Four years ago, Kate Land and her partner Corey bought two abandoned houses in the heart of the Indiana Dunes. The Miller Beach neighborhood of Gary, a city known as the birthplace of the Jackson 5 and home to heavy industry, is also conveniently located near the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. Kate and Corey decided to keep one building for themselves and turn the other into the Calumet Artist Residency with the belief that creative visitors could help address some of the region’s main issues. Once a crystal-clear glacial body of water, the Calumet River is now a series of partitioned, smaller waterways that are immensely polluted due to modern manufacturing processes. The couple have been asking guests to consider the “significant local natural beauty while acknowledging the troubling relationship between industry and nature” in their work. Kate, who grew up in a different part of the state, discovered an area much more verdant, compelling, and complex than suggested by its preceding reputation. So far, the cooperative has had several artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers stay each summer. The pair eventually plan to acquire additional houses nearby to expand the movement.
The property itself has 85 steps that lead up to the two houses, which are situated next to a land trust. Despite the secluded setting, the South Shore train station is one mile away, and takes passengers to Chicago in under an hour. The mid-century buildings, constructed in 1950 and 1965, were in terrible shape when Kate and Corey found them. Built at the top of a hill, they feel like treehouses with forest canopy eye-level to the first floor. The most wonderful thing about hosting an artist residency, besides offering a lush oasis within an industrial zone, is that the rooms are filled with art inspired by that very place. —Annie
Photography by Kate Land of Calumet Residency