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an exhibition, symposium, and publication, curated by Lise Haller Baggesen and Yvette Brackman the show visited The Great Poor Farm Experiment VIII (WI)  2016  and  Krabbesholm (DK) in 2017

Inspired by Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus,” engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York, Poor & Needy explored various economies of creative compassion. At the Poor Farm, housed in a former debtors farm in rural Wisconsin, Poor & Needy engaged its site to reflect on ideas related to cooperation, migration and debt. For the Great Poor Farm Experiment VIII, in the summer of 2016, the exhibition occupied two floors of the Poor Farm with an upstairs “biblioteque” and basement “discoteque,” to underscore how these issues must be actuated both in the archive and in the club, to capture our hearts as well our minds.

Migration implies collaboration, and the need to recognize our interconnectedness, to address systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. Debt and economic liberalization turns the previously mentioned social and political movement(s) into profitable economical entities within debt relations. As artists we rely on each other to forge bonds and collaborations, but what does it mean to be in debt; to whom are we indebted, and who will hold us accountable – society, community, the canon, a legally binding contract, or merely our own moral code?

Poor & Needy brings together a disparate group of artists from Scandinavia and from the American Midwest, using landscape, locality and (shared) history to examine artistic ecologies in various forms, from artist-run spaces, collaborations, and publications, to the cooperative continuum between people in nature.

Following the Great Poor Farm Experiment VIII, the exhibition and symposium travelled to Krabbesholm, DK in fall 2017. The third, and final part of the project consisted of a publication, co-published by Poor Farm Press and Krabbeshiolm Højskole, including documentation of the exhibition(process) as well as reflective texts by Lise Haller Baggesen, Yvette Brackman, invited scholars, and exhibiting artists.

work by:

Rashayla Marie Brown

Kirsten Dufour / Mobil Kultur Bureau

Jim Duignan / Stockyard Institute

Michelle Eistrup

Anja Franke

Nanna Lysholt Hansen

Hannah Heilmann

Anni Holm

Ulla Hvejsel

Henrik Plenge Jakobsen

Jenny Kendler

Kurt Finsten / Krabbesholm Højskole

Kirsten Leenaars

Sofia Leiby

Tony Lewis

Josh Mittelman

Matt Morris


Edra Soto

The Third Rail

Andrew Yang & Christa Donner / Cultural ReProducers 




The exhibition and symposium that was Poor and Needy at The Poor Farm arrived in Denmark as The Poor Connection at Krabbesholm Højskole, an important institution for aspiring artists, writers, and thinkers, situated in the heart of Jutland. The Poor Connection brought together artists from Scandinavia and the American Midwest, to strengthen and explore the connections between these two demographics and better understand their shared history and how they relate to the subjects of cooperation, migration, labor and debt.

The artist’s colony, because that is what both The Poor Farm and Krabbesholm are, is located somewhere between Utopia and a gated community; questions of exclusivity and inclusivity repeatedly come into play here. But at least, these are open-ended conversations, not the law. In addition to the exhibition we have produced an exhibition catalogue with texts and works from artists and writers that reflect upon the open-mindedness of our local and global communities.


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When, about two years ago, we were invited by Brad Killam and Michelle Grabner to “do something “ for the 2016 Great Poor Farm Experiment VIII in Manawa in rural Wisconsin, we eagerly accepted because we recognized the Poor Farm’s importance in the cultural landscape of the American Midwest. In 2017, at the invitation of Kurt Finsten, we brought the exhibition to Krabbesholm Højskole, another refuge for aspiring artists, writers, and thinkers, situated in the heart of what the Danes know as “The Dark Jutland.”


Mirroring the journey we had made ourselves in a symmetrical motion across the Atlantic – Yvette emigrated from the USA to Denmark in 1996, while Lise left Denmark in 1992 to arrive in America via the Netherlands in 2008 – we took our cue from the poem The New Colossus, in which the Statue of Liberty is hailed as the “the Mother of Exile,” to instigate a conversation about art, migration, and debt. We brought together a group of artists from Copenhagen and Chicago, who each in their own way had expanded their practice to contribute to maintaining an ecosystem of cultural production which we felt were under threat.


Little did we know that in the two years between the first invitation to do this show and the publication of the book you now hold in your hand, these already precarious systems would be increasingly threatened and artists further marginalized. Affluent economies in the Global North point to the recent economic crisis to explain why they can no longer afford to subsidize artists, whom they readily paint as “poor and needy” individuals, who are “addicted” to social security, and who are “afraid” to work. This trend has gone hand in hand with an increased xenophobia in both countries, where the same rhetoric is leveraged against immigrants by governments eager to build walls and close borders. Gradually and suddenly the Utopias of “the American Dream” as well as the “Scandinavian Welfare State” have come to look like gated communities.


The artists’ colony, because that is what both The Poor Farm and Krabbesholm are, is located somewhere between Utopia and the gated community; questions of exclusivity and inclusivity repeatedly come into play here. But at least these are open-ended conversations, not the law; the texts and works in this book are contributions from artists and writers toward the continued open-mindedness of our local and global communities.


Come one, come all: it doesn’t say RSVP on the statue of Liberty. It does not say so on the gates of the art world either!


Chicago/Copenhagen 2017


Yvette Brackman & Lise Haller Baggesen

Design: Kurt Finsten
Printed by: Naryana Press. Printed in Denmark. 120 pages.
ISBN: 978-0-578-00400-6
Distribution in the US: Poor Farm Press 753 S 5th Street, Milwaukee WI 53204
Brad Killam:

Michelle Grabner:

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