Louis and Dan Large

Louis and Dan live across the street from one another in Northfield, and write songs about rodents, underwear spaghetti, princesses and hot dogs. With their invisible band backing them up, Louis and Dan say they will have children and adults alike dancing, singing and acting like squirrels. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Groll)

With the importance of community and place more important than ever amid a global pandemic, two projects were chosen to help tell Northfield’s story and bring the community together through the arts and creative placemaking.

Along with Gerie Thelen’s “Spreading the Love” project, Louis Epstein and Daniel Groll’s “Musical Portraits of Northfield” project was selected to comprise the second year of the Artists on Main Street program, a three-year community development initiative offered through Rethos: Places Reimagined and Springboard for the Arts, with funding from the Bush Foundation. The projects were selected through the ACC’s Public Art Review Committee process, as outlined in the city of Northfield’s recently adopted “Art in Public Places” policy.

The projects are organized locally by the Northfield Downtown Development Corp. and the city of Northfield’s Arts and Culture Commission.

Sights and sounds of Northfield

Northfield’s family music duo, Louis and Dan and the invisible Band, plan to create a series of songs describing the sights and sounds of downtown Northfield, which will “complement the visual delights of the district and strengthen the notion of Northfield as a musical city,” as Epstein and Groll described in their application.

The topics and destinations for these musical portraits will be crowdsourced from community members, with a focus on children and families, to identify the businesses, buildings, public spaces and other downtown sites they love most. In response, a song will be composed for each place followed by a live, public, onsite performance of each song. Each performance will be filmed and serve as the basis for a music video, allowing each song to live on long past the premieres. Northfield residents and visitors will be able to access the music videos for free via QR code or online links posted on small signs, in storefront windows or on Epstein and Groll’s website, louisdaninvisibleband.com.

Groll said he and Epstein would love to hear people’s ideas about what they feel makes living in Northfield so wonderful.

“Downtown Northfield is a special place, we’d like to hear ideas about what makes it so great, places people go to again and again or a special memory they have about a certain place,” said Groll. “We’d like to contribute to the charm Northfield already has. If we can get people singing songs idly about a couple places downtown, like the Library, I think that would be great.”

In addition to Northfield being charming visually, Epstein said the area has a pretty vibrant music scene he would like to expand upon.

“One of my hopes in putting the project together is to make sure music was also central to the conception of downtown. There’s music all over the place,” said Epstein of the various music venues in Northfield. “In a non-pandemic time, it’s really rich. If we could add some public art to the mix, we could reinforce Northfield’s well-deserved reputation as a musical city.”

Epstein and Groll are in the planning stages of the project and have started to collect ideas from community members. They also plan on sending out invitations for a songwriting workshop in late December to engage both children and adults and solicit ideas for what they should say and which characteristics should be memorialized in song. The new year will begin the songwriting process, followed by filming the music videos once the nicer weather rolls around.

They estimate there will be a total of eight or nine short songs created about various topics including current places or places that existed in the past that people will remember, symbolizing a time capsule or memory device to remember no matter how time changes it.

Music is part a large part of both Epstein and Groll’s lives. The idea for the project came from a mix of ideas involving their roles as college professors and in music.

Groll said when classes moved online for their colleges last spring, they began writing tiny jingles, for no particular reason. Soon their friends were asking them to create jingles. They also planned on participating in a music of Minneapolis contest, which would end up moving online. They ran around the city taking videos of important places and wrote a song about the musical portraits of the city.

“Between those two things, we saw that jingles made people’s lives better and could brighten their day,” said Epstein. “I saw the call for proposals and thought we could do this for Northfield as well. Everyone has been super supportive, we’ve been together for over two years. We feel really loved and felt it was a good opportunity.”

NDDC Executive Director Greg Siems said the Artists on Main Street program has been well received by the community and it’s been great to work with artists and creative people.

“We were very excited for both [of this year’s projects], we think they will represent the community very well,” said Siems. “They’ll also get people engaged and appreciate spending time in Northfield for what it is.”

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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