Wood Lake resident inspired to bring metro art scene to the prairie

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune
Miles Taylor is working to bring his experiences in the arts to rural Minnesota.

Miles Taylor never anticipated that he would be moving back to his hometown of Wood Lake before reaching retirement age, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed his plans. Miles and his wife Jessie were building careers centered around the arts in the Twin Cities when the pandemic began. Having learned how to DJ in Los Angeles more than 15 years ago, Miles moved to the Twin Cities after college and worked over the next eight years DJ’ing burlesque shows, bars, and events while also working on visual art. “I worked with a lot of different galleries presenting my art, but also curating shows. Eventually, I built up to four residencies a month, which paid all of the bills. I was making a name for myself and working with high profile producers in the cities,” Miles says. “I had finally started my own picture painting shop and gallery in the Northeast side in January of 2020. Everything was going pretty good and I was making the most money I think I’ve made in my life.” But then, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state, and Miles and Jessie, being independent contractors and small business owners were left with all business halted for months. At the same time, the couple found out their landlord had decided to sell the home they were renting. Miles's family had been using his grandmother’s former home on their family farm as an Airbnb, but because COVID had halted that as well, the couple made the decision to move temporarily into the home. 

“We were originally going to stay for just a few months, but we really enjoyed being back out here on the family farm, and so that got us thinking about what we would want to do out here eventually,” he says. During their first year on the farm, the couple focused their attention on planning a large music festival, called Prairie Fyre, the name and theme of the festival being a parody of the infamously ill-fated Fyre Festival. The first festival held on the farm was also Miles and Jessie’s wedding. After the success of that event, they started to think about the ways in which they could incorporate their connections with musicians, artists, and performers in the Cities into opportunities for work in the local area. “I’ve run a ton of shows in the Cities, and we have a huge Cadre of artists to pull from. We had the idea that we would want to do some sort of arts residency, focused on smaller projects. And then, eventually, also have people share their skills with the community. As artists, the skills that we have are easily transferrable into other things,” Miles says. “I was a Philosophy major, and there are no jobs in Philosophy but I’m very good at research and writing, so it’s easy to do copywriting, editing, and that kind of stuff.” The name of the festival would also become the name of the farm, now titled Prairie Fyre Farm.

That thought process led to Miles applying for and receiving a Southwest Minnesota Arts Council grant. The grant awarded Miles $1,000 to support a project called “Bound Space” and was presented at Bluenose Gopher Public House on December 18th. Miles contacted an acquaintance from the Twin Cities art scene, Clinton Kundardt, a classically trained Opera singer and Warehouse, Techno, DJ, and Lighting operator to take part in the first small-scale residency at Prairie Fyre Farm. “I thought Clinton is perfect because he’s just so helpful and easygoing. He’s a consummate professional. We can just sit down and we’ll both start working with no sort of mucking about,” Miles says. The two planned the week-long residency to revolve around recording an original song and filming/editing a video for the song. “We would do everything from scratch, using all analog instruments. We used my camera to do the videography,” he explains.

The first day of the project was spent filming the scenes for the video that depicts Kundardt being lost in the Prairie Fyre Farm grove, then discovering himself before the scene reverses. “It’s not really high concept, but something simple that we could accomplish in one week,” Miles says. After one full day of storyboarding, rehearsing, and filming, they were done. “By that night, as I was starting to work on the footage, Clinton was already working on the song,” Miles says. Utilizing a synthesizer that uses the electricity in his body, the music was recorded and the rest of the week was spent editing and preparing for the premiere. 

Miles Taylor.

The premiere took place at Bluenose Gopher Public House as a part of Miles and Jessie’s regular show that has been ongoing for a couple of months and will resume after a winter break, likely in March. For the show, Jessie performs “Granite Falls Home Companion”, a parody show in which she dresses as Garrison Keillor. Immediately after, Miles presents “A Taste of Minneapolis” featuring performance artists and musicians from the Twin Cities.

“A Taste of Minneapolis” began after Miles and Jessie experienced their first event at Bluenose Gopher Public House after months of quarantine. “In April, once we were vaccinated and everything opened up, I had a show at Bluenose for the first time, and that night there was a ton of people our age that came out. We quickly made a ton of friends around here, which we were kind of surprised by,” Miles says. “I was kind of blown away about all of the things happening in Granite. It’s always been a beautiful town. We saw all the energy going on here, and we were able to quickly, with all the people around here, just kind of start working on projects, and start doing shows.”

“A Taste of Minneapolis” not only gives Miles the opportunity to bring some of his connections to the Twin Cities arts scene to Granite Falls for locals to experience, but he says it’s also a great opportunity to bring his connections to Granite Falls to show them how interesting the local community is. “It just shows people how great it is out here. Because I grew up knowing that it’s really nice, but it can be hard for people and it can be isolating. It’s finding ways to show people that rural America is great and welcoming, and the price to live in the Cities in any urban area is insanity,” Miles adds. 

In addition to hosting the regular shows at Bluenose Gopher Public House, Miles has joined the cooperative’s events committee, as well as the Granite Falls Arts Council. He hopes to bring additional art exhibits, reflective of the work he has previously done curating exhibits in the Twin Cities to Granite Falls. “I brought an International art exhibit to Gamma Gallery in Minneapolis and we’ve been looking for a new place to do it. I’m working with the other curators on bringing that here to Granite Falls hopefully in September,” he says. He still plans to do regular shows in the Twin Cities to keep the connections going, while looking into more ideas for shows and exhibits locally. Taylor also has a monthly show at the Little Theater Auditorium in New London and plans to host the Prairie Fyre Festival again this September.  

Those interested in following along with Miles's upcoming shows and art exhibits can visit his websites: efenkay.net, future framing.net, and iteratedesigns.net. All “A Taste of Minneapolis” event information is advertised on Bluenose Gopher Public House’s social media, and all upcoming shows in New London are advertised on the Little Theater Auditorium’s social media.