Role of the Artist: Vision Keeper

In celebration of Jackie Brookner’s (1947-2015) work, we recognize the legacy of her work as an artist in the construction and the ecological restoration of World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park.

“I needed to challenge and share authorship, to provide opportunities where people could exercise their own ability to solve local ecological problems in creative ways.” Jackie Brookner

A long-held artistic goal in the lifetime of Brookner’s work was to integrate the creative process of the people within their community.

Before design began, Brookner wanted to hear from people in the community. She organized gatherings of people known to share like interests, partners and programs that matched the vision and principles of the project.

“I needed to challenge and share authorship, to provide opportunities where people could exercise their own ability to solve local ecological problems in creative ways.” -Jackie Brookner, Ecological Artist

The community was invited to participate in the work of local artists: ceramic bowls, batiked placemats, puppet shows.  The works of art engaged the senses and emotions of the recipient creating opportunities for deeper interaction and participation.

While authorship came from the community, Brookner served as the project’s vision keeper, or the link between community’s ideas, desires and interests and the outcomes of The Fargo Project at World Garden Commons.


Role of the Artist: Deep Listening

In celebration of Jackie Brookner’s (1947-2015) work, we recognize the legacy of her work as an artist in the construction and the ecological restoration of World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park.

"I always begin with listening–to the place itself, how it feels and functions or could function ecologically and socially, to its assets and needs." - -Jackie Brookner Jackie Brookner was a master inquisitor, asking team members of The Fargo Project to share stories, personal backgrounds and interests.  As people shared stories, Jackie engaged all her senses to listen for cues to tell her more about an individual’s vision.

During one gathering, NDSU professor Carolyn Grygiel talked about the ability to transform the basin.  She used her hands to gesture large round shapes.  Jackie asked her what the gestures meant, and Carolyn remarked that she didn’t even realize she was making the shape of a buffalo boulder.

The professor explained the geology of glacial movement across the Red River Basin left behind various kinds of large rocks, “buffalo boulders,” that would not otherwise be found in the region.

Today there are buffalo boulders found in the design of the natural play area – a nod to those gestures.


People of The Fargo Project: Ben Bauer, Restoring Frogs

Ben Bauer, a NDSU Natural Resource Management graduate student, will reintroduce frogs into a restored urban wetland habitat and monitor the success of the reintroduced frogsBen Bauer, a NDSU Natural Resource Management graduate student, will reintroduce frogs into a restored urban wetland habitat and monitor the success of the reintroduced frogs.

This fulfills one of the goals for World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park—to create an interactive area for the residents of Fargo to enjoy the sights and sounds of birds, crickets and frogs. However, there is just one problem—there are no frogs that naturally live in these areas.

“The Fargo Project is the first project of its kind to create a wetland from former drainage ditches. Nothing like this has ever been attempted. As of right now, we do not know if the frogs will survive in these places,” Ben says.

Since the late 1980s, populations of frogs, toads and other amphibians have declined because of habitat loss, invasive species, disease, and pollution. Without wetlands, frogs and other amphibian species cannot survive and reproduce. To prevent further decline in amphibian populations, we need to know how our actions impact them.

Amphibians are important components of many ecosystems. Frog populations can be an early warning system when there is something wrong with the environment. Frogs and other amphibians essentially breathe through their skin, which makes them susceptible to pollutants and other chemicals. Similar to adult frog skin, frog eggs absorb nutrients from the outside. This can cause the embryos inside the eggs to die or form mutations, such as extra limbs or no eyes.

Ben continues: “If this project is successful, this could be a great tool in conservation for amphibian and other animal species. Not only will it be beneficial for wildlife but for humans as well. Frogs are an ideal environmentally friendly pest controller. The hope for these sites is that they will bring people together from all walks of life.”

Ben’s undergrad degree is in NRM with a double minor in zoology and range science. He explains, “I chose NRM because I want help enhance and conserve our natural resources and heritage for future generations.”


Role of the Artist: Restoration

Hidden in the roots of our words we find what we seem to want to forget-that we are literally the same stuff as earth. My work explores this identity while undermining the assumptions and values that keep us from acknowledging it.”  -Jackie Brookner, Ecological Artist

"You cannot do ecological projects without working with people, because our values need as much healing as our ecosystems do.” Jackie Brookner, Ecological ArtistWorld Garden Commons is the result of The Fargo Project, the transition of 18 acres of sometimes wet and sometimes dry stormwater basin from a mowed field into a welcoming greenspace.  The goal is to connect people with the land and with each other.

A chance meeting between an ecological artist and an engaged citizen culminated in this transformative venture called The Fargo Project now in its seventh year.  Through the leadership of ecological artist, Jackie Brookner (1947-2015), activities and engagement continues to bridge city departments, artistic expressions, professional disciplines, community, culture and languages.

 “I believe that you cannot do ecological projects without working with people, because our values need as much healing as our ecosystems do.” Jackie Brookner, Ecological Artist

The project’s pilot installation, World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park in Fargo, represents the efforts of those new relationships as work continues to restore the basin ecologically and socially into a lively green space while maintaining the basin’s function as stormwater storage.


Role of the Artist: Connector

In celebration of Jackie Brookner’s (1947-2015) life and work, we share stories of her interactions, roles, influence and the legacy of her work as an artist in the construction and the ecological restoration of World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park.

Jackie Brookner's Signature on slate headstone at her final resting place in Sleepy Hollow, NY

A long-held artistic goal in Jackie Brookner’s body of work was to integrate the creative process of the people within their community.  By reaching out to a wide range of people, she made new connections, identified shared interests and needs.

Growing Together, tended by Jack Wood and Nola Strom, provides a safe, welcoming place for New Americans to meet new friends, grow food and relationships. In 2012, they were seeking new garden space at locations accessible to New Americans.

Through conversations with Wood and connecting his need for open land and rich soil near a water source, Brookner and City Planner Nicole Crutchfield devised a strategy to connect Growing Together with Lutheran Social Services through a lease from the Fargo Park District (a separate taxing entity and owner of Rabanus Park).

The new relationship resulted in a change in Fargo Park District policy to break ground for the first garden site on public property at the Rabanus site.

Early in the process the Brookner recognized the need to be adaptive, focused on context-sensitive solutions appropriate and customized for the surroundings.