NDSU program involves North Dakota teens in community art project
Published October 26, 2015
A group of North Dakota high school students joined Fargo’s thriving art scene this summer. They created a giant game board on a downtown sidewalk that invited people passing by to play.
But the game wasn’t solely for fun. It was meant to get people thinking about social issues, such as bullying, domestic violence and discrimination.
The students created the game by painting squares and filling them with words and images to guide players. Most of the messages were light-hearted, but other messages were thought-provoking. One message, for example, focused on the effects of bullying: “160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack by peers.”
The installation was what artists call community or public art. And the students who created it were part of an NDSU summer program called North Dakota Governor’s Schools. The program gives North Dakota high school students a taste of college academics and life. Fine arts classes were part of the experience, and one class offered the chance to work with a local artist to create community art projects.
The name of the class, Art and Activism, hooked Keaton Smith, a high school junior from Minot. He often finds himself in debates about social issues. “I’m not the best drawer, but I am an activist,” he said.
Smith channeled his enthusiasm into researching, planning and creating the artwork with his classmates and instructor Mara Morken, who is known for her community art installations.
NDSU holds many summer programs for students of all ages. High school students participating in North Dakota Governor’s Schools had a unique experience in a fine arts class. They researched, planned and created a community art project in downtown Fargo.
The students and Morken created the game board on a sidewalk on Broadway. They finished their work in the evening and attracted the attention of people having dinner downtown or taking a summer stroll. The people were curious about the activity, the artwork and the group of people with chalk paint on their hands, faces and feet.
The students were exhilarated as they explained their work and invited people to try the game. This is “something people will use, and we made it with our own hands,” Smith said.
Adrianna Young Bird was another student in the class. She didn’t think she was good at art going into the class, but ended up enjoying it. “Art isn’t just about drawing,” she said. “It’s about doing awesome stuff for the community or to express yourself.”
Young Bird was ready to take the community art concept home and get her family and friends involved in a project.
NDSU has hosted North Dakota Governor’s Schools for 25 years. The program is for high-achieving high school students. They live on campus for six weeks and work with NDSU faculty members in architecture and landscape architecture, engineering, English studies, information technology, experimental science, mathematics or visual arts. They also participate in service projects and co-curricular activities, such as the Art and Activism class.