Moorhead is making a name for itself as a public art town. From sidewalk poetry to sculpture gardens, this low-key Moorhead Art Walk delivers with a variety of free and easily accessible public art experiences.
Start in the center of the action at the The Rourke Art Gallery and Museum. I always recommend popping in to visit the galleries (and paying a visit to my favorite Warhol) since the museum is free and the size is doable for even the most limited attention spans. But if you arrive when the museum is closed (it's open afternoons on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) there's still plenty of free art to see around the building.
Check out the sculptures on the grounds. The Van Gogh bison out front is a fan favorite. It's one of 39 bison sculptures that you can spot all over the Fargo-Moorhead area.
You'll also find two vinyl reproductions of artwork from local artists pressed onto the brick of the exterior west and east walls. The latter is next to a Little Free Garden, where you can grab some herbs, a snack or fresh produce in season.
These vinyl installations are part of an Outdoor Gallery produced by Creative Moorhead in the summer of 2021. It features drawings, photographs and paintings from artists with ties to Moorhead, from elementary school students to well-known names like Emily Williams-Wheeler, Lauren Starling and Kim Jore.
See a couple more artworks on the side of the Moorhead Public Library just to the south. Or head a couple blocks west to see two more on the Kassenborg Building. Take a detour to Kim Jore's RiverZen (a combination salon, gallery and studio) and to see if you can catch the artist at work.
The sidewalk mosaics on the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Red River detail the waterway's path to Canada. Illustrative panels provide a little more historical context.
Head back to where you started, keeping an eye out for sidewalk poetry under your feet. The city had residents submit their poems a few years ago there are dozens of poems pressed into to concrete in the city center, including sections of Center Avenue and 8th Street, but the stretch of Main Avenue between 4th Street and 11th Street South has the most.
I love the subtlety of sidewalk poetry. You have to search for it, to physically change your perspective and give your attention to the lower part of the cityscape, which is an interesting exercise in itself. When you finally spot a poem, it's hard not to smile. It's even better when you happen to look down and see someone's thoughts preserved under your feet.
Speaking of subtle, you might not notice the sticksgarden sculptures tucked along the train tracks between M&H and Ace Hardware at Main Avenue and 6th Street, right across from the Rourke. There's a small bench to perch on if you need a rest.
Ace Hardware is also home to two of the city's most distinct murals. The first is a portrait of Moorhead native Florence "Tree Tops" Klingensmith by Cory Gillerstein and Jared Froeber. Florence sounds like a blast -- and a woman way ahead of her time. She was the first licensed female pilot in North Dakota. She also shattered the inside loop record, founded a group of female aviators, worked as a stunt pilot and scandalized her neighbors by doing all of the above and tearing down these very streets on a motorcycle.
The second is a colorful mural that highlights the city's 56560 ZIP code. It's by Mara Morken, the creative mastermind behind sticksgarden and Creative Moorhead. You'll find a second ZIP code mural (this one by Grant Hicks) a few blocks east at Ray's Auto Care (1313 Main Avenue). It's a little easier to get a photo in front of this one, since you don't have to worry about traffic on Main Avenue.
If you're walking, you'll spot a few more Creative Moorhead pieces on the F-M Printing Building (710 Main Avenue) along the way. There's also plenty of sidewalk poetry underfoot between the two points. If you're hungry, stop at the Moorhead Dairy Queen or grab chocolate chip cookies from Hornbacher's to snack on along the way.
You can also head north to the Moorhead Center Mall on Center Avenue. The mural on the electric box across from Moorhead Scheels (505 Main Avenue) was one of the first in town.
The bright and cheerful 40-foot shipping container in southwest parking lot is one of the newest. It was completed in July 2021. It's a colorful collaboration between Moorhead High School students, art teacher Marissa Jensen and another Moorhead native, LesleyAnne Buegel.
Pop inside the southwest door to see two of my favorite permanent public art pieces. The first is a gorgeous mosaic by MeLissa Kossick. The Moorhead skyline shimmers and sparkles in the hallway just outside of Vic's Lounge. I enjoy guessing what all the little fragments were once a part of. (Grab an old-school burger basket if you're hungry -- they're fantastic.)
There's a new(ish) mural just down this hallway as well. It's also by Jared Froeber and Cory Gillerstein, who painted the Florence Klingensmith mural. The pair also create hand-lettered signage through their business, Upper Hand Signs.
It's packed with Moorhead imagery including a DQ Dilly Bar you might have just tried and skyline elements that pop up in other Moorhead-themed art. It's the perfect place to end your Moorhead public art stroll.
What about you?
Which Moorhead public art pieces are your favorites?
If you could create public art, what would you make?
What symbols represent your city?
This public art coverage was made possible in part by a grant from The Arts Partnership.
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