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Downtown Fargo Unveils Its New Landmark

Photos by Andrew Jason & Hillary Ehlen

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau (F-M CVB), said this in his statement at the event unveiling Fargo’s new public art piece on Oct. 18.

The Fargo Park District and the F-M CVB partnered together to bring this new landmark to the downtown area. The piece is by local artist Steve Knutson and was installed on one of the train cars at the Park District’s main office building.

artist Steve Knutson

The project’s artist, Steve Knutson, is from Minot, North Dakota. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education from the University of Minnesota Moorhead. He resides in Fargo with his wife, Becky, and two children, and currently teaches art at Discovery Middle School.

A call to local artists was sent out in June, looking for someone with a design that would represent Fargo.

“I submitted my idea, which was ‘greetings from Fargo’ and the bison,” said Knutson, whose work was selected. “I had to do a painting that was seven inches tall and 80 inches long, which is a very odd size and difficult to create. My wife had to help me out a lot with measuring it out and projecting the windows and doors on it … outside at night because my studio wasn’t long enough.”

Knutson had a vision for the project to be “bright and exciting,” something that was going to “catch people’s eye” and get them excited about Fargo, specifically the arts in Fargo.

“This is just another sign of how really good things can happen in this community if everyone works together.”

“I wanted to give them a piece that was interesting but also simple and iconic enough that they can understand it right away,” Knutson said. “When you think of Fargo, you’re going to think of bison or the name ‘Fargo,’ which has a lot of pull to it with the movie, show and the theatre downtown. I wanted to reflect those things and, in turn, ‘North of Normal’ in that way.”

Fargo Park District

The Fargo Park District and the Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau gave Steve Knutson, the artist behind the project, freedom when he designed their logos on the art piece.

The art piece was a Fargo Park District project in partnership with the F-M CVB, but many others were involved. The Arts Partnership helped to facilitate the selection process, Knight Printing transitioned the artwork from the original file into the piece seen on the train and Office Sign Company installed the piece.

“We do it because we recognize the importance of the arts,” Fargo Park District Executive Director Joel Vettel said at the unveiling. “We recognize the importance of what it gives to us each and every day as a community, not only to us but to our future generations.”

FargoMoorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau

This new public art piece is expected to become a new landmark and a perfect selfie-taking location for both residents and visitors to the Fargo area.

“I think the exciting thing about this piece is it’s now the entrance to downtown, which is the heart of this community,” said Dayna Del Val, director of The Arts Partnership, in her statement at the unveiling. “It’s not the entirety of this community, but it’s the heart.”

Del Val is thankful for both the Fargo Park District and the F-M CVB because public art can’t happen without support and funding from outside sources.

“It’s easy to talk about making public art, but it’s hard to fund it,” she said. “So thank you for being the visionaries in this project.”

Written by Kara Jeffers

Fargo Monthly Editor Kara Jeffers is from Garrison, North Dakota, a small town north of Bismarck, North Dakota, on Lake Sakakawea. She graduated from North Dakota State University in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in theatre arts. In addition to working at Spotlight Media, Jeffers also works at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center, where she’s one of the first people (and, at times, the only person) visitors meet when they arrive in North Dakota—talk about pressure.

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