAIRS) will respectively spend seven days producing new works inspired by, and in conversation with the region. CAIRS will also share their skills with the community in a series of hands-on workshops.

Residency 1: July 16th-22nd (Harry Graff Kimball);

Harry Graff Kimball (NY) is a songwriter, producer, and builder-storyteller who strives to capture places and spaces in lyrical story-songs. 

Residency 2: Aug 12th-18th (Melissa Wray/Todd Melby);

Melissa Wray (MN) says community and stories are at the heart of her creative work. She grew up in Houston County and often feels an internal tension between her rural roots and her present urban life. This tension informs much of her writing and community work. Todd Melby (MN) is a reporter, interactive producer and filmmaker. His radio stories have aired on MPR, Marketplace and The World.

Residency 3: Sept 10th-16th (Cimarron Corpé); Meet & Greet: 9/19; Workshop: 9/22

Cimarron Corpé (Victoria, BC) is a geographer whose interests focus on landscapes and the role sound and images play in our construction of place.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts & cultural heritage fund.

About Houston Arts

Resource Council:

HARC is a 507 (c)(3) non-profit organization, established to promote the arts, artists, and artisans of the Houston, Minn., area.