When the City of Fargo decided to replace an old tank with a new water tower in north Fargo, it hoped the tower would serve as more than mere infrastructure. It also wanted the structure to serve as a canvas for public art.
The goal was to support community-based design, something created with people rather than for them. During a competitive process, the city’s Arts and Culture Commission selected Reach Partners to facilitate the community outreach component of the project. Black Ink Creative Partners was selected to render the design.
“We wanted to get as many people involved as possible,” says Maegin Elshaug, who previously worked in the city’s Department of Planning and Development. “Reach Partners did a great job of encouraging people to participate in the process and engaging them in the steps along the way.”
Public art creates a sense of pride and a sense of place, says Deb Williams, chair of the Arts and Culture Commission. When community members help design the public art, it resonates even more with the people who live there.
Giving people an opportunity to participate in a creative process creates better art and a better city.
“If you were part of the process, you’re going to own (the art). If you own it, you’re going to feel more connected,” Williams says.
Encouraging community participation, however, takes time and skill.
To facilitate the creative placemaking process, Reach Partners:
The final design includes an aerial view of the Red River. Lines and figures depicted in a vibrant color palette represent the continuity and unity of the city. A few iconic buildings, including the Fargo Theatre and the Forum, are represented. A red tree represents the deep roots of both long-standing residents and those who have been newly planted here.
“Reach Partners is so good at establishing local connections and engaging community,” Williams says. “This project was successful because of their work.”