Lake Superior’s North Shore has long been a source of inspiration for artists. And now, a new artist cooperative in Hovland hopes to be a haven for artists looking to focus on their creative work and connect with other artists.
Ross Orenstein is a co-founder and full-time resident at the new Tamarack Land Cooperative (TLC). According to Orenstein, the idea for the TLC was born from a group of creative-minded friends at the University of Minnesota who graduated around 2012. Many in this group of friends continued to work together in the Minneapolis theater world, renting space in an artist collective together and working on similar projects throughout the years. However, an idea of building an artist collective outside of the city was starting to brew among the friends.
“Being from Minnesota, a lot of us had a love for the northwoods, and the idea of doing something up here was always in the back of our minds,” Orenstein said.
In 2018, one of the friends was looking at properties on Zillow and found a unique property in Hovland: with several buildings on the site, including large gathering spaces, it was one that could potentially work for their dream of starting a northwoods artist collective. Some of the group members visited that November and decided to purchase the property, turning the idea of the TLC into a reality.
According to Orenstein, there was a lot of work to be done on the property to make it liveable year-round, including adding heat to the buildings. However, he said the bones of the property were good, and they knew it had the potential to be converted for their purposes. The first members were able to move to the property in March of 2020—just in time for the covid pandemic to start.
“It had always been the plan to move up in March, before we knew about covid,” Orenstein said. “We moved up here with three weeks worth of food, not sure what would be open. Even though it brought challenges, the silver lining was that it was also a beautiful time, and it forced us to really get to work on finishing up the property.”
Right now, the TLC has four full-time residents, with the housing cooperative being a large part of the operations. Apart from long-term residents, the TLC also plans to offer short-term residencies throughout the year. Open to artists of all disciplines, the residencies will last about 10 days and give the artists full use of the property. Orenstein said that it’s been their goal to offer affordable programs that open pathways for artists who may be interested in a residency program but don’t have the means to participate in expensive residencies.
“A lot of artists benefit from coming here and not having to leave or have any other distractions for 10 days. You can focus on your work, meet other artists, and take time to explore the property and enjoy being surrounded by nature,” Orenstein said. “This is a very unique project, and there’s nothing else like it in the area, but we’ve had a lot of support from people in the county on this project.”
Looking ahead, Orenstein said that they plan to start doing more performances for and with the community. TLC is partnering with Open Eye Theater in Minneapolis, which does The Driveway Tour. As the name suggests, The Driveway Tour takes shows out on the road to be performed in various outdoor locations in the Twin Cities Metro area. Open Eye and the TLC are planning to bring something similar to Cook County, with their first performance planned for late summer 2022. Orenstein said they are also working with neighbor Shannon Crossbear, who is planning to do a puppetry show.
“This is an example of a kind of event that pairs people out of the area with artists in Cook County,” Orenstein said. “We want to bring in events that are accessible and appeal to many people in the county while still pushing artistic boundaries.”
To learn more about the Tamarack Land Cooperative, visit: tamaracklandcoop.com.