Four different cups supporting four different conversations in four towns across Minnesota- Winona, New London, Grand Rapids, and Northfield.
In this project, Land of 10,000 Stories, the Democratic Cup partnered with Northern Clay Center to create cups with Minnesota-based artists and "ambassadors" to address topics specific and relevant to those communities. The conversations took place in the fall of 2018 and culminated in an exhibition at Northern Clay Center during the 2019 NCECA conference in Minneapolis. Cups were exhibited in the space, along with audio of the conversations, and photographs of participants. Conference-goers were invited to have pie and conversation with friends and strangers.
photo credit: Peter Lee
The four porcelain cups addressed an oil pipeline across indigenous land, affordable housing, identity and values, and mining. Like many parts of the country, Minnesota, known as the "land of nice" has struggled with polarization and divided communities.
Local organizer, Ursula Hargens says, "In scheduling conversations this past autumn, many individuals contacted were reluctant to sit down and talk to people they disagreed with since they were anxious about inflaming discord within their local communities. A few people cancelled the day of the event. Their reticence revealed an underlying fear present in our current political climate and illustrates the need to create safe spaces for honest discussions between diverse groups. In the community conversations held in each town, participants spoke openly and earnestly about values instilled by their parents, challenges confronting disrespectful language, and the role of fear in political discourse. They discussed the effort required to listen to and empathize with others and the connections made in everyday places, like the hardware store or coffee shop.
Reaching across political and cultural divides is a goal often touted but difficult to achieve. The Democratic Cup: Land of 10,000 Stories provides a vehicle for people to gather in fellowship, break down barriers, and discuss difficult topics in humane and thoughtful ways. It harnesses the power of a ceramic cup to stimulate social engagement."
We are thankful for the opportunity to work with all our participants! Here are a few testimonials-
"I loved my experience at the Democratic Cup. We probably could have talked for another 5 hours! I am very excited to try something like that in our neighborhood working to cross cultural barriers. Thank you for inviting me."- Kerry
"I enjoyed participating in the Democratic Cup at NCC. I was nervous in advance that it might be awkward but that soon disappeared. I was so warmly greeted, the goal re the conversation was explained, it was really fun getting to pick out a cup and have coffee and pie so by the time we began our chat I was comfortable and interested in where it might lead. The topic of affordable housing is so top of mind right now especially in the Twin Cities. Housing impacts all aspects of life and is such a struggle in our community. I appreciated your views as a renter whereas I’m primarily personally impacted by property taxes. I felt like I lost myself in the conversation and the time just flew by — no awkwardness at all — and it was an interesting experience being live “on exhibit” where a number of people paused to witness our conversation. When we wrapped up I really felt like I got to know you more personally. That’s what building caring community is all about in my view. I enjoyed my participation and I appreciated NCC hosting the event."- Colleen
"I really enjoyed being put into the democratic cup. I love having in depth conversations and this was one I never would have had without the democratic cup. Every time I look at my mug I think of Marty, the gentleman i was paired with. I am so happy I got the change to meet and talk to someone from a different walk of life." -Katie
Local Organizer- Ursula Hargens
Ambassadors- Lisa Truax, Bill Gossman, Nathan Bray, and Juliane Shibata
Illustrators- Jaime Anderson, Julie Van Grol, Kim Bogeman, and Ry Macarayan
Form Makers- Brett Freund, Peter Jadoonath, Liz Pechacek, and Linda Christianson