Defiant Gardens for Fargo-Moorhead

Plains Art Museum

Funding Received: 2013
Fargo, ND
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 20, 2013

 The plan sketch for the Moorhead Power Plant Defiant Garden; courtesy of Rob Fischer and Kevin Johnson

Defiant Garden for the Moorhead Power Plant: Moorhead Public Service (MPS) Commission, the entity that owns the decommissioned Moorhead Power Plant and the land across from the plant, the site of the future Defiant Garden, unanimously agreed in September to move forward on refining an agreement with Plains Art Museum and Concordia College. Several people involved in the project presented the new design for the garden at the Commission’s September 24th public meeting. Peter Schultz, chair of Concordia’s Art Department, spoke about their commitment to involve their students in maintaining the Defiant Garden as part of their degree work, a significant step to ensure ongoing care and preservation of the garden. Because MPS plans to demolish and remove all remnants of the defunct power plant from the proposed garden site, design implementation now will not begin until May 2014.

Winter Fern Grotto for Fargo: Colleen Sheehy, Defiant Gardens project director, met in September with Regan Schwaen, associate professor of architecture at North Dakota State University, to review and refine project plans for the Winter Fern Garden and lay out action steps for this fall. Schwaen plans to develop with Michael J. Strand, chair of the NDSU Department of Visual Arts, a cross-departmental course for spring semester in which the students will develop blueprints for the Fern Grotto, to be built into a repurposed railroad box car.

Pollinator Garden for Plains Art Museum: Artist MeLissa Kossick, who teaches youth classes on art, gardens and pollinators, completed a delightful mosaic design in September called “Bee in Flight.” The whimsical, circular mosaic patterns weave along the hallway that connects the museum to our Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity. In coming months, thousands of Fargo Public School children and other youth will pass through this “Creativity Pathway” en route to a variety of art classes. Workshops that combine art and science will be offered on garden-related themes with the intent to recruit and engage young gardeners for next summer’s planting and garden creation.

Recent Wins
Defiant Garden for the Moorhead Power Plant: The fact that the Moorhead Public Service Commission (MPS) voted unanimously to support a draft agreement on the garden that would commit Plains Art Museum, Concordia College, and MPS to a long-term plan for the site was a major win. One commissioner said, “I like this project,” and compared it to an amenity he had seen in a smaller city in northern Minnesota. The Commissions support is critical to the future and success of the Defiant Garden. Coming up, the Museum and Concordia will work with the MPS General Manager and the MPS lawyer to refine the agreement to everyone’s satisfaction.

Pollinator Garden for Plains Art Museum: As harvest season wanes, the Pollinator Garden that graces the grounds of Plains Art Museum is settling into dormancy. Over the winter months, plans will take root to significantly expand this garden space to nearly triple in size from the original dimensions with the addition of more land. The work completed this year intrigued the Museum’s neighbor, Jay Alsop, who owns the 8th Street Lofts, an apartment building bordering the Museum’s parking lots.  He invited the Pollinator Garden team to expand the landscaping to include his building, at his expense. To prepare for the next design step, Alsop removed truckloads of large rocks that filled the foundation areas around his building. On October 7, artist Christine Baeumler and Museum staff will meet with Alsop to discuss the details and possibilities of this new arrangement and new partner.

Each project, with its different site and community collaborators as well as artistic staff, proceeds at different paces. When working in the public realm and gathering together multiple entities, original schedules often take new turns as public entities respond to new situations related to the site. Colleen Sheehy sees this as part of the work in the public realm and the “social sculpture” aspect of this work, using a phrase from German artist Joseph Beuys. “We are altering relationships among people and organizations, businesses, and public entities, and that takes patience, flexibility, listening, and understanding others views and priorities. This is as essential a part of these art projects as what finally gets created in the physical realm.” Artist Christine Baeumler talks about “slow art,” work that emerges from these complex relationships and takes time to nurture and develop.