An artists’ utopia

Every artist dreams of carving a living out of their creations. The Twin Cities-based founders of the “New Land of Milk and Honey” have infused that desire with a collective mindset and utopian spirit. 26-year-old knitter and sewer Annie Larson, and 29-year-old metalsmiths Erin Smith and her 32-year-old brother Brett have been dreaming up ‘New Land’ for the last year and a half. Larson actually met Erin Smith at Target, where they both worked as clothing designers. Smith still does. ‘New Land’ is an extension of what they’ve built for themselves outside their corporate identities, a small but growing community of supportive, self sustaining artists.

“We’ve all expressed this need to be able to create freely, and to be able to sustain ourselves through exercising a certain craft, or skill or trade or anything,” Larson said. “So I think that we’re all just relying on this idea of having continuous creative support from other people to make it happen.”

If this sounds like a flower-powered fantasy, think again.

“I did not put the hip back into hippie,” said Erin Smith.

But the Smith siblings and partner Annie Larson admit “The New Land of Milk and Honey” is informed by American utopian traditions and values. Larson herself grew up in western Wisconsin, where a lot of hippies converged in the 1970s and started an informal communal farming movement.

What do Larson and the Smith siblings want the New Land of Milk and Honey to be? What would it look like? How would it function? Will it be a commune? A farm? A physical store? A web site? Larson, who makes eye-poppingly colorful sweaters, pants and dresses, says it’s too early to answer those questions, but she and her partners are open to anything. As an independent craftsperson trying to make it on her own, the idea of linking up with a network of like-minded artists is appealing.

“It’s the peace of mind and ease of knowing that you can present an idea to any of your creative partners or collaborators and at least know that they will give you honest feedback about it, they will encourage you to take it in a different direction, they’ll be critics of your work, they will help you with things,” Larson said. “Knowing that that community exists, we just need that, we can do it without it.”

Larson, Erin and Brett Smith, and founding members Ann Marie and Adrian Freeman, are summoning all who might be interested in the New Land of Milk and Honey to the Soap Factory tomorrow night (Saturday, Feb. 20th) to ‘experience’ it. There will be choreographed movement, video, what organizers call “demonstrations in enlargened creativity, chrono biology, New Gyroscopics, immersive knit environments,” and what have somehow become symbols of the ‘New Land’ ethos, Segways!!!

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