Defiant Gardens for Fargo-Moorhead

Plains Art Museum

Funding Received: 2013
Fargo, ND
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 31, 2014

By Karis Thompson

Update and reflection
This month’s Defiant Gardens for Fargo-Moorhead blog features an extended update on the Pollinator Garden for the Plains Art Museum, one of the three Defiant Garden projects commissioned by the Plains Art Museum.

This spring, Pollinator Garden for the Plains artists Christine Baeumler and MeLissa Kossick selected 17 teen interns from a competitive applicant pool to comprise the Buzz Lab Swarm. They collaborated with Museum staff Kris Bergquist, director of education, and Brianna McNelly, manager of youth programs, to structure a weeklong internship featuring engaged arts and ecological learning and an introduction to a host of mentors and practitioners. The Swarm – ages 12 - 18 years – debuted as public ambassadors for pollinators during a flash mob performance at an opening reception at the Museum for two summer exhibitions, and created PSAs posted on their Facebook page and in their Twitter feed. This July 8, the Buzz Lab Swarm hosted a public lunch to introduce their insights about pollinator threats and thriving, and to reflect on the intersection of art and ecology. And Twin Cities poet Juliet Patterson worked with the Buzz lab to create individual and group poems about pollinators.

Concurrent with the Buzz Lab internship selection and planning process, Christine and MeLissa, Fred Rozumalski and Eric Holt of Barr Engineering, contractors Jay and Andy Alsop, Jesse Riley of Specialized Landscaping and Museum staff Colleen Sheehy, director / CEO, and Mark Henze, CFO, advanced work towards the realization of the Pollinator Garden. Fred Rozumalski also joined the Buzz Lab as a resident horticulturist, ecologist and landscape architect, interpreting the garden master plan, coaching interns as they established plantings and introducing interns to the fundamentals of ecological design. Jesse Riley donated consulting services to Plains staff, and Jay and Andy Alsop also contributed in-kind services, cutting concrete to install trenches and drains. We also anticipate installing a cistern to collect rainwater for maintenance of plants within the next two months.

This year’s unrelenting winter cold delayed ground thaw, shifting the construction timeline past the week of Buzz Lab and requiring the Buzz Lab team to redesign the internship. The schedules of contractors donating services at the peak of the construction season have also impacted the timeline for garden installation.

Recent wins
A local TV station featured the Buzz Lab internship on its evening news program, generating good buzz for the Pollinator Garden and directing attention to the plight of pollinators. This coverage, along with their public appearances at the Museum and social media presence, cast youth as community leaders and catalysts for social change.

The rationale and design for the Pollinator Garden for the Plains – along with the Fern Grotto for Fargo, the Legacy Garden for Moorhead and The Fargo Project: World Garden Commons – will be featured in the Plains’ exhibition of Living as Form (The Nomadic Version) this June 12 – September 14, introducing and interpreting these creative placemaking installations.

During the internship, Buzz Lab interns reflected on the internship as either a beginning or deepening of their relationship with the Plains. As a Museum staff and artist team, we look forward to seeing how this internship might establish a heightened sense of connection and stakeholder identity amongst this cohort and to exploring other avenues to invite not just attendance but meaningful engagement and collaboration with youth at the Museum. How will a contribution like planting a garden at the Museum and pollinator advocacy engender a sense of long-term stake and sense of ownership in an organization and community? How could an expanded network of youth stakeholders interact with and impact the Museum?