Fun, Forts and Foraging at Powell Gardens

Petal Post (designed by Jennings & Santa Rita)

Do you remember the exuberance of childhood play? Perhaps it brings up memories of digging for worms, climbing trees, or exploring new parts of your backyard. George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish playwright, wrote, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

This summer, Powell Gardens invites you to embrace your Midwest spirit by rediscovering the magic of make-believe. Fortopia, a brand-new exhibition coming to the Gardens, opens May 26. Visitors can experience the magic of play by visiting Fortopia during business hours through October 16, 2022.

This playful exhibition taps into memories of outdoor discovery and fort building. Eight forts are included in the exhibition — all designed by the community to inspire an appreciation for the natural landscape. “What I find most striking about the forts featured is the innovation with which each designer approached the exhibit prompt,” said Cambria Floyd, Exhibitions Manager. “Regardless of material and inspiration, each designer has fundamentally considered the ways we as humans reflect on and move through the natural landscape. By design, each fort has a charge for those who engage with them. I cannot wait to experience Powell Gardens’ landscape through the lens of these designers who have so thoughtfully encouraged us all to slow down, look up, observe, pause, and play.”

Skully the Pirate Ship (designed by University of Missouri Kansas City’s Berkley Zoo Room)

Each fort design was selected via a request for proposal process. A blind jury compromised of architects, educators, horticulturists and fabricators reviewed the proposals and selected eight for the inaugural display. Selected designers include Kristopher Dabner and James Wall with The Greensman, Patricia Bordallo Dibildox, Gould Evans, Carter Floyd, Brandon Kirmer, Jennings + Santa Rita Architects, UMKC’s Early Childhood Education team, and enthusiastic preschool children of UMKC Berkley’s Zoo Room. To learn more about designers, their fort inspiration, and the environmental resources utilized to build this year’s forts, visit powellgardens.org/fortopia.

Powell Gardens’ living collections will be highlighted alongside the newly created Fortopia structures. A new Midwest Foraging exhibit spotlights botanic collections in far-spanning areas of the Gardens to encourage self-guided discovery. A curated Garden Explorer tour educates visitors on how to identify seasonal plants at Powell Gardens that are commonly foraged in the Midwest. Tags supporting visitors’ successful identification of plants on the tour are viewable throughout the Gardens. For a more adventurous experience, visitors are encouraged to hike the Discovery Trail and visit the Lotus and Frog Pond to learn more about the plants that make the Missouri landscape so special, including the variety of edibles one can find if they are just willing to look.

Visit throughout the summer and fall to experience Fortopia as the seasons change. Guests can participate in selecting forts for a limited series of awards affiliated with the exhibition. Selected winners will receive a one-of-a-kind award, serious bragging rights, and the community’s three favorite forts will make an appearance in next year’s Fortopia exhibition alongside all new forts. We’ll see you at Fortopia!

–Laina Gunsallus

Images featured are renderings and inspiration provided by the designers; all fort appearances are subject to slight modification through the fabrication process.

CategoriesArts Consortium

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