Power of Art

Brick by brick, piece by piece, and with the power of more than 315 children, parents, artists, volunteers and community members, Fargo unveiled its first large-scale public art project in August at Madison Skate and Bike Park.

The two-year public/private collaboration demonstrates the power and positivity of art.

“It was a ground-breaking strategy to use art as a launching pad to unite businesses, schools, nonprofits, children, citizens and government agencies together to transform a dreary park into a beautiful, restful playground for families,” said Mary Jean Dehne, director of Legacy Children's Foundation and the visionary behind the park.

The visionary behind the art was MSUM Professor Brad Bachmeier ’93 (art education), one of only 19 brick sculptors in the country. To ensure an authentic design reflecting community culture, Bachmeier talked with families in the neighborhood, representing nearly a dozen cultures.

“We took all of their cultural symbols and put them into the work,” Bachmeier said.

Art installations include a lizard-shaped brick sculpture with seating, a whimsical archway and a wall mosaic crafted by area children.

Mosaic artist Magda Szeitz ’90 (art) and ’95 (art education) and Fargo Public Schools art teacher Megan Johnson ’10 (art education) worked with more than 120 Madison students to find symbols of each culture to include in the mural. Each child designed a square from recycled stained glass, which was integrated into a cohesive design.

Located in an economically challenged area of Fargo, Madison Elementary is a close-knit community that celebrates diversity and culture.

“Being a part of this huge project leaves them with something they can continue to love as they get older,” Johnson said.

“I think a big part of this project was creating a sense of ownership and reflecting the cultures present in the community. That’s why MJ felt this park needed art. Without it, it’d be a slab of concrete that kids could play on. But this connects to the community in an authentic way,” Bachmeier said.

And Bachmeier is an authentic artist.

“He is truly an unbelievably talented, humble servant, who wants to use art as a means to help everyone feel valued and connected to our community,” Dehne said. “The MSUM art department was a tidy web of resources that also saw the vision and potential impact a project of this magnitude could have in our community.”

Today, instead of a ravaged, run-down park that is littered with trash, it is a hot bed of pride and joy that brings life and beauty to a hurting area of Fargo.

Puja Chhetri, a sophomore at Fargo North High School who is part of the Legacy Children’s Foundation, said it was fun to be a part of making something “spectacular. It was important to involve students like myself in this project so we could learn to collaborate with one and other, and to be involved with the community in making something great that everybody enjoys.”

(Special thanks to The Arts Partnership for contributing to the story.)

This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Spring 2018.

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