Homestead National Historical Park is welcoming its second artist in residence of the summer, who will be dancing her way through the local prairie landscape.
Meg Kirchhoff grew up in Wisconsin and briefly lived in Minnesota before attending school in Buffalo, N.Y. She said she’s done residencies in Minnesota and Massachusetts before, but that this is her first one with the National Parks Service.
“Growing up in the Midwest, the prairie is a familiar landscape for me,” Kirchhoff said. “Ancestrally, I had homesteaders in my family, so that was interesting to me to get to see this place. I learned about the artist in residency program last year, and I just think it’s neat that the national parks are interested in artistic perspectives of the land.”
Kirchhoff will be at Homestead from July 19-31 to study what she referred to as site-specific dance. She said for her, dancing is about presence and using landscapes as something to work off of, instead of just a background.
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“If you think of homesteaders with folk dancing, that’s a huge part of what early life would’ve been like,” Kirchhoff noted. “I’m not as into folk dancing, so my focus has been more on connecting to the physical landscape. I think Homestead is very interesting, because you get a sense of what it looked like before Daniel Freeman first arrived here, before he created his farm. This is what it would’ve looked like. So there’s this connection to the past through the prairie, so I’m tapping into that for movement.”
Kirchhoff said she thinks dancing is part of any culture, but that people can shy away from dance as a fine art because they don’t understand what it means.
“People are looking for what it’s about, but my feeling is that dance is an innate part of living and being alive and being interactive with other people,” Kirchhoff said.
At the end of Kirchhoff’s residency, Homestead will host a program where the public can learn about improvisational movement. A date for that program will be announced on the Homestead National Historical Park Facebook page.
“The idea is that I’m not teaching people how to dance, but everybody has a sense of movement, so being present in your body allows you to be present in the moment in the world, and hopefully experience the park in a different kind of way…As a dance artist, that’s part of what I try to do, is make it accessible to everybody to feel like it’s something that not only can you watch and get kind of an entry point into, but also something that everybody can do,” Kirchhoff said.
Homestead has participated in the Artist in Residence program with the National Park Service for 12 years now, hosting artists to help connect visitors with the park and its meanings using various art forms.
“The Artist-in-Residence program is extremely valuable. It gives park visitors an opportunity to not just see Homestead and its story themselves, but see it through the eyes of the artist, which can be very moving and powerful,” Homestead Superintendent Mark Engler said.
Homestead’s other residents this year include visual artist Daniel Moore of Ruston, Louisiana from Aug. 2–16, mixed media artist Allissa Hansen of Wahoo, Nebraska from Aug. 2–16, painter Ann Miller-Strandoo of Seattle, Washington from Aug. 30 to Sept. 13, barn quilt painter Vickie MacMillan of Olympia, Washington from Sept. 6–20, painter Lucretia McGuff Silverman of Roosevelt, New Jersey from Sept. 13 – 27, photographer Dana Fritz of Lincoln, Nebraska from Oct. 3 – 17 and muralist Ashley Pierce of Columbus, Ohio from Oct. 17 – 30.