The Arts Center

Report date
October 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

Community planning meetings were held to finalize the design and concept of the park, and to identify key features desired in the park including a performance space, artist designed benches, permanent sculptural installation, flow of pathways, and plantings. Community input was important; various community members contributed to ideas about safety, accessibility, and aesthetics. Once the design was finalized, we chose key members from the committee and community to become part of a smaller task force that is working on executing the park’s development.
When we first opened the hardscaping to bid, the initial bids we received were more than double what we had budgeted for. The Arts Center’s Buildings and Grounds committee worked to parcel out the work on the park. We wound up working with three separate contractors and securing donated services to keep the cost of the work closer to our original budget.
Working with our artistic coordinator, the Arts Park task force selected three finalists to submit designs for the park’s pavilion and three finalists to submit designs for a permanent sculptural installation. For the pavilion we worked with a nomination process; invited senior architects and designers to nominate architects, designers, or firms that would deliver a creative product. For the sculpture we did a national open call. It is important to The Arts Center that Jamestown’s Arts Park be the only park of its kind in North Dakota, so we solicited submissions from all over the country. We brought the finalists to Jamestown to see the site and meet the community, so they could understand the environment in which their finished product would live. We are currently in the process of jurying the three finalists in each case down to one.

Key lessons learned

Our original budget underestimated North Dakota’s ever rising construction costs.
We realized that we hadn’t done enough publicity around the project. While the advisory committee and community leaders knew about it, and the project had been in the newspaper and on the radio, when construction started on the park many community members were alarmed and had no idea what was happening in the space. The first day we started excavating, the sheriff called and said, “Someone’s tearing up your park.”

Reflections on inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

The project is highly collaborative. We want the Arts Park to be creative, to spark downtown revitalization, to be a driver of cultural tourism, to be a space that can be used for education, and to be safe and feasible. Thus our Arts Park task force consists of artist, members of the downtown association, the head of Jamestown Tourism, arts educators, and contractors. This cross section of the community creates lively conversation when it comes to choosing the artistic elements of the park.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

Creativity has been crucial in our progress towards innovation. For example, we anticipated starting work on the park this past spring, so we didn’t plant or program the park because it was supposed to be under construction. Because of contractors being over-booked, construction didn’t begin until late August, but we never were given a start date. So the park just sat there and grew weeds because construction was going to start “any minute now.” At one point it was so unsightly that we pulled the team together and brainstormed how to make the park less of an embarrassment. The ideas that came out of that were to cut sea creatures out of plywood or plastic and put them in the weeds, making it look more like an installation, rather than a pile of weeds. Fortunately, work began the next day.
Also being forward thinking has informed our process. In choosing the permanent “artistic” elements for the park, the park task force is very clear that they want designs which will challenge the community to think differently about what public art can be, and how public art can serve as a gathering space.

Understanding the problem

Throughout the physical development of the park there is constant discussion of potential park programming that will engage, challenge, and work to unite the community. The physical construction happening in the park has brought a lot of attention to Downtown Jamestown; people tell us they drive by just to check out the progress. People normally don’t drive through downtown, unless they have business in the downtown district, most use the bypass.

If you could do it all over again...

Review your budget and do more research into construction costs and schedules. Channel your patience and maybe think about seeing a therapist.

One last thought

I came on board as director here shortly after this grant was secured. Not having been involved with the project planning and grant application, getting up to speed with the Arts Park project has been a learning curve. I’m honored to be administering this grant. Thank you for your support.