A film about the legacy of the Fergus Falls State Hospital, alternately known as the Third Minnesota State Hospital for the Insane or, simply, the Kirkbride building. Built in 1890 under the design plan of Thomas Story Kirkbride, who emphasized the 'moral treatment' of the mentally ill, the hospital employed hundreds of workers and held 2,000 patients at its peak. The hospital was entirely self-sufficient, with its own farm, dairy, wood shop and orchestra. It served Fergus Falls for 117 years before finally closing in 2007, long after the other large state hospitals underwent de-institutionalization. The building now sits empty on the edge of town, the community cleft between redevelopment and demolition. I made this film while living in a building on the old hospital grounds, talking to people about the legacy this building still has in their small farming community. Completed as part of the Hinge Arts residency for Springboard For The Arts.
The title comes from a patient, who is quoted by my friend Michele Anderson in her thesis, titled "Imaginative Fields".
"While the building was tucked away and easy to miss if you weren't looking for it, the impact on everyday life in the community, even today as it sits empty, cannot be ignored. Former hospital workers still gather annually to remember their lives in this self-sustaining community, which had its own auto shop, beauty salon, underground tunnels, and parades. A patient-staff orchestra named the Happy Ramblers led weekly outdoor dances on the tennis court, performing on instruments donated by people in the community. Many former nurses have expressed to me how important the arts were to the patients. One remembers a regular saying of one of her patients: "I'm going to kill myself...but first I'm going to dance!" This patient would dance his heart out and drench his shirts in sweat - possibly the most important therapy he needed to get through each week."