Eaux Claires: The Power of Place

“I don’t know where to begin.”

When we started Leav, we came up with a number of phrases that we thought spoke to what the app was all about. These phrases tend to surface at different times, according to the nature of a project. The phrase I found myself repeating most a week ago in Eau Claire, WI was “the power of place.” It was the only way I could describe what I saw at the inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival at Foster Farms festival grounds just outside of the town.

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One week later, we still feel the vibrations of Eaux Claires. Not just the sounds we heard, but the vibrations we felt from everyone-musicians, staff, festival-goers. Justin Vernon had it right–something happened at Eaux Claires that doesn’t happen at any other festival. A community came together, but not just the Eau Claire community. The community that was created by Eaux Claires, by all who took in, and took part in, music and art that weekend. A rough, ragged, but still mystical and ready sense of of togetherness coalesced in the Chippewa Valley for two days in July of 2015, and we, the Leav team, were both proud and profoundly moved to be a part of it.



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In many ways, Eaux Claires was the perfect distillation of what Leav is, and what it can be a part of. Place has a power all its own, without people there to witness it. But when we are there, when we take part in it, with friends, family, new acquaintances there to sing and dance and play with us, place takes on a new meaning. A meaning that we create. That’s what we saw last weekend in Wisconsin, and that’s what we have to thank Justin Vernon, the Dessner brothers, Michael Perry, all the artists, festival-goers, and staff for bringing to our eyes and ears at Eaux Claires.

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And of course, we have to thank all those who downloaded Leav and made it a part of their festival experience. We hope we gave you a window on not only the power, but also the potential of a place in the Chippewa Valley, “That river behind you,” as Michael Perry said. “Runnin’ through the night. Runnin’ through all time.”

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The Journey Continues

What a year it’s been.

Since we last talked, Leav has grown branches. Work continues with a number of great artists and organizations, and our world is already beginning to populate with a slew of unique and challenging projects. Their work via Leav has been featured a number of different ways in the media, most recently as a segment for TPT’s MN Original series (http://www.mnoriginal.org/episode/614-2/leav-app-2/).

The most exciting prospect, though, is that Leav is on the map. Artists and users alike are noticing just how dramatically Leav can augment their world via art and the power of place. People are getting out, getting in, and getting it, and we couldn’t be more excited about the results.

This spring, we had a chance to work with Bryce Dessner of The National on his composition Music for Wood and Strings, featuring So Percussion, which we presented in Loring Park as a companion to the Walker Art Center and SPCO Liquid Music’s two-day presentation of Bryce’s music. The event was a major success, and helped bring about our collaboration later this month with the Eaux Claires music festival in Eau Claires, WI, curated by Bryce’s brother Aaron and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (http://eauxclaires.com/). There we will feature Bryce’s Music for Wood and Strings once again on location, along with excerpts from WI author Michael Perry’s ‘Population 485’ spread throughout the festival grounds. We’re hugely excited about being a part of this unique and interactive festival, and we can’t wait to be the virtual eyes and ears of festival-goers.

via Thirty Two Magazine

Did we mention that Leav can read too? In addition to Michael Perry’s presence in the world of Leav, Twin Cities luminary Andy Sturdevant, who was the major feature in TPT’S MN Original segment, will present his literary tour of lost Minneapolis locations through Leav later this year. You’ll be able to travel to the actual locations themselves and get a literary tutorial of the history of different artist spaces around the city, past and present. Andy’s project will coincide with the first of a number of ‘Leav-taking’ events, featuring unique tours of the works of artists throughout the city. More to come on that.

Branches, branches, and more branches. We’re always working to spread the canopy, to reach more of you and show you how cool this world is. More and more unfolds this year. Stay tuned.


Leaving the Norm

Leav is out in the world. A few weeks ago, we threw a party to celebrate this fact. We heard great music, talked to friends new and old, and introduced our work to a roomful of people eager to learn just what exactly this world of Leav was all about. Still, it didn’t quite feel real. Now that the idea has come to fruition, what is left? The truth is, the work has only just begun.

