Plains Art Museum Receives Major Grant to Conserve and Reinstall “Sodbuster”

Fargo, N.D. – One of the most important pieces of public art in Fargo-Moorhead’s history is headed for conservation.

The iconic Sodbuster sculpture, which stood on the corner of Broadway and Main Avenue in Fargo for 20 years, will be conserved and reinstalled in a place of honor and high visibility at the new Fargo City Hall Civic Plaza.

Created for the City of Fargo by famed pop-sculpture artist Luis Jiménez, Sodbuster was a fixture in downtown Fargo from 1982 to 2002. Made using experimental automotive finishes and fiberglass molding materials and techniques that the artist used early in his career, the sculpture’s finish and structural integrity were compromised by weather extremes of the northern Plains.

“Twenty years of heat and cold, sun and snow, along with the vibrations from the nearby train traffic, resulted in significant damage to the sculpture’s surface as well as its structural integrity,” said Mark Ryan, Director of Collections and Operations at Plains Art Museum.

Partnering with the city of Fargo, the museum applied for and was recently awarded a generous $143,000 grant secured from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through its Museums for America grant initiative that will fund the transportation, conservation and reinstallation of the sculpture.

The sculpture will be transported beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, to McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio for a highly specialized conservation treatment along with the design and fabrication of a mount.

The McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory were chosen as partners in the project because of their extensive expertise with outdoor sculpture conservation and fine art rigging, as well as their specific experience conserving other Jiménez sculptures. A comprehensive plan for ongoing maintenance and care is an integral component to the overall project and will prevent similar condition issues from occurring in the future.

The conservation process is expected to take nearly three years, beginning in early 2016 and culminating in the sculpture’s reinstallation in the fall of 2018.

The restored sculpture is planned as a centerpiece in the Fargo City Hall Civic Plaza. As part of the city center redesign, including permanent flood control infrastructure, the new City Hall will connect downtown activity directly to the riverfront through the Plaza.

Sodbuster’s reinstallation also responds to the community’s desire for more art to enliven our public spaces, a community-wide goal established in Fargo’s new Comprehensive Plan, Fargo Go2030,” said Fargo City Commissioner, Melissa Sobolik.

Regular progress updates will be posted on the www.plainsart.org website. For more information contact Mark Ryan, Director of Collections and Operations at 701.551.6120, mryan@plainsart.org.