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Interactive garden, gathering space planned across from former Moorhead power plant

Two artists who are designing the project were at the future garden’s location Thursday to answer questions from curious locals in the heavy rain.

Using a red umbrella to shield himself, Kevin Johnson, a Brooklyn-based sculptor, said the garden would feature small rolling hills, perennials, native grasses, benches with parts salvaged from the power plant-like painted valves, and a children’s play area.

After four years of planning, “it’s finally taking shape,” Johnson said.

With the partially demolished power plant behind her, Colleen Sheehy, Plains Art Museum director, told the small crowd that this was the first step toward more exciting projects in Moorhead.

“Part of the role of the garden is to stimulate other ideas,” said Sheehy, who is leading the museum-initiated project.

The Legacy Garden for Moorhead, as it’s called, is not your average garden. Su Legatt, another artist working on the project, is collecting oral histories from community members. Those audio clips will be spread throughout the garden in the form of QR codes, which visitors can scan with their phones and listen to with their headphones as they take a stroll.

To the north of the garden, the steep slope will be terraced for seating and the space below used as a public venue to screen movies and hold events.

The project will cost an estimated half-million dollars, Sheehy said. The Plains Art Museum is contributing $140,000 and has raised the rest in grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America, Lake Region Arts Council and the Bush Foundation.

“The museum is invested in Moorhead,” Sheehy said.

The garden was originally going to replace the Moorhead power plant, but the site was “found to be contaminated,” Johnson said. “That kind of nixed that.”

So instead, the project moved just across Woodlawn Park Drive, where a giant water tower looms overhead.

“We’re just so excited to be at this point,” Sheehy said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599.