Two Maine artists are making a full-length trip down the Mississippi River this summer with the goal of documenting the changing flow of the river and its people.
Morgan Rogers and Emily du Houx, both of Maine, recently completed their handbuilt shanty boat and set off on their journey Monday, July 11, in St. Paul with plans to reach New Orleans by early September.
They named their boat Michi Zeebee, the Native American name for the Mississippi.
But the hybrid shanty boat is more than a boat or artistic creation, "it's a vehicle for collecting stories," du Houx said.
Following the footsteps of countless explorers, opportunists and workers, the Maine duo will also collect and document people's stories as well as showcase their work as they drift downstream over the course of two months.
Among the questions they hope to answer are how people's relationship to the river has changed.
After partnering with a traditional wood boatbuilding school, in Rockland, Maine to build their boat, the women also plan to publish an art book of their exposition.
Their boat's design is based off a 1960s-era houseboat, but also uses elements from theatrical showboats with colonial-era details on its siding and windows.
But by the time Rogers and du Houx reach New Orleans in September, their boat will continue to evolve.
They plan to add flags, a water screen that shows sonar imaging of the bottom of the river, a wheel to play analog animations and incorporate other materials they collect along the way.
Rogers and du Houx said they hope the stories raise awareness to the importance of the river and how it relates to people's daily lives.
"It's supposed to be a multi-media portrait of the river," du Houx said. "It's already being transformed by the things people are giving us."
The modest interior includes a sleeping space about the size of a king mattress, with added room to store their supplies, maps, a small canoe for portages, boat-building equipment and a few creature comforts.
"You really have to pare down," Rogers said.
With a resurgence of alternative living and tiny house trends, she said a part of the project is to also see what the challenges are for living out of a boat that can be easily made in a backyard.
"It's designed for people in the '60s who sort of wanted to get off the grid and build something in their backyard to take into nature," du Houx said.
They also plan to stop for shows in several river cities, before arriving in New Orleans on Sept. 8.
Rogers and du Houx will also be updating their experiences on their website carrierpigeonstudio.com.