Newsroom Midwest Region

Defining home and illuminating the community

March 1, 2018

Participants decorated the warming house with origami falcons. Photo courtesy of Plus/And.
Participants decorated the warming house with origami falcons. Photo courtesy of Plus/And.

Over the course of three days in February, Illuminate South Loop welcomed people from across the Twins Cities to get to know each other through a collection of interactive art installations in Bloomington, Minnesota. Staff and volunteers from The Somali Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Refuge Friends, Incorporated teamed up with local artists from Plus/And to create a place to build connections. The results were heartwarming.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a little different than most refuges, because the 14,000-acre stretch of public land is woven throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The refuge ranges from urban to rural and provides a special opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy nature close to home. The refuge is home to all sorts of migratory birds, fish and wildlife. It's a place where coyotes, bald eagles and trout live next door to more than three million people - and it’s right in your backyard! Events like Illuminate South Loop are the perfect place for the refuge to connect with the wider community.

Commissioned by the City of Bloomington, artists Amanda Lovelee and Emily Stover turned a construction trailer into the warm and welcoming Way Station Warming House. Inside this interactive exhibit, visitors experienced an atmosphere that blended tangible natural history with conceptual representations of home. Tiny hummingbird nests, bee hives and paper wasp nests prompted discussions of intangible concepts like home. The walls were filled with educational posters and beautiful displays.

The experience provided an intentional crossroads that focused on how people, plants and animals collectively make home. Each day during the three-day exhibit, a new question was posed to participants, including “what makes you feel at home?” The informal storytelling vignettes developed organically, making the event unique and memorable.

We look forward to more innovative, fun ways to meet people where they are, make connections and helping to build community - both at the refuge and across the metro area.

Way Station Warming House participants. Photo courtesy of Plus/And.
Way Station Warming House participants. Photo courtesy of Plus/And.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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