Whole City St. Louis
Works Progress at The Luminary Center for the Arts
You canâ€™t make it whole, it is whole.
Gateway Arch. Photo by Brea McAnally.
What kind of cities are we making together? A
cross the United States socially-engaged artists and designers are working with and within communities to shape and shift the experience of urban life. In some cases these social practices are central to building the collective identity of a place, strengthening connections and creating new opportunities for the expression of shared ideas, aspirations and culture. In other cases artists are working in the margins, purposefully destabilizing existing networks and power structures.
While artists helping to shape the identity and creative life of cities through their work is nothing new, thereâ€™s a growing emphasis on the economic and community development impact of artist-led placemaking efforts. In some cities, a shift in the focus of arts funding to this type of work has led to new sources of economic support for artists, and new demands on their artistic process and the work they create. Other cities have yet to see these funding strategies take root. In both cases, questions remain about the relationships between socially-engaged art-making, community and economic development, and the future of our cities. Whole City St. Louis is an exploration of those questions.
Whole City St. Louis Organized by Works Progress (Minneapolis) Presented by The Luminary Center for the Arts On view from May 4th to May 25th, 2013 The Luminary Center for the Arts 2644 Cherokee Street, St. Louis 63118 theluminaryarts.com
Wood burning by William Burton Jr., curator at 14th Street Artist Community. Photo by Brea McAnally.
A Visitors Guide to the Whole City Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson
s we send this newspaper off to the printer, we mark our fourth whole day in St. Louis.
What can you really say about a city you’ve known for less than a week? What can be gleaned by outsiders from conversations with a handful of artists, organizers and advocates about the impact of their own socially-engaged art and culture projects on the city they share? This conversation is one that is ongoing in cities across the country. The challenges we face in our neighborhoods and communities are complex and persistent. Making and remaking a city is something we all do each and every day, whether we realize it or not. Increasingly, artists are being asked to assume more responsibility for the contributions they make to the culture of our cities - and sometimes for things that seem tangential to their artistic work, like economic and community development, the built environment, citizen participation and political or social change. What does it mean to say that artists and other creative citizens do or don’t play a special role in determining a collective way forward? What bearing do these conversations that are emerging from such wide-ranging fields have on the ways that artistic work is conceived, produced and practiced - individually and especially collaboratively? How can we work better if we
can’t seem to find a shared language to describe what we’re doing? The answers aren’t simple. A person could spend their whole life in a city and never get their head around the complex relationships between the people, places and ideas that intersect there. It would be ridiculous for us to presume that this newspaper and project could be anything more than the incomplete account of an all-to-brief encounter. That said, we hope that Whole City St. Louis provides a new point around which to gather and reflect, and that by providing an outside perspective and an excuse to connect across the city, we might also provide a means of skewing the lens for our peers who live and work in St. Louis. For us, the chance to reflect on the dynamics (however limited the view) of creative life in another city has been valuable, providing a new perspective and ideas that we know will make our own work better. What you’ll find here is not a guide to knowing the city, but it could be a resource for a person looking to take a short detour. It’s a loose collection of observations, insights and questions about the complex and ordinary work of making the city of St. Louis. It was compiled by two artists who don’t live here and who had almost no
connection to the city prior to this project. The quotes in the newspaper are pulled from various conversations we had with individuals during our visit. They were generous with their time, they opened up their doors to us and shared their experiences. Some of these quotes and ideas contradict one another; others seem to have a harmonic quality. We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity, though brief, to bear witness to some of the work that artists and communities are pursuing together. Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker are the Co-Directors of Works Progress. worksprogress.org
The Whole City Tour began with a walk down Cherokee Street. Photo by Brea McAnally.
