FARGO — "Sodbuster" is coming back to life this fall.
The nearly 40-year-old sculpture of a farmer leading a team of oxen created by the late artist Luis Jiminez will find a new home this fall as part of a redesigned Fargo Civic Plaza next to the downtown library.
Bishop Land Design of Quincy, Mass., first presented the plaza design to the city's arts and culture commission Monday, July 29, then later that night to the City Commission, which approved the design and hiring of a construction manager.
Prairie grass will surround the 1,300-pound, 19-foot-long sculpture mounted on a 42-inch-high foundation. It's the main feature of the first phase of the plaza.
Designer Scott Bishop said he met with Susan Jiminez, widow of the late sculptor, in New Mexico to solicit her opinions and desires for the sculpture, one of six similar sculptures across the country.
She thought the tall prairie grass surrounding the sculpture was perfect, according to Bishop.
Also surrounding the sculpture in the first phase will be a nursery of 50 trees that will eventually be planted throughout the plaza, three viewing platforms for the sculpture, two lawn or grassy areas for sitting, a library cafe terrace and pathways featuring a "crackle" design. The area could also eventually be a type of sculpture garden, Bishop said.
The "crackle" design of the pathways, Bishop said, resembles how dried clay looks and reminds visitors the Red River Valley is part of an ancient glacial lake bed.
McGough Construction of Fargo has been hired as the construction manager for the project, with bids for work expected to come soon, Bishop said. The City Commission is expected to approve contracts and project costs at its next meeting in August.
The timeline for this phase of the project, which Bishop hopes to have completed by late September or early October, is "very tight." But he said the Institute of Museum and Library Services that provided a $150,000 grant to the Plains Arts Museum for the sculpture's restoration requires that it must be displayed by this year. It was supposed to be displayed last year, but the museum was given a one-year extension.
The city, which had displayed the sculpture on the corner of Main Avenue and Broadway for many years, gave it to the Plains Arts Museum in 1991. The museum will continue to own the sculpture, said director Andrew Maus.
Maus said the museum knows where three of the other "Sodbuster" sculptures are: Wichita State University, University of Houston and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The work, said Bishop, is thought to have represented the "hard-working people" of the Fargo area and how pioneers busted the sod to change the prairie to crop-growing land.
The arts and culture commission seemed pleased with the project, offering Bishop compliments on the design. One member thanked Bishop for bringing the sculpture "out of its cage."