More thoughts about the Kirkbride building from Michele Anderson at our Fergus Falls office. Thanks for sharing Michele! We always welcome you “weird” thoughts and ideas!
Somehow I thought that if the day came that Fergus Falls decided to move forward with a developer and save the Kirkbride, that there would be something to the equivalent of fireworks and hugs and parades. That was not the case tonight, but I guess that’s why I work in the arts and not in the business world. After a special meeting and closed session, the announcement was made to develop a letter of intent with Historic Properties, a developer from California. And people seemed very… underwhelmed.
I have such mixed feelings right now. To steal a preservation term normally used to describe the environmental impact of demolishing historic buildings, I think this underwhelmed feeling comes from the fact that the Kirkbride is so full of embodied [cultural] energy. Its uncertain fate has bridged relationships that never would have existed before. Its past calls for healing and honor to patients and staff from the tumultuous history of institutionalization for things like melancholy and post-partum depression, and for a holistic way for this community to reflect on how it has been shaped by this institution, both positively and negatively. And I think what happened is that as of now, listening to plans of a boutique hotel, restaurants and apartments, the community no longer sees itself in the building as clearly as when they were fighting to save it.
I am glad that it looks like the building is going to be saved, but I also wish that collaboration and community engagement had been at the top of the list of priorities that the city looked for in proposals. There was another proposal that was so much more authentic to what this community is and can be, but its plans were too ambitious for the council to get behind, and the partnerships required to make it happen would have taken longer than the city was willing to wait. How do those of us who are committed to this type of slow knowledge and holistic development convince others that the wait is worth it?
I wish that I could do more, speak up more and honestly to be taken more seriously with my weird ideas about dealing with this place. Despite attention at the state and national level on the work I’ve been doing in this area, right here in my own town it can be very frustrating at times to be a young, female leader, and I’ve only been able to be involved in this conversation when I force myself into it.
Still, I have no option but to be hopeful right now, and I am. I am even more committed to playing a role in activating the creative reuse potential that we have here in Fergus Falls, and helping the developers unravel it into feasible ideas and plans. I especially hope that sooner than later the fate of this building turns into a puzzle that the whole community is putting together, rather than this chess game where we are anticipating each other’s moves and therefore not living in the present and making our picture narrower and more exclusive, instead of bigger and more interconnected. Time will tell, and there is still a lot of work to do. We are just at the beginning. To quote Aldous Huxley, “nothing short of everything will do.”
Read more about my thoughts on the Kirkbride here and here.
” ‘Patriotism is not enough.’ But neither is anything else. Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.”
-Aldous Huxley, Island