How to Build a World that Won’t Fall Apart James McAnally
whole city is a patchwork city with conflicting histories and visions of the future. These visions intersect and erupt in moments and movements, in living rooms and alleys, in media and neighborhood meetings – in the endless activity of all that inhabit it. The future of the city is a contested space where the ideas of the present and inheritance of the past are each attempting to take hold. What gets preserved, what is lost? Who has rights to the city and whose rights trump others? We tend to speak of the city as a single entity overseen by others without ever articulating for ourselves what sort of city we are constructing and how we plan to occupy it. Our collective ideas of the city construct it over time. They build strip malls and abandoned blocks; they build structures and sidewalks. These ideas shift after a while, causing cracks up the back of brick walls. Someone patches it, or not. Your idea of “what makes the city whole” enters the world in whatever form you act, speak, and make within the city. Speculation itself implies emancipation. You and others act, creating a whole city with changing parts. Whole City is situated within a year-long exploration of how artists and alternative arts organizations sustain themselves in times of social and economic uncertainty, which is to say all the time in our present, indefinite crises. The
The idea of emancipation implies…that there are always several spaces in a space, several ways of occupying it, and each time the trick is knowing what sort of capacities one is setting in motion, what sort of world one is constructing. – Jacques Ranciere series has highlighted galleries that have closed within the past year and our lack of social safety nets within creative communities; The Luminary as an institution in flux examining itself through the work of its founders; and emerging funding phenomena in an ongoing attempt for artists to stake out an economic sphere that is both sustainable and equitable. These exhibitions allow us to explore various ways of occupying space, of occupying the city together; they model the relatively small art world, yet suggest the civic struggle, the negotiation of space, social construction and emancipation we call city, country, epoch, history. The series of exhibitions is titled How to Build a World that Won’t Fall Apart, a phrase edited from a Philip K. Dick lecture in which he talks about the process of creating fictional (speculative) universes for his stories. What was interesting for him, and perhaps for us, were that he created universes that didn’t and couldn’t last. Our
cities tend to outlast our ideas for them. We are creating fragmentary moments and connections, movements and communities that are sometimes preserved, sometimes lost, but always captured within what we call a city. It is our responsibility to examine the city we are constructing together, which this exhibition and publication attempts to begin. There are always several ways of occupying the city; that it can contain them all is perhaps what makes it whole. James McAnally is the Co-Director of The Luminary Center for the Arts and Executive Editor of Temporary Art Review. theluminaryarts.com
A Room Without A View? Michael R. Allen
he city body of St. Louis has suffered through our practices. Collectively we cannot be immediately absolved from the often-cataclysmic remainders of the programs devised and wrought by the disciplines of urban planners, social workers, developers, architects and artists. We cannot expect those same disciplines to be able to reconcile their own tragic histories with a utopian future in which “creative placemaking” atones for the spatial segregation created through destructive racist real estate practices, “historic preservation” redresses the mass depletion of historic building fabric and the crazy-making constant relocation of the city’s poorest citizens, and “urbanism” somehow guarantees the right of assembly in public space. The intersection of identity and space requires a step outside of our lenses, if we are to truly resolve any social contradictions through practice. Perhaps the ideologies of practitioners of urban change could be excused or even sublimated in other eras. Today we even reconcile problematic earlier practices to contemporary values by aestheticizing modernism, making it safe. We valorize monuments to the disintegration of communities instead of commemorating the sites of potent and useful social struggle. Yet we might not focus widely and notice that all of the placemaking activities of the past century have left us a St. Louis that is stratified, divided and decadent in many ways. From that tired, conflicted space comes the opportunity for each of us to seize historical agency and redirect the forces we can see. Our gazes are thus very important. We choose whether we see the city and its population for what it has become by critically examining how it has become this place, or whether we simply let our eyes study the facts that justify our own practices. This choice determines whether the contemporary list of buzzwords will lead us toward social equity and a healed city, or simply perpetuate and repurpose the ideological weight of the past. The deliberation of this distinction, by the way, is largely our problem. The communities in which we work really are not waiting for the answer. People most likely are asking what historical forces we might deliver. As a practitioner of architectural history and historic preservation (although perhaps no longer a “preservationist”), my work is caught in the choice. Preservation is the choice to validate certain parts of our collective memory. Neighborhood improvement can simply reflect trending rises in property values. Architectural history, like art history, often seems like a mechanism for justifying its subject discipline. On the other hand, critical engagement of current events through the lens of architectural history can reveal how mistakes of the past are being repeated. Public architectural history in service to community decision-making is a wonderful practice. My work is tied to the underdefined but overstated agenda of “urbanism.” Urbanism in St. Louis has come to capture an alignment of critical voices that support increased housing density, improvement of public and bicycle transportation and gentrification (literally, increased property
…the deepest social and psychic wounds of modernity may be sealed without ever being healed. – Marshall Berman values) in certain neighborhoods. “Urbanists” lately criticized the fact that a rehabilitated grocery store on South Jefferson Avenue near Lafayette Avenue will reopen as a Save A Lot instead of as some more urbanistically correct store. The “urbanist” faction continues to talk up the supposed arrival of Ikea in St. Louis, which will reside in a big anti-urban box, that somehow can be accepted while Save A Lot cannot (class seems a subtle element). Yet much of urbanist discourse is devoid of consideration of social needs or the fact that vanguards in urban design historically have overtly or covertly had the impact of dislocating impoverished or African-American communities. Economics seem lacking too – the larger economics of full employment and benefits to whole classes of people. Urbanism isolates social problems to the terms of architecture, which overlooks root causes and thus becomes incapable of providing social solutions. That lack of awareness rears its head in other disciplines too. Discussion of the “Delmar Divide” by artists and architects has tended to simplify what is a dire state of spatial segregation in the region. The need to publicly roost the tensions of race in the region requires care and listening. So far, moves in this direction are wellintentioned but have initiated (without sustaining) a fractured and unclear discussion that reduces a complex historical crisis to a single phrase. Similarly, in historic preservation, practitioners often ignore the urban buildings associated with the working class, racial and gender struggle and postwar depletion. Buildings in distressed neighborhoods disproportionately disappear, with little fuss, despite the fact that systematic loss of housing stock not only destroys buildings but also communities. Preservation of disciplinarilymarginal buildings and sites does happen a lot, but usually not through any initiation of the official movement that will fight arduously for high-style Modernism and idyllic farm houses. Preservation may well be “creative place-saving” because its interpretive nature can skew our identity as it can be detected in our architecture. Through silence, preservationists actually can aid the erasure of more contested or simply marginal parts of our history. The location of art practice also relates to how we inscribe our values on the city body. My practice has intersected with the idea of “community art,” a loaded term that is also useful. I think that the term’s best effect has been reminding artists of the larger role that they play in society, and the need to engage broad constituencies. However, practices that state that they are “community” based led by practitioners who live and work isolated from spaces in which they work raise questions. Are not such artists already members of place-based communities in which they live? Does funding determine which communities are “community” enough to be legitimate places for “community art” to occur? Of course artists should be regionally conscious and active, but the choice to locate practice and appropriate sociological language builds expectations.
