I took a little art field trip to see The Photoville FENCE in Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo yesterday. My parents and son came too and it was the perfect way to spend a warm, socially distant afternoon.
If you need a new experience (or just want to get out of the house for a bit) I highly recommend it. You can easily see the photos on foot — or even drive by them in your vehicle at two of the three locations. And if you live outside of the area (or want to revisit your favorites), you can view the photos online.
But there’s nothing quite like seeing art in person. That’s especially true of art designed to be viewed in public spaces.
What’s the Photoville FENCE Project
The Photoville FENCE Project is traveling exhibit that features more than 90 regional and national photographers. Each artist submits several images on a particular theme, so it’s like a fabulous museum exhibit in the open air.
Where do I find The Photoville FENCE in Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo?
The exhibit tours multiple cities, including Seattle, Atlanta and New Orleans, so it’s exciting to have it in this part of the world. You can see The Photoville FENCE in Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo at Rheault Farm, right along 25th Street in Fargo, The Scheels Soccer Complex along 13th Avenue in West Fargo and on the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus, just north of the football field.
It’s only up through mid-December, so make a point to go see it. And allow a little more time than you think you need. We planned to spend 10 minutes or so at each stop. But since it was a nice day, we ended up lingering much longer, roughly 20-40 minutes per location.
What will I see?
The sheer range of styles and subjects was fascinating. My mom’s favorite images were dreamy shots of fireflies lighting up Japanese forests and a study of an indigenous community in Mexico, while my son liked a series of black and white animal portraits that made barnyard animals look almost human somehow.
My dad gravitated toward photojournalism. He couldn’t decided if he liked the photo essays of people playing stickball in The Bronx and East Harlem or the glimpse into the lives of Black cowboys on the Mississippi Delta best.
I couldn’t decide either. I originally went to see photos by my friend and colleague Jack Dura, who has contributed photos and written several stories for this site and to check out other regional photographers. (Shane Balkowitsch), who captured a sense of vaguely apocalyptic pandemic beauty and dread, was another regional standout.)
Why does it matter?
It was fun to see something new. (I’m going as stir crazy as anyone.) And so many of these photos stuck with me and showed me something I didn’t know.
But my favorite part of the experience was how the images sparked highly specific and very engaged conversations. Certain photographs prompted lively discussions about the legacy of segregation, of plastic use, and what could possibly convince people that keeping a tiger for a pet is reasonable plan.
Some images were haunting, some were funny. Some were beautiful or puzzling or strange. We were never bored.
One of the things I love about public art is how democratic it is. It’s free and open to all. It breaks down boundaries between the artist and the audience.
But the Photoville FENCE in Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo goes deeper. It’s rare to see photos featured as part of a public art installation. It’s rarer still to see so many images of people and places from around the world. Since the exhibit also includes the artists’ statements and description of the images, we can go deeper and learn more about what we’re seeing.
As darkness fell across the MSUM campus, our last stop, we hesitated to get back into our cars, even though the November chill was finally beginning to nip through our winter layers. We had so much to talk about. We didn’t want to leave.
It’s a rare thing to be standing around on the sidewalk at dusk in November in Minnesota. It’s rarer yet to discuss the deathly strange beauty of salt ponds viewed from above or ponder images of kids in Uganda proudly displaying their homemade soccer balls.
I left with a feeling of connection, a sense that the world is smaller and sweeter than it had seemed just hours earlier. In a moment of disconnect and dread, I’ll count that as a win.
How about you?
What do you think of The Photoville FENCE in Fargo-Moorhead and West Fargo?
Which image (or photographer) was your favorite?
What’s your favorite kind of public art?
Which kinds of photos do you like to look at?
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