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Proposals sought for state art council’s first ‘creative placemaking’ program

“Arts Across the Prairie” program invites artists’ ideas for large-scale public art for a site between Fordville and Dahlen

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The proposed large-scale installation for Region 4, in northeast North Dakota, would be placed near the Dahlen Esker, located midway between Fordville and Dahlen, as part of the North Dakota Council on the Arts' first-ever "Arts Across the Prairie" program. Here, members of the council's Region 4 stakeholder group view the area before making their final site selection.
Image courtesy of North Dakota Council on the Arts

GRAND FORKS – The North Dakota Council on the Arts has announced a request for proposals from artists or creative teams for a first-of-its-kind, statewide “creative placemaking” program in northeast North Dakota.

Through the “Arts Across the Prairie: Placemaking in Rural North Dakota” program, permanent large-scale art installations will be created — one in each of eight geographic regions of the state — that reflect the unique history, landscape and cultural heritage as defined by stakeholder groups in each region.

The art installation for Red River Region 4, consisting of Pembina, Walsh, Grand Forks and Nelson counties, will eventually be installed near the Dahlen Esker, midway between Fordville and Dahlen, according to the NDCA. It is a prominent ridge that can be seen to the west of the point where State Highway 32 crosses the Grand Forks-Walsh county line. An esker is a long ridge of gravel or other sediment, typically having a winding course, deposited by meltwater from a retreating glacier or ice sheet.

An artist or creative team may submit a proposal for this community-driven initiative, which, for Region 4, has been titled “Endless Sky - Dynamic Layers.” Eligibility is limited to established artists with experience in large-scale outdoor installations, public art, placemaking or placekeeping, community work, and teaching. All applicants must live in the contiguous United States.

Proposals must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (Central Time), March 27.

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For more information, visit the North Dakota Council on the Arts website, www.arts.nd.gov , and click on the “Programs” menu.

In 2021, Region 4 leaders in business, arts, education and community were recruited to serve as stakeholders to formulate a roadmap for the development of one site to be the artistic, historical and cultural representation for the four counties.

The NDCA has been working with the Red River Regional Council in Grafton and Grand Forks’ Public Arts Commission to facilitate the Region 4 project. Since late fall 2021, the region’s stakeholders have been meeting to plan the state’s second “Arts Across the Prairie” project. The first project is under way in Region 1, which encompasses Divide, Williams and McKenzie counties in northwestern North Dakota, said Kim Konikow, NDCA executive director.

The Region 4 stakeholders selected the Dahlen Esker for this project because it represents “the endless sky and dynamic layers of the region – Indigenous culture, roaming buffalo, our glacier landscape of steep hills and valleys, open prairie with endless sky and stars,” according to the NDCA request for proposals guidelines. The Dahlen Esker is one of six sites the group seriously considered for the art installation, according to the NDCA.

Ground-breaking for the installation is planned for this summer, with the unveiling expected to occur in late summer or fall 2024, according to the project outline.

The 2021 North Dakota Legislature appropriated $1 million for the “Arts Across the Prairie” program, Konikow said. The money was placed in an NDCA endowment fund, with plans to use the interest from this endowment to cover the cost of maintaining the structures, she said.

The idea for the “Arts Across the Prairie” program emanated from a presentation on arts as a catalyst for community change at the fall 2019 Governor’s Main Street Initiative in Bismarck. The program aims to promote tourism and civic pride, affirm uniqueness of place, and strengthen cultural identity, according to the NDCA. It will create public-private partnerships throughout the state and provide a national model of this type of creative placemaking.

“Arts Across the Prairie” is a collaborative effort with the North Dakota Department of Transportation — a first in the U.S., according to the NDCA — and the North Dakota Department of Commerce tourism division.

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Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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