Defiant Gardens

A Summer in the Defiant Gardens

This summer offers opportunities to help create, explore, and enjoy the Defiant Gardens for Fargo-Moorhead. These artist-designed landscapes and places will create a network of innovative public art for our communities to enjoy, each one led by a cross-sector, collaborative team.

If you enjoy working outdoors, please consider joining our volunteer groups to help in various ways to create and care for these gardens.


My focus is on defiant gardens created during wartime . . .These gardens offer evidence of the profound meanings contained in the expression of gardens. These are extreme situations, but there are lessons and ideas to be gleaned from these places that apply to garden making in more benign conditions . . . they also can be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation.

 — Kenneth Helphand, landscape historian and author,
Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime

In 2009, Plains Art Museum launched a new initiative to engage artists with communities in public spaces to create “defiant gardens,” borrowing the term from Kenneth Helphand’s study of gardens in wartime. The term poetically captures a sense of affirmation for something that is necessary but missing from our places. The defiant gardens will become places where people will gather and where sociability can flourish amid greenery.

Since the project’s inception, two artist-designed gardens have been designed and received funding to support their construction: Pollinator Garden for Plains Art Museum; and Heritage Garden and Amphitheater for Moorhead. Each artist team decided what aspect of the garden’s context they aim to “defy,” whether defying the urban environment, the harshness of winter, or an industrial site.

Defiant Gardens for Fargo-Moorhead has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artplace America, the Bush Foundation, and Lake Region Arts Council.

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