What is The Fargo Project?

The Fargo Project provides opportunities for local government to respond and work with the community and identify needs through a participatory process. With water as the vehicle for connecting people to the land, the approach intentionally activates our collective creative agency. Artists, neighbors, engineers, landscape architects, and ecologists, work together to develop a solution to transform a neighborhood storm water basin that fits their unique needs as a community.




Our Idea

The Basin

Throughout the City of Fargo, large basins collect storm water to protect traffic and property during rainfall. Often, the basins are dry and seem to have purpose only during rainfall. They are uninviting empty lots with little plant and wildlife diversity.

The Project

Thanks to the community-process developed by renowned ecological artist Jackie Brookner, The Fargo Project hosted community design charrettes or intensive collaboration sessions with a diverse group of children, adults, artists, designers, neighbors, immigrants, and ecologists.

The Park

Out of the imagination of those participants, the barren site is transformed: a welcoming commons to reintroduce plant, soil and wildlife, sculptural landscape, wandering paths with the intent to reintroduce each other to our human and cultural dependence on natural ecology.

World Garden Commons

The World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park is the first installation of The Fargo Project, a collaboration between artists and residents to transform a 18-acre storm water basin into an ecological community commons. While the basin continues to hold storm water during summer rains, added benefits of the Commons include improvements in water quality, pathways to connect the neighborhood, and beauty to benefit community.

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Our Vision

The World Gardens Commons at Rabanus Park is responsive to the neighborhood’s social structure, cultural history, natural history, and its relationship to the Red River watershed. The site is the first installation of The Fargo Project and made possible through partnerships with ecological artist Jackie Brookner (1945-2015) and funding from ArtPlace America, City of Fargo, Fargo Park District, a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant, and the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The Fargo Project Approach

Link community members, local government, and nonprofits through ecologically and socially responsive place-making.

World Garden Commons, Rabanus Park

World Garden Commons is the first installation of the Fargo Project to demonstrate how holistic ecological restoration, socially engaged ecological art, and active community process can synergize to transform functioning stormwater infrastructure into vibrant multifunctional green spaces for our urban community.

World Garden Commons Objectives

  • Engage area residents in the ongoing creation of culturally significant public spaces
  • Provide natural regional landscapes experiences
  • Improve storm water quality
  • Explore ecologically-sound storm water management practices in this region
  • Restore native prairie and wet meadows to enhance local biodiversity

Our Partners

The Fargo Project’s goal is to create a repeatable process that empowers the community to engage in defining site requirements that reflect their needs, explore options to solve additional ecological restoration projects and to take active part in the course of action. Partners comprise of artists and artists groups, higher education, community groups of Native Americans, immigrants and refugees, ecological and science societies, volunteers, contractors and funding partners.

Our growing list of partners Include:

African Initiative for Progress
ArtPlace America
Audubon Dakota
Buzz Lab
Cass County Soil Conservation District
City of Fargo
Congolese Community leadership
Earth Partnership
Ecce art + yoga
Fargo Housing Authority
Fargo Native American Commission
Fargo Park District
Fargo Public Schools
FM Area Foundation
FM Visual Artists
Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living
Friends of Watershed & Soil
Growing Together

Immigration Development Center
Impact Foundation
Islamic Society of Fargo Moorhead – 28th Street Mosque
Kresge Foundation
Kurdish Community of America (KCA)
Land Elements
Longspur Prairie Foundation
Lowry Engineering
Lutheran Social Services
MSUM School of Media Arts & Design
National Endowment for the Arts
Native American Commission
NDSU, AES Plant Science
NDSU, AES School of Natural Resource Sciences
NDSU, Animal and Range Sciences
NDSU, Architecture & Landscape Architecture
NDSU, Center for Science and Mathematics
NDSU, English Department

NDSU, Extension
NDSU, Soils
NDSU, Visual Arts
New American Consortium for Wellness and Empowerment
North Dakota Council on the Arts
Plains Art Museum
Prairie Restoration
Reach Partners
Red River Zoo
River Keepers
Southeastern ND Community Action Agency (SENDCAA) Head Start
Spirit Room
State of North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund
The Arts Partnership
Welcoming Week
West Fargo Public Schools
Westside Elementary School 5th Graders

Lessons Learned

Integrating Artists & City Planning

The fargo Project lessons Learned workbook
By Rachel Asleson PMP, Anna Cunningham, Mrill Ingram PhD

To purchase a hard copy for $12.31 visit: BLURB or download a viewable file Lessons Learned PDF (.pdf). Publish Date Nov 25, 2015, 56 Pages, Language English, ISBN Softcover: 9781364733025

A chance meeting between an ecological artist and an engaged citizen culminated in a transformative venture called The Fargo Project. The Project’s first installation, World Garden Commons at Rabanus Park in Fargo, ND, transforms an existing 18- acre storm water basin into a lively, useful green space while maintaining the basin’s function as storm water storage. The project offers not only an example of transformed urban flood management, but also the creation of an experimental, adaptive process for engaging residents, experts, and administrators in a common planning endeavor.

Through extensive artist-led design and community involvement the project is working to transform the Fargo community’s perception of storm water and to create a new aesthetic of what a natural vegetative urban basin can be. The project also laid the groundwork for the community to continue to explore connections, local expertise, and passions while learning about its diverse cultures and creating an ecological commons.