Fargo Walking Tours
How We Designed & Implemented an Art-Focused Walking Tour of Downtown Fargo
Fargo Walking Tours was created in response to the question: Why aren’t we tourists in our own cities?
Fargo, ND is a city with many unique art pieces that the average person doesn’t know about. For Summer 2020, I was chosen to become a Civic Innovation Force Fellow at The Nice Center, the entrepreneurship center at North Dakota State University. Together with another Civic Innovation Force Fellow named Emily Hopfauf, we pursued our shared goal of creating walking tours in Fargo.
Our project’s mission was captured in this guiding statement:
“By the end of Summer 2020, we are going to research and design an interactive digital tool that allows people to go on an art/history walking tour in the heart of Fargo. We want to involve the community in the development process to locate existing features and propose new elements.”
With this in mind, we wanted to tackle the project of getting people out in Fargo to see everything it has to offer. We had many ideas going into this project. With so many ideas, it was tough in the beginning to narrow it down to something that was attainable within our fellowship’s three-month timeline. Some of our ideas involved creating interactive art to add to the community, researching art and history tours, collecting stories from community members, and working with businesses in hopes of creating discounts for people that are downtown. Then there were all the ideas of how we wanted to present our project. We did quite a bit of research and testing to determine that Google Sites was the best fit for us. Along with that, we also started an Instagram Account (Figure 1) that now has over 200 followers and a Facebook page for our site after coming up with the name “Fargo Walking Tours”. Emily was able to obtain the domain name for our website: Fargowalkingtours.com.
Once we began building the website, the main aspect we wanted to highlight was community involvement. We had a few different surveys going throughout the process to get feedback as we created the site. After deciding to research the art that was already in Fargo, we discovered that there was enough to make a great tour. To make this tour more unique, we reached out to all the artists in hopes of collecting audio quotes about their work. Most artists were very willing to help, and we collected so much information that we created artist pages for the artists that had multiple pieces or were able to give us information about how they got started in the art community. All of the quotes were edited and uploaded onto Soundcloud, so that we could easily embed all the audio tracks onto the website.
Since the art tour was coming along well, we wanted to create a history tour revolving around people’s stories in Fargo. However, we ended up not being able to complete that tour since we had difficulties collecting stories. Covid-19 contributed by making it difficult for us to go out and collect stories in person. On the other hand, trying to find the contacts for people and trying to get a response from them could be frustrating at times, especially because some people never responded.
When the history tour didn’t pan out, Emily started working with people from Geocaching (Figure 2) to create a tour that parallels our tour. We were able to get the funding to launch two geocaching tours on the same day of our launch event. We got many positive comments from people who took a tour: “Thanks for bringing us on this walking tour. We enjoyed walking downtown along with the local shops,” “Enjoyed finding historical tidbits behind the art. Lots of folks taking pictures and making memories. Thank you,” and “Love art. Very fun to find all the art around Fargo. Every city should be so full of art as it makes it a better place!” For the geocaching tour that aligned with the North Art Walking Tour, there were 99 check-ins at different pieces in the first two days of the tour being launched!
There was a lot I could take away from this project. I got out of my comfort zone and was able to reach out to many people that I had never known about or interacted with before. I think my email etiquette has greatly improved by learning how to take out the fluff. Researching and trying new computer programs and websites was also very insightful. Learning about Airtable has made things so much easier for organizing sites for the tours. I had never worked specifically with audio-editing software, so learning Adobe Audition for editing the audio quotes was a bit of a challenge. Invision was another helpful tool that we found while searching for a good way to organize our work. It was a nice way to take notes in the beginning while we did further research and developed our ideas (Figure 3).
In the end, though, we had a great collection of pictures and quotes from the artists that have their work featured on the Art Tours. I created artist pages for all the artists that responded, so we can continue to promote their work. Emily made an amazing compilation of other history tours offered in Fargo, and I created a tour for all the sweet shops and coffee places Downtown. With feedback from the public and help from a friend in the Graphic Design program at NDSU (Figure 4, 5, 6), we were able to create an amazing logo and order stickers for the Launch Event.
The Nice Center provided us with many great resources and allowed us to create a sequence of posts for the artists called “Interviewing Local Artists for Art Walking Tour” which currently has 4 parts. The launch event happened August 15, 2020 and was a great success, having 107 people registered. Emily, being in Roberts Alley, talked to nearly 100 people as did I from my check-in stop in Art Alley. People loved being able to make their mark in Art Alley with the chalk and spray paint (Figure. 7, 8, 10) Some amazing businesses made donations for the event which made it all the better. I think having a booth in the Red River Market beforehand also helped get the word out about the event (Figure 9). I am very happy with the outcome of Fargo Walking Tours, and I am ready to pass it on to the next group to add their own touch.