Erika Nelson is an artist who lives in Lucas, Kansas, a rural plains community of 400 that has embraced its tradition as a hotbed for grassroots arts. After selling all of her possessions, Erika lived and traveled across the country in her vehicle, visiting small arts communities. Her imagination was peaked when she saw a house in Lucas sell at auction for $1,000.
What at first she viewed as a home base has become Erika’s home and she talks of the understanding that has developed between some of the more traditional ag-based community and the rather unconventional artists living and working beside them.
Erika is the creator and curator of the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, a traveling collection that celebrates what is unique in our country, shares community stories, and encourages people to reignite their sense of wonder about the world.
“One of the advantages of being an outsider coming in, is that you can be a little bit of Switzerland because you don’t have that blood relation to anybody in the community. There are no school chums, I don’t know the rivalries, so I had this really advantageous space of being Switzerland. It’s harder and harder to retain that the longer you are in a place, but you can use that sort of non-blood card to say, ‘you know what, I don’t know what your rivalry is so why don’t we just do this anyway?’”
Erika Nelson full podcast:
APOMM behind the scenes:
I met Erika briefly, years before I began this project. I was on assignment for the Kansas Tourism Office when I passed through Lucas and fell in love with the quirky and independent small town. It was an oasis of art in the middle of the prairie. It was a magnet that drew people like Erika and a place I hoped to return. So when A Peace of My Mind’s exhibit was at the Grassroots Art Center for a fall festival of the arts, I took the chance to reconnect with Erika for this interview.
- What are some examples of a time when you’ve worked with a group/community to create something? How has your satisfaction with the outcome differed from the outcome of things you’ve created on your own?
- When in your life have you been an outsider? How did you perceive yourself in that situation? What were the advantages? What were the drawbacks?
- When have you witnessed two different sub-communities coming together (like farmers and artists)? What benefits came out of that interaction? What were the difficulties of that interaction?
- How do you characterize your own creative process? How do other peoples’ perception of your process change your process?
- Why do you do what you do? What do you make of Erika’s thought that answering this question is a journey and a process? Is your answer to this question constant or is it continually evolving?