Fargo, ND (2011) – Every spring in the Red River Valley, residents prepare for potential flooding by readying thousands of sandbags. In the past several years, artist Michel Strand has been trying to lighten sandbag wall-builder’s psychic load by adding art to the sandbags.

The Fargo Sandbag Project is the work of Strand and thousands of volunteers – as many as 5000 this past year – who paint lighthearted pictures or phrases on the sandbags. Examples of some of the art include the Norwegian-influenced expression for exasperation or exertion – “Uff da!” – scrawled across a bag, or a pink robot drawn by a second grader. The artist hopes that as these bags pop up during the long hours of barrier-building, people will be surprised and delighted, point the artwork out to the other volunteers around them. he likens the bags to 50-pound greeting cards that lift the spirits of tired, cold and wet volunteers. This year, volunteer artists decorated over 9000 bags.