Organizers: Northern Clay Center and Ursula Hargens
Ambassador of Conversation: Lisa Truax
Image: Jaime Anderson
Cup Design: Brett Freund
Porcelain 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 4" and 11 fl oz
For the longevity of your decal, please avoid the dishwasher.
Pictured is the front and back of one cup.
Frac sand mining is a controversial issue in Winona County in southeastern Minnesota, as it is in many parts of the US. A citizen campaign led to a ban in 2016 which is currently being challenged in the Minnesota State Supreme Court. The issue incites debates about public versus corporate interests, respiratory health problems from airborne silica, noise pollution and truck traffic, as well as frac sand mining’s larger environmental effect on the Mississippi river and natural landscape of the area.
I enjoyed the experience of organizing and having this discussion in my community. Many people in Winona area passionate about frac sand mining. I invited people from various economic and political perspectives, but there were challenges in bringing all sides of the issue to the table. It really brought to the forefront for me the importance of these opportunities, to discuss difficult issues in an open and civil way as a way of making progress in our culture.
I’m thankful for the experience of participating in the Democratic Cup project and I enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Lisa Truax, Nick Moen, and Ayumi Horie to bring our form, message, and conversation to the table.
The concept for our cup centers on the negative environmental effects of silica sand mining in Winona, MN. More specifically, we are highlighting water pollution, devastation of wildlife habitats, and destruction of the beautiful scenic bluffs which line the river. The Mississippi River is the central theme here with frac sand mining in the background and the distressed wildlife (swan, heron, and pelican) featured in the foreground. This is an illustrated snapshot of just one of the many ways that mining negatively impacts the environment and it’s no wonder this topic has brought forth so much concern and heated debate.
Since this project was completed last summer, there have been new developments made in regard to managing mining operations in Winona but the controversy and discussion remain. My hope is that this cup raises awareness and inspires discussion on the topic of frac sand mining and the effects it has on the beautiful city of Winona.
When working I think about my own definitions of preciousness and value. How does an object qualify itself as being important? Is what I’m after rare like a diamond, does it take time to grow like a crystal or is it a symbol that references a status or identity? Most importantly, how can I scrutinize hierarchies without undermining the possibility of growing in my craft? This current iteration of my work for The Democratic Cup feels uniquely personal despite it being a collaboration. Minnesota has a rich clay history that was the foundation of why I moved here. I didn’t anticipate the amount of happiness that Minnesota’s natural beauty would give me. Traveling north to the boundary waters and Lake Superior has given me a sense of exploration that isn’t confined to just the twin cities. It’s a connection to the outdoors I’ve never had before.
Traveling around Minnesota to host conversations for The Democratic Cup: Land of 10,000 Stories was encouraging. Participants were remarkably open and honest as they entered into challenging discussions with strangers. While people often disagreed, they were respectful, thoughtful, and knowledgeable about their local communities. They spoke in detail about the issues and how they were affected as individuals and community members. Listening, as people spoke from the heart, gave me hope.