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Artist's launch expedition in shantyboat on Mississippi River, stop in Hastings

On July 24th, after a cross-country journey, California artists Wes Modes and Kai Dalgleish launched their shantyboat on the Mississippi River. Starting in Minneapolis, they are floating downriver gathering oral history about river people. They are expected to arrive in Hastings today (Wednesday) and stay through Thursday.

Secret History is an art project to uncover lost history. A few generations ago, communities of shantyboats, or rustic houseboats, lined the banks of the river in every river town in America. Now they are mostly gone and soon the stories will be lost as well.

The Secret History Project is a journey to discover, present, and connect the lost narratives of working-class river communities from the deck of a recreated shantyboat. The boat serves as both the vehicle for the journey as well as the Secret History library and archive.

Artist Wes Modes will be gathering interviews with people living in communities along the river. The collection of interviews will serve as an archive for future scholars as well as be publicly-accessible online.

They will be stopping at big and small towns from the Twin Cities to the Quad Cities talking to people and offering tours of the Secret History shantyboat.

The artists invite you to contact them and track the progress of the Secret History Expedition at the website

Chad Richardson

Chad Richardson is the news director for RiverTown Multimedia. He was the publisher of four RiverTown publications until 2016, when he was named news director. He was previously general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He worked at the Hastings Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.

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