The demolished Moorhead Power Plant brings light once again to the community, this time in the form of the Heritage Gardens and Amphitheater, opening Saturday, Sept. 10, on the south corner of Woodlawn Park.
The idea for this community green space began in 2011 when the Plains Art Museum hosted a symposium inspired by the book “Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime” by Kenneth I. Helphand. The book speaks of creating gardens out of former war zones or other areas that may seem unsuitable for public use.
Since this symposium, the Plains Art Museum has been collaborating with the city of Moorhead, Moorhead Public Service, Moorhead Parks and Recreations, Concordia College and The Moorhead Power Plant Study Group to bring this defiant garden into the community.
“The crux of the Heritage Gardens is that this green space defies the perception that this industrial site isn’t meant for art,” says Netha Cloeter, director of education and social engagement at Plains Art Museum.
Local designer Su Legatt worked with New York-based sculptors Rob Fischer and Kevin Johnson to design and create the gardens and amphitheater. They used machinery parts from the power plant to create the garden beds for donated plants and designed the layout of the garden to echo the resiliency of the Red River.
“We wanted to create an escape within the city,” Legatt says. “If you just drive past, you don’t get to see all of the elements. It forces you to get out of the car and house and appreciate something at a much more intimate level.”
Another defiant aspect of this garden is all of the variables that needed to come together to create this space, including working with artists off-site, waiting for the power plant parts to be deemed environmentally safe and dealing with the weather and other natural elements.
Some vandalism last summer set the gardens back another year. Community members gathered this past June to replant and groom the gardens, many donating their own plants.
Along with local volunteers donating their time and resources, they also donated their stories, with the purpose of keeping the history and culture of the area alive.
“We are working with the Moorhead people and hearing their stories to celebrate this small part of our culture and history and bring it into the limelight,” Legatt says. “These little neighborhood sanctuaries are wonderful. We get to work with the people, for the people.”
The gardens will feature signs and links to audio files that will tell the stories of past and current residents, as well as being a space for new memories to be made.
“We are really excited about the ongoing programming of the site, infusing the neighborhood with events that are really diverse,” Cloeter says.
The space will host outdoor movie nights and concerts, as well as provide an outdoor classroom for the local universities. And it’s open for the public to enjoy any time.
The grand opening Saturday is a part of the Greater Moorhead Days. The dedication will begin at 4 p.m., followed by music by the Lake Agassiz Concert Band. There will also be kid-friendly activities, food trucks and an outdoor movie at 8 p.m.
“The Plains Art Museum is excited to collaborate on a program that creates another connection between Fargo and Moorhead,” Cloeter says. “This opening symbolizes a turning point for the garden, for it to become an active, creatively designed space.
If you go
What: Grand opening of the Heritage Gardens and Amphitheater
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10
Where: South side of Woodlawn Park, Moorhead
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, September 5, 2016, issue of the paper.