Now that Leav is available to everyone, the question we ask ourselves is not what Leav is, but what Leav can be. That, as we have always known, is an extremely broad question. Leav is a sandbox. It’s for play and discovery and illumination. But the box is deep and the terrain is expansive, and we have countless buckets of digital sand to fill it in. How big and detailed the castles that are built in the box now depends on those we invite to play with us.

We have the chance now to create, expand, discover, and most importantly, learn what the world of Leav can be. Our inaugural artists have shown us the other side of windows of possibility as to the amazing things we can build with this platform. Now we’re looking forward to inviting more artists in to see what windows they open, what landscapes we have yet to envision.

Twin Cities artist Daniel Dean paid us a compliment in a recent segment on MPR’s Art Hounds. He said Leav is an app that is “just trying to get [its users] to feel more alive.” Of course, this depends on just what exactly you think it means to be alive. Since art is well versed in this field, we’ll let it do the talking. All you have to do is listen, learn, and live life with Leav as your companion for those days when you want to see the world a little differently than you did the day before.

Stay with us on this journey. Much more to come.



The Kickstarter is over. Long live the Kickstarter.

If there’s one thing you learn from raising $22,459 in one month, it’s that people are incredibly generous. And that people still believe in ideas. Because that is, after all, what Leav still is at this point–an idea. The app is still in the process of being built. No one has seen it in action. Not even a screenshot. And yet here we are, our goal fulfilled and ready to fund the work of 15 new artists to populate the world of Leav, with money given freely by people who read a description and said, “Yeah, that sounds cool to me.”

People shouldn’t be so willing to commit to ideas in our buttoned up, withdrawn era. Should they? Well, apparently they are. Because everyone is still human, after all, and one thing humans commonly do is trust. We can’t help it. It’s a terrifyingly brave pact we make between each other, but it’s as natural as breathing. Which means the terms of the pact can only be fulfilled through the willingness of the trustees to breathe life into the agreed upon object of trust.

Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for entrusting us to breathe life into Leav. It’s a terrifyingly brave pact you’ve made with us, but we’re ready to fulfill the terms. Leav will be out June 14. We’ll be throwing a swanky party to celebrate it, and we’d love to see you there and shake your hand. The world of Leav is growing thanks in large part to your trust in us to see it through. If modern belief in an idea is a digital handshake, then you’ve already extended your hand. It’s time for us to extend ours.

Thanks again.

– Erik

Warm Thoughts

Joy Division – Atmosphere

“It’s cold in up here” is the understatement of the year. It is downright chilled-to-the-bone frigid in the Twin Cities. The polar vortices have their grip, and they’re not letting go. Still, even amidst sub-Arctic temperatures, there’s beauty to be found in the world around us. In fact, it is the relentless cold that has caused Lake Superior to freeze over enough to allow people to visit the ice caves of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands for the first time in five years. People can make it to the caves by foot, but only while the ice is thick enough. This, like most of nature’s gallery events, is an exclusive showing.

In the midst of working on an app that enhances a person’s daily experience with location-based art, it’s heartening and humbling to know that nature has already been doing that exact thing for a very long time. For the billions of years that there has been red sandstone in the Apostle Islands, nature has been putting on its exclusive shows, come cold, warmth, rain, or sunshine, in as many configurations as you could imagine, for as long as it takes to get the point across. Of course, nature’s wonders don’t require an audience, but as long as we’re here, we might as well enjoy, and help preserve, the many installations while they last.

We hope Leav can become to the city what nature is to, well, itself. Humans move fast compared to nature, but we’re still responsible for the environments we create. Just like the ice caves of the Apostle Islands, there are invisible works of art in our world that await our senses. We have only to bring them to digital life, in whatever configuration we desire, for however long we need them. A billionth of a second in a billion years. I’m already warming up.