The Fargo Project

By Paul Hankel
Staff Writer

Set to be completed in the summer of 2012, The Fargo Project seeks input from local artists and residents along with getting a little help from the Big Apple.

The city of Fargo has teamed up with nationally recognized ecological artist Jackie Brookner to embark on a project that will seek to create artistic spaces out of functional water storage basins. The goal is to turn three specific water retention and drainage basins into functioning pieces of ecological art. These drainage basins were constructed in the early 2000’s in response to the massive amounts of water backup created by Fargo’s nearly constant spring flooding issues. The result is large concrete and metal structures that successfully retain water but that are not the most aesthetically pleasing. The hope is that these areas can be turned into usable space in which residents can congregate and enjoy.

The three areas that have been chosen include the basins near Jefferson Park, the YMCA West,and Buena Vista. City Planners want to turn the mundane spaces into usable areas that could include water-recreation activities, walking trails, water fountains, ecological reserves or many other options.

City planners and engineers met in 2010 to propose the project and soon brought eco-artist and author Jackie Brookner aboard due to her vast experience in ecological art as well as large-scale installations. Brookner will oversee and advise on the project, which will be a giant collaboration of city employees, artists, neighborhoods and residents.

Brookner, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, currently resides in New York where she teaches graduate school classes as well as focuses on her art. She is the author of several publications including, “Urban Rain: Stormwater as Resource” which could be viewed as the literary platform for The Fargo Project

HIGH PLAINS READER: How did the idea of this project come about?

JACKIE BROOKNER: I had started working on a similar project in St. Louis, which got off to a wonderful start; we had a really great beginning. It’s still at a conceptual level, but it has already been very successful in activating a community of people and giving them the opportunity to be creative in the broadest sense of the word, not just in terms of creative visual art, but in terms of creative problem solving.

HPR: What makes Fargo a good candidate for another project like this?

JB: Fargo is a wonderful second focus. The diverse population and sense of community will make a perfect canvas for a project of this size and nature.

HPR: There is a community orientated theme to this project. Tell us a little bit about that.

JB: What we want is to give people the chance to be creative and involved. Not just in the design, but also the building of this project. We want to provide opportunities for people, diverse communities, to participate in really imagining what something could be, how they want it to function, what it should look like, how it’s built, the long-term care of it, all aspects of this project.

HPR: How are these installations going to be transformed into community based projects?

JB: The thought was, in addition to being functional water storage basins, what other ways could these spaces be used while still maintaining their functionality. We want to create meaningful spaces for community members and Fargo as a whole to use and enjoy. The process will be as important as the product. We want the residents of these neighborhoods where these installations are to look at them and say, “This is ours, we built it”.

Working closely with Brookner will be City Planner Nicole Crutchfield of the Department of Planning & Development in Fargo. The City will be partnering with several different community groups including the local school districts, the Native American Commission, NDSU scientific departments, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and local and regional artists.

HIGH PLAINS READER: So was this project the City’s idea?

NICOLE CRUTCHFIELD: No, it was a combination of ideas. We had been looking for ways to make these water detention facilities more artful for quite some time. Jackie (Brookner) visited the area during 2010 and the height of our flood preparation. We had the opportunity to meet with her and were familiar with her areas of expertise. We had several focus groups and casual discussions as well as a formal presentation that Jackie did at Renaissance Hall at NDSU. She kept the conversations going with our City Administrator, Pat Zavoral and we decided to go ahead with it.

HPR: What made the City decide to handle these areas in an artistic manner?

NC: We took into account Fargo’s culture, values and traditions as well as our water issues. We really wanted to make these spaces multi-purpose and Pat (Zavoral) sat Jackie’s expertise and he brought her onto the project. We want these spaces to be areas that Fargo residents can use and enjoy.

HPR: Throughout this process you will be seeking input from local residents as well as artists?

NC: The communities’ input is really important in this process and we want to involve as many residents and artists as we can. We want them to be involved not only in the design of the constructions, but also the building of them.

The Fargo Project is set to begin construction early next summer with a completion date set for the end of the summer. Currently, City Planners are actively seeking community and local artist input. There will be an informational meeting held at the John Carlson Library on November 5,

2011 at 2:30 pm. The City also plans on hosting several design workshops and focus groups that will take place throughout the winter. Listed below is the Call for Artists for The Fargo Project.

Application Deadline: November 18, 2011, 4:30 pm

Include the following information in your application:

•Contact Information: Name, current address, phone, and email.

•Letter of Interest: One page, outlining why you are interested in working on this project, your approach to participatory public art, and what you hope to get out of it. Please indicate if you are applying for Project Collaborator or Collaborative Assistant.

•Bio: A biography of no more than one page featuring past experience and skills you bring to the project. Include anything else you think is relevant to your selection.

•Work Sample: Up to 7 high quality images in jpg format of non-time based work, 100 dpi, longest dimension 1000 pixels, or up to 3 examples of any time based work (video, sound, performance, etc) on DVD with your name labeled on the face of the DVD (materials will not be returned) up to 4 minute selection per video.

•Image List: An annotated image list, labeled with your name, contact information and numerical listing for each image, including title, medium, dimensions, date, project description, and project budget.

•References: Three references, including name, phone and email.

Please submit hard copy applications + DVD only:

City of Fargo Planning Department
ATTN: Nicole Crutchfield
200 N Third Street
Fargo, ND 58102

All finalists will be notified by November 30th. Interviews will follow December 5th – 9th.

Feel free to contact Nicole Crutchfield at 701-297-7782 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with questions.

Residents whom wish to be involved in The Fargo Project are encouraged to attend the community discussion meetings. More information can be found at http://www.thefargoproject.com, by searching “The Fargo Project,” on Facebook, or by contacting the City of Fargo offices at (701) 297-7782.

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