Prairie For The People

World Garden Commons Design Process

During the neighborhood engagement phase of The Fargo Project, the local artist team set out to ask individuals within the community, and especially from the neighborhoods surrounding Rabanus Park, what they would like to experience in the new landscape. From activities and discussions, the project team condensed this information into four different aspects which seemed to stand out as important to the community. Ideas emphasized are: more plants, spaces for celebration, spaces to exercise, and an emphasis on the elements.

Plants – A recurring theme among community members is the desire for more vegetation in Fargo. Many different ideas such include community gardens, wildflower patches, native plantings, orchards, and wetlands. Ethno botanist Linda Different Cloud visited in late March 2012 to help members of The Fargo Project understand the different ways plantings can be integrated effectively and meaningfully into a storm water basin.

Celebration – Locally, there is a strong interest in creating more spaces which celebrate culture and an awareness of our diverse community including space for festivals, amphitheater, musical performances, and pathways for relaxation and contemplation.

Exercise – Part of the design challenge is to create a welcoming environment for summer and winter outdoor activities and favored forms of exercise.  For example, safe and inviting pathways for walking and running, designated areas for gardening, sledding and skating. Part of the design challenge is to create spaces used for outdoor activity all year round.

The Elements – Certain features are always present on an outdoor site, thus learning to adjust and embrace those elements help enhance the quality of the site. For example, a shelterbelt helps protect from the wind and a temporary shelters offer protection from the sun. Natural playgrounds and sculpted terracing emphasize the earth. Finally, water is the major catalyst within this project, and design features such as creeks, fountains, and ponds emphasize this element.

World Garden Commons where Art, Community and Ecology converge as Prairie for the People


Jackie Brookner, Lead Artist (1945-2015)
Brookner brought 20 years’ experience as a socially engaged ecological artist to The Fargo Project. Her body of work unites plant-based water remediation for parks, rivers, and wetlands with habitat restoration, landscape sculpture, and active community collaboration. Her projects demonstrate how undervalued water resources can be reclaimed to create evocative public places that connect people with natural systems and are grounded in aesthetic understandings developed throughout Brookner’s 40 year practice as a sculptor. Her whole-systems approach activates nodal points where social, cultural and ecological revitalization meet. Brookner’s works can be found in Finland and Germany, and in the United States in Ohio, Washington, Idaho, Florida, California, and Missouri. Brookner published and lectured internationally linking sustainable cities, water, expanded art practice and global ecological urgency. Brookner passed away May 15, 2015.

Dwight Michelson, Listening Garden Sculptor
Dwight Mickelson (b. 1964), is a sculptor, metal-worker and furniture-maker. Raised in Hawley, Minnesota, Mickelson has always been interested in the intersections that exist between art and craft, between nature and culture and between body and spirit. He finds inspiration in the worlds of sculpture, music, travel and the environment. Since 2005, he has been the owner and operator of Mickelson Design Studio, Moorhead. Previously he owned Mickelson Body Shop, Hawley, MN. Mickelson is a member of the Society of Minnesota Sculptors, the International Sculpture Center, and the FMVA.

The Listening Garden is a land sculpture designed to provide a nature listening experience and promote listening between humans and nature. The core of the sculpture is a small listening alcove where viewers can relax and listen to the sounds of the nearby wet meadow where frogs, crickets, birds and various creatures congregate to create a symphony of nature sounds. The opposite and more public side of the sculpture holds a larger sound shell designed for small concerts, drum circles and theater events. Connecting the two listening areas is a giant log marimba emerging from the hillside providing a visual rhythm and exciting play area for children. Seen from above, the entire sculpture resembles the shape of the human ear. It is my hope that this place will encourage the art of listening…. to nature and to each other.