The largest piece of collaborative art in Fargo-Moorhead isn’t in a museum or gallery. It’s a sprawling, constantly mutating swirl of colors and ideas known as The Fargo Public Art Wall. And it’s hidden away in what appears to be a nondescript alley in downtown Fargo.
You’ll find this love letter to artistic expression between 1st and 2nd Avenues North and 4th and 5th Streets North.
I think the easiest way to locate it is to start at either The Forum building at the corner of 1st Avenue and 5th Street or at the Jackson Building, a brick apartment building with a white and black logo on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street, just across the street from The Radisson.
If you enter from The Forum building side and head north, the basic architecture of the entrance will look something like this.
But the beauty of a public art wall is that by the time you see it, the art on the wall will be totally different.
The public art created and displayed here is meant to be ephemeral and evolving. It’s okay to add to the existing pieces, as long as you respect the space and other artists’ work, which results in a canvas that’s constantly changing.
It’s fun to go back and take photos several times a year, because you get to see how everything has changed since your last visit. And if you see something you like, be sure to take a snap right away, because it won’t stay that way for long. You never know, your photos might be some of the only ones that document that particular piece.
When I first photographed the Fargo Public Art Wall a few months after it opened in 2015, there was still a lot of bare wall to work with, so the paint really popped against a mostly neutral background. Now the artists have to climb higher and higher to get the same effect.
The shapes and colors of the previous works become the background of whatever’s new. As a result, the art at street level is more layered and colorful from multiple application of paint by different artists. And everything mixes together to make a complex, communal, continuous creation.
You can really see this behind the Jackson building. This is the area near the bike racks near the fire escapes this summer…
…and this is the same wall today.
As you can see, it’s almost completely filled in (thanks mainly to public art creation events like Can Jam!) And now you get an entirely different kind of viewing experience.
I really love these colors. I wish I could just climb in and live inside this.
Most of the art on the Fargo Public Art Wall is done by aerosol artists working freehand or with stencils, simply because aerosol is one of the most permanent options available for this semi-permanent canvas, but artists can use any medium they like.
People are always adding stickers and I’ve noticed chalk before as well. So theoretically you could show up with crayons or oil paints or clay and that would fall under the definition of public art. Even writing your name with a Sharpie counts.
So if you’ve always wanted to say you’re an artist or you want to leave your mark on downtown Fargo, this is the place to do it.
You’ll be part of the ongoing collaboration that is the Fargo Public Art Wall. Just be prepared to come back because nothing sticks around in its current form for long.
Have you visited the Fargo Public Art Wall yet? Have you ever contributed to it? If so, leave your name in the comments and tell us about your work!
What’s your favorite place to see (or create) public art in your community? What other hidden spots in Fargo-Moorhead should I check out next?
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