Mark Dion’s Fargo Fern Oasis

COURTESY OF | PLAINS ART MUSEUM Plans for artist Mark Dion’s Fargo Fern Grotto are already in the works.
Plans for artist Mark Dion’s Fargo Fern Grotto are already in the works.

The depths of winter in North Dakota offer little more than negative temperatures and bland landscapes. Internationally renowned visual artist Mark Dion is hoping to help Fargo natives escape this dreary banality with his latest commissioned work for the city — a fern grotto located in downtown Fargo.

Dion will be collaborating with architects from JLG Enterprises as well as professors from North Dakota State’s architecture and visual arts programs. The greenhouse creation is meant to be an outward defiance toward the brutal winters. It will be consistently kept at unseasonably warm temperatures; humidity levels will be nearly tropical. Plant life will be naturally in abundance and will include mostly ferns amongst other warm-weather plants.

The interior design is set to have an over-the-top Victorian, bourgeois feel to it. Elaborate crown molding and bright color choices amongst other design elements will highlight this concept. The location is meant to act as an escape, which validates the intricate design and public access.

Dion designs his projects based on the unique intricacies of each city. Besides defying the cold, he also wanted to connect to Fargo’s railroad history. Dion is achieving this in two ways: The fern grotto will be housed in the interior of a repurposed rail car and will be located on the lawn of the Great Northern Bicycle Company, a former train station.

Overall, the Fargo Fern Grotto is a majorly progressive step for the city of Fargo to invest in public art. As Dion mentioned during his lecture at the Plains Art Museum, “Communities that invest in art and education during times of surplus will always have something to show for it when the money’s gone.”

Dion has shown work in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Tate Modern, amongst other top-notch museums and gallery spaces. Other successful publicly commissioned works include The Nurse Log in Seattle, Wash., a Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit in Folkestone, U.K. and a Cave Bear in the fjords of Norway to name only a few.

Dion is lucky enough to possess the skill to do both small-scale, museum-level projects, as well as enormous outdoor projects. His work combines art, anthropology, history, biology and other educational mediums in order for his vision to be successful.

The Bush Foundation and Artplace America are also showing support in making the Fargo Fern Grotto happen. Construction is set to begin in the fall of 2015.

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