May 26 – October 16, 2022
Included in general admission
Fortopia, a playful outdoor exhibition comprised of awe-inspiring forts, invites explorers of all ages to discover Powell Gardens. This vibrant addition to summer in Kansas City encourages outdoor discovery and taps into the nostalgia of childhood fort building.
After opening a public request for proposals in 2021, a jury comprised of educators, architects, horticulturalists, and fabricators selected eight fort designs for inclusion in the exhibition. Designed to inspire an appreciation of the natural landscape, Powell Gardens is excited for visitors to experience its beauty through the variety of creative perspectives represented in the chosen forts. This year’s fort designers include a team of preschool children, artists, landscape designers, architects, and more.
Fortopia opens May 26 and runs through October 16. Visit the Gardens many times to experience the forts in a different light throughout the changing seasons! Nestled on the East Lawn, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the Gardens in a new and playful way.
Learn More About the 2022 Forts
A universal memory shared by children across the world is building a fort. By using common household items, such as sheets and cushions, kids create imaginary universes, grand castles, hidden lairs, or just a cozy place to read a book. Petal Post is built upon the idea that even the simplest structures can evoke this familiar memory in children of all ages.
Within the dynamic landscape, this fort creates a delicate structure that does not compete with the views, but rather compliments the surroundings by taking inspiration from natural forms seen throughout the gardens.
This fort is supported by Julie & Sara.
As one travels through Portal they will experience the transformation, as if venturing off to a different land. The progression exists through the transformation of the different materials, starting within a “blanket” fort and moving through and out into a natural log fort, as if one’s imagination really did take over.
The surrounding landscape from the beginning to the end of the pathway also strengthens the idea of being in a different place suddenly. You start in an opening and end right next to the trees. Where will the portal take you next?
This fort is supported by Hunt Midwest, Advantage Fire Protection Systems, Brookside Electrical Project Services, and Randy Spalding Excavating.
The design of this labyrinth fort stretches the imagination. Drawing inspiration from the large Corten steel sculptures of artist, Richard Serra, the winding paths and high walls of this fort commands a slower pace of movement. Engaging visitors’ other senses due to the walls being visible obstacles to the horizon, visitors are encouraged to appreciate the landscape in new ways.
This fort is supported by Friends of the Greensman.
This immersive fort structure transforms an open grassy lawn into a sea to be traversed by ship using found and reclaimed materials, and a little imagination. Skully the Pirate Ship entices visitors of all ages to climb on and interact with it. Sea monster’s tentacles rise out of the grass to wrap around the ship and provide a variety of climbing and hiding opportunities.
The concept for this fort is the result of passionate preschool children from the Zoo Room at Berkley CFDC at UMKC.
This fort is supported by Peter and Lynne Brown.
UMKC Early Childhood Education’s Team disseminated a survey to over 100 early childhood education professionals, asking open-ended questions about their childhood memories playing in the wild and building forts. These survey results were analyzed for shared themes and unique experiences to inform the final design that evokes nostalgia for childhoods spent exploring nature and playing in forts.
Note: Inspired by and as a companion to this fort’s design, Powell Gardens is spotlighting the morel as the first featured plant in the new Midwest Foraging exhibit. For more information visit the Family Discovery Trail.
This fort is supported by an anonymous donor.
Nature’s Colors is inspired by the colors found in plants and how they can transform over time. Using their textile artist skills, the designer naturally dyed the fabric from which the fort takes shape. The design embraces the natural wear and tear of the elements on the outer layer expecting the fabric to age with daily exposure to sunlight, water, and dirt, while the inner layer retains the brightness and vibrancy of nature’s colors as the days pass.
GEOCAMO HIDEAWAY nods playfully toward occasionally sardonic ideas regarding minimalism, Nature, and camouflage in Contemporary Art as well as within the general zeitgeist.
This strategically camouflaged fort is mirrored by cheeky camo references within the fort’s interior: Buckwheat hull filled “bean bag” seating in distinctive motifs such as razzle dazzle camouflage, pink realtree, and fluorescent “safety” orange.
GEOCAMO HIDEAWAY is influenced as greatly by latent memories of Pauly Shore and BIO-DOME (4% on Rotten Tomatoes, 1 of 100 on Metacritic) as it is by Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright.
This fort is supported by Bob and Debbie Phillips.
Reflection Fort serves as a catalyst for the imagination of children, and to inspire the rekindling of this ability in adults. Our team challenged ourselves to create a space using simple materials that can be transformed into something fantastical with the active input and participation of each visitor regardless of physical ability.
Fan Favorite Fort Award
It’s simple, the fort that receives the most votes takes the title. Voting closes October 9 and the awardee will be announced shortly after.
How to Vote:
- Take a fun photo with your favorite fort.
- Cast your vote. Share your photo online by tagging @powellgardens and using #votefortopia22.
- Vote again! One post per platform will be accepted.
Explore More During Fortopia
Heartland Harvest Garden, Family Discovery Trail and the Lotus Pond
Embrace your inner spirit of place and appreciate the natural landscape by taking a Powell Gardens’ self-guided Midwest Foraging Tour utilizing Garden Explorer. Learn how to identify select plants in nature, why they are foraged and fun facts along the way! This family friendly tour content was developed in collaboration with Powell Gardens’ expert Horticulture team.
Be certain to stop by the Marketplace on your way home to pick up a commemorative plant patch and DIY foraging kit to apply what you learned on your own!
Build Your Own Fort
After exploring Fortopia’s eight forts, use natural resources to build a fort of your own. Budding architects and designers of all ages are encouraged to dream, build, and play in a fort of their own making.
This area is supported by the Hartwig Family Foundation.
Applications are now closed. Stay tuned for 2023 Fortopia applications and dates.
Thank you, Fortopia Sponsors!
Fortopia would not be possible without the generous gifts of the sponsors listed below. Powell Gardens is truly grateful to the individuals, businesses, and community groups who support our mission and have joined us in bringing a new way to play to Powell Gardens.
- Peter & Lynne Brown
- Friends of the Greensman
- Hunt Midwest, Advantage Fire Protection Systems, Brookside Electrical Project Services, and Randy Spalding Excavating
- Julie & Sara
- Bob & Debbie Phillips
- David & Barbara Dehaemers
- Gus Wetzel Family Foundation
- Hartwig Family Foundation
- Tom Isenberg
- Mrs. Barbara Spilker