The Year of Play


Led by multidisciplinary artist-organizers (Mary Welcome, Jake Krohn, Molly Johnston) in collaboration with their neighbors, The Year of Play was a creative initiative that uses art and culture to inspire play for all ages in Fergus Falls while celebrating and making visible community assets, promoting wellness through active living, facilitating community interaction, and infusing a sense of fun and wonder in town. Highlighted projects include rural Minnesota’s first openly queer drag show, citizen-led riverfront beautification projects, a subzero pop-up movie theater on a frozen lake, a public “people’s park” in a local lot, and the continued development of “possibility kits” to encourage and support cultural activations on a neighbor-to-neighbor level. Using tactical ruralism and under the guise of hi-visibility safety vests, the Department of Public Perks continues proactive unsanctioned work in Fergus Falls.

This year-long initiative was made possible by deep collaboration with Springboard for the Arts and with support from the National Endowment for the Arts through an Our Town grant. 

Frozen Cinema

The Department of Public Perks hosted FROZEN CINEMA, a free double-feature on-the-ice movie theatre open to everyone. “Frozen” was shown at 5:30pm followed by “Grumpy Old Men” at 8:00pm. There were free popsicles, hay bale seating, a homemade ice rink, aurora light shows, and firepits; neighhors brought their own camping chairs, hats, mittens, puffy coats, ice skates, blankets, sleeping bags and long johns.


Making Light Of

Everything! Infunstructure Engineer Jake Krohn led lighting design projects all around town throughout the year while assembling an incredible light library for the Department. Light installations included a range of outdoor venues, from transitional storefront LED systems to timed glowbulbs on the ice rink, culminating in an extravagant riverwalk static light parade from bridge to bridge in Fergus Falls.


The People’s Park

An all-ages all-folks summer venue in double parking spots of the Court Street parking lot overlooking the Ottertail River. After a week of preparation, The People’s Park was assembled by the Department of Public Perks in record-breaking thirty minutes during sunset hour on a Sunday. By the people and for the people, this public park was used for lunch breaks, cribbage games, impromptu concerts, letter-writing campaigns, and who even knows what else. Amenities included solar lights, checkers, cribbage, playing cards, stump seating, a stump table feat. a beach umbrella, planters of strawberries and moss roses, and all the astro-turf that was available at the hardware store in Detroit Lakes.


Pop Up Splash Zone

Designed by Infunstructure Engineer Jake Krohn, these portable wet ‘n wild fun zones were transported to different parks around town during the summertime for all-ages fun.


Community Micro-Projects


After leading a community workshop on play-based practices, we worked with neighbors to develop micro-projects that activated community spaces around town. The guidelines were fairly simple, projects had to involve artists and a community collaborator. Folks that proposed projects recieved $500 of funding and support from the Department of Public Perks in promotion, facilitation, and documentation.  

Big Box Build

with the Fergus Falls Library

We'll bring the boxes, you bring the fun! Castles, forts, cities, and more--if you can imagine it, you can build it! Big Box Build was an imaginative cabin fever collaboration between the Department of Public Perks and the Fergus Falls Library. After kiddos built a city from boxes, Ms Arielle led a special edition of Cardboard Storytime Theatre.


Sidewalk Soundtrack

 with Ruth Rosengren
feat. artists Chelsey Beilhartz and Aimee Nordlund

A sidewalk piano is coming to a street near you, in the hopes of inspiring a bit of playfulness downtown Fergus Falls. We're kicking off the warm weather season with a May Day concert (and treats!), but the piano will be on the sidewalk for as long as the weather allows -- so if you're not able to come to the event, we hope you'll stop by and play a tune sometime.


Winterland Dancing

 with Ayumi Hori Shafer

Artist Ayumi Hori Shafer invited the community of Fergus Falls to come together to take part in a dance project by the Pina Bausch Foundation. The Nelken-Line phenomenon is a flashmob style event done all over world. Community members  learned the simple “line” dance and made their way around Lake Alice in a snow storm dancing The Nelken-Line.

Ayumi worked with many different community groups to make this dance project happen, including teaching visits to Mill Street Residence, Pioneer Cottages, and the 4th graders at Cleveland Elementary School.