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Multimedia project promotes stewardship, artistry

Staff writer

When musician Susan Mayo returned from her residency at Matfield Green last year, she knew she wanted to bring something similar to Marion County.

“It’s a way for me to connect with Marion County and bring something back to the area,” she said.

The idea took a step further when Kansas City filmmaker Cyan Meeks expressed interest in collaborating, Mayo said.

“We tossed around several ideas, and when I told her I was doing this project she said she’d love to do a documentary,” she said. “She has all these ideas, like putting microphones and cameras inside trees. It would be a long-term project.”

The main location of the Flint Hills Counterpoint is 14 acres Mayo owns near Peabody, but her goal is to apply it throughout Marion County.

“The main thing is having some kind of a core place,” Mayo said.

Mayo and her partners have received a grant from the Kansas Forest Service, and are seeking additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts

“It’s about getting people aware, not only of Marion County, but the ecosystem in general,” she said.

The number of people interested in collaboration has swelled, now pulling from groups like the Marion and Hillsboro economic development departments, county commissioners, and Tabor College’s fine arts program.

One of those excited to hop on board is Hillsboro Elementary principal Evan Yoder.

“You never know what the trigger to a lifelong interest is,” he said. “The more things we can expose kids to, the better.”

Part of what Yoder is anticipating is finding ways to keep students engaged, like he was inspired as a child in elementary school.

“I want to find those things,” he said. “That’s what gets kids coming back to school the next day because they want to do it again.”

“There are a lot of people and a lot of factions we’re pulling together to create community outreach,” Mayo said.

With more members come more possibilities, including stewardship of the land, classes about edible plants, musical work, and the visual arts, Mayo said.

“There are so many things in Marion County that are amazing,” she said. “We’re trying to highlight those and create pride in the community.”

Having more community members collaborating increases what can be done because there are more resources, Yoder said.

“You get more networking and resources,” he said. “You find a greater talent base of who can bring the stuff to the age levels we work with, and pique an interest. Find something kids have never seen before.”

The project’s timeline isn’t set in stone, but should last at least two years, Mayo said.

“Part of what’s intriguing is that there will be long term cameras and microphones to get footage of what’s going on and document the change,” she said. “Originally, we were thinking of a five-year project.”

Last modified Aug. 7, 2019

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