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Nora Sampson, 14, interviews farmer, Kevin Horihan, of Fillmore County about the changing face of agriculture in and around Lanesboro during the 2016 Youth Access Technology Project. The program, funded by the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, will return in 2018 to Houston County in partnership with the City of Houston and KARST Driftless Guidepost.

Contributed photo

The city of Houston has been awarded $10,000 for a project that will aim to tell the history of the area’s rural economy and plot out a course for its future.

The grant comes from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and will fund the youth-driven Stories: YES Houston program. Students aged between 13 and 18 will interview local historians, artists, business owners, farmers, and laborers in Houston and other parts of the county, according to a news release.

They’ll use the interviews for a multimedia program that will tell the history of the area’s rural economy and the workers who’ve participated in it to create an exhibit in Houston titled The Way We Worked. The exhibit will also look forward, by blending the stories of those interviewed with the experience of the students, to imagine a future for the local economy.

Local students will work on the program in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service Museums on Main Street division. In 2017, the Smithsonian selected Houston as one of only six communities across the U.S. to participate in this new rural history pilot program for youth.

The city of Houston partnered with KARST Driftless Guidepost to win funding for the program. KARST is a community hub for visitors, artists, and businesses in downtown Houston. It was founded by local historian Erin Dorbin, and will be the home base for the program, serving as a meeting and workshop space for participants in the project while also providing space for the exhibit installation.

“The city is excited for this project and for the opportunity to partner with KARST,” said city of Houston administrator Christina Peterson. “Engaging youth to research and document past economic values of the community will create an important connection to the future.”

Houston was picked after a competitive selection process to join the program.

“For the past 30 years, we’ve seen people come together to enhance their communities,” said Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation President and CEO Tim Penny. “SMIF’s new Small Town Grants program is intended to put air under the wings of some of those ideas, whether the community needs help with strategic planning, funds to implement a project or a stipend to support a leadership development program.”

If you know a young person interested in developing skills in media production, research, exhibit design, and storytelling who might be interested in working on the project, contact Stories: YES Houston program coordinator Erin Dorbin at StoriesYesHouston@gmail.com or 507.884.2275.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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