Water tower art to highlight city’s ‘brand’

The city is looking for ideas for art to be painted on the I-94 water tower. Share your opinion on Facebook; search “My Moorhead Tower” for the link to the online survey.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

How do you see the city of Moorhead? Now, how would you express that idea in art – on a canvas that’s 122 feet 3 inches tall, filled with 750,000 gallons of water … seen by 43,000 viewers a day moving at 65 miles an hour?

That’s the challenge the city of Moorhead and graphic designer Michelle Churchill are tossing out to Moorhead partisans. For the next five days, you have a chance to share your thoughts on how to share the city’s spirit on the soon-to-be-refurbished water tower that stands just north of Interstate 94 at the 20th Street exit. Complete the survey linked to the Facebook page “My Moorhead Tower.”

“We’re looking at this project as an extension of the city’s brand,” says governmental affairs director Lisa Bode. “It’s such an important opportunity to share something special about the city.”

The water tower that’s been standing along I-94 for decades is due to be fully rehabbed by Moorhead Public Service in 2021. The restoration is slated for the latter part of the year, after completion of an all-new third neighborhood tower near Southside Regional Park at 42nd Avenue and 28st Street South.

Bode explains that the design for the I-94 tower will be different from the art already in place in Woodlawn Park and Oakport, as well as the design already chosen to go on the south-side tower next year. “Those are neighborhood designs. They tell a detailed story to viewers who are typically walking or biking past the location, or at least traveling at a more leisurely pace,” she says. “This one will be different. Those passing by will get only a quick glimpse – just an impression. It will have to be simple, clear and bold.”

Earlier this summer, a committee of city and MPS staff members screened applications from 22 artists interested in the design challenge. Instead of weighing finished designs, they interviewed the artists themselves about how they would go about making this a fully community-inspired project. They selected the Churchill Group headed by Michelle Churchill of Fargo, as much (says Bode) for their openness and innovation to community-sourced inspiration as for their credentials. Churchill is a graphic designer and technician with Indigo Sign, already familiar with many of the challenges of painting large-scale art on massive surfaced.

Designer Michelle, a University of North Dakota graduate, is working with her sister Kelly, a marketing specialist with the Mandan park system, and brother-in-law, engineer Andrew Seeburg. While Kelly brings the outreach piece to the project, Andrew is familiar with the lighting aspect.

The firm began its campaign to gather input from the community last week with the introduction of a Facebook page and online survey at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/W69SLR3 . It asks: What one word best describes Moorhead? Can you capture Moorhead’s spirit in five words or less? What do you value most about Moorhead? What Moorhead landmark of feature means the most to you. If you have a specific idea, please describe it.

Responses will be considered in the next step, the preparation of rough preliminary sketches that will again be presented to the public for feedback. The finished design – with the city council’s approval – is to be delivered to MPS by November.

The project’s budget is expected to total about $50,000, much of it related to the coating and lighting of the tower itself. It includes a $10,000 honorarium for the Churchill Group. Funding is coming from MPS, which included an art allowance of $10,000 in its plans, as well as the city arts and culture commission. Bode says the commission is also applying for a public art grant from the Lake Region Arts Council.

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