Flood Fargo with service, not water
Artists direct efforts toward volunteering
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 16:05
A conglomerate between NDSU, the Plains Art Museum and FirstLink are celebrating this spring. Why? That’s easy: There’s no flooding!
Over 3 million sandbags and over 40,000 hours; that’s what it takes to contain the Red River when it reaches 41 feet. EngageU, a “think and do” tank founded by Michael Strand and comprised of interdisciplinary students, put on their thinking caps and wondered: What the community could accomplish if even five percent of that effort were directed to service?
What they came up with is called R.I.S.E., or River Inspired Service Engine, and the goal is to flood the community not with water but service. Throughout the month of May, EngageU is working with FirstLink to coordinate volunteer opportunities for those eager to make a difference.
R.I.S.E is one of the Plains Art Museum’s six projects called Flood Diversion, in which the museum helps artists create different interventions within the community. Megan Johnston, curator at the museum, says that they wanted to bring together artists for socially engaged practices of their craft. The idea came during the fall, and when spring arrived sans flood, they had to find a new direction for the effort.
They posed the problem to the EngageU group, who collectively hashed out an idea of giving back and channeling a volunteer mentality within Fargo to build the community. Instead of setting to work on an object-based project, the artists went to work raising awareness.
“I think artists have a really intuitive way of coming together and collaborating, and that’s one of the things that we are all really interested in, is to hook up with other people to do more together than we could alone,” Johnston explained.
The end result they hope to accomplish is a continued initiative to volunteer within the community not just for a month but yearlong. They are also looking to learn from this, to see what works and what doesn’t for future efforts. In this way, R.I.S.E. serves as a sort of pilot experiment.
Things you can expect to see during May include posters, bus wraps and kits that provide direction toward volunteer opportunities. Also on display at the museum will be a “waterometer,” and the water level on it will decrease as the number of volunteers increases. For more information on the campaign and opportunities throughout the month, go to http://www.engage-u.org.