Community art’s cohort includes “creative placemaking,” a term highly relevant to contemporary art and planning discourse that remains highly subjective. “Placemaking” itself carries a problematic arrogance when employed to describe projects in neighborhoods where people have already “made” the place. Here is where art parallels the track of real estate development; the assumption of a “frontier” to be invented through practice links art projects to disastrous development plans like Northside Regeneration today and St. Louis’ 1916 zoning ordinance passed to curtail open housing. These projects involve wide views that are not very deep, and a fervor to “make sense” of space without really learning it. Situation of the “placemaker” is crucial – is that place within and among community residents? And the most basic question really becomes: is this project for or with those residents? Authorship (publication, exhibition, recognition) can drive us askance of our intent subliminally. Yet surely most of us don’t arrive actually deluded that we are “making” a “place.” So why don’t we call what we do by its real name? Art, architecture, planning, building, rehabbing, developing, owning – these are all precise and valuable practices that offer transparency to all involved in our pursuits. The term of art suggests that we as practitioners cannot negotiate direct relationships and that we fear our work may be less relevant if not packaged a certain way. Funders, of course, spur on the vocabulary. Without enumerating endlessly the problems of this moment, I think it is crucial for each of us who practice our arts in St. Louis to develop direct and informed relationships with the other people who live here. Disciplinary formation and refinement – talking amongst ourselves – provides useful critique, but ultimately our work is beholden to a mass of people that may not speak our languages. We stand among our neighbors with tremendous potential to bring some practice to our city’s places that no one else could offer. We must name our practices and be humble enough to serve. In most of our fields, service is challenging because of this grindstone called authorship. We encourage ourselves to be the makers when sometimes our neighbors want us to be stewards and assistants. Ideology may compel us otherwise, without our knowing it. When an artist reaches for another word to describe a studio practice that in itself already offers value to a community, the question should be why? When we gaze at our city, we should be forming such questions to elevate our consciousness, and not seeking places to which our answers will descend. Historical forces tell us that many more questions about work are being – and should be -- asked right back. Michael R. Allen is the Director of Preservation Research Office, a historic preservation and research organization. preservationresearch.com
The Pink House
Photo Essay by Patrick Fuller
1 Initially called the Salerno House in honor of its address on Salerno Drive, the space name shifted to The Pink House in May 2012, honoring the way many young neighbors observe significance in its signature characteristic.
2 Neighbor Tabatha Pate and Pink House organizer Regina Martinez sit beside a blanket sized canvas during the Pink House’s inaugural BBQ, October 2011. In February of 2012, Tabatha developed a casual weekly crochet session at the House, an art form she began to master in 5th grade.
4 Come for your Ideas: Welcome signage for an “ideas meeting” organized by six young people in the neighborhood, April 2012.
7 T.O.P students celebrate and unveil the Crate in a room full of family, friends, and other community leaders at Beyond Housing’s Family Support Center, February 2012.
5 Ideas from the “ideas meeting.”
9 May 2012 marked the first event in a series that infused Pink House’s neighboring St. Vincent Park with arts and cultural activity throughout the summer. The two major sponsors of this series are Beyond Housing and Great Rivers Greenway. The May event included a short photo story by Patrick Fuller suspended between two trees. Ten of Patrick’s photos introduced the Pink House to folks beyond Salerno Drive. Patrick is a self-identified Pink House documenter who lives right down the street.
8 Since April 2012, Pink House participants have been working with St. Louis based installation artist Carlie Trosclair. This exploration was initially catalyzed by Beyond Housings rehab work and the resulting opportunity of reclaimed chandeliers from homes in the area. We have worked with Carlie on a hands-on creative process that has involved papermaking and sculpting with recyclable material from the neighborhood.
10 The Pink House was invited to be represented in Pagedale’s annual Red Ribbon Parade, an event designed to encourage young people to live drug free. Pink House engagers moved forward with a parade float in the shape of the House itself, a design executed with collaborative artist Stan Chisholm, October 2012. Photo credit: Shana Mitchell.
3 Tabatha and neighbors during a crochet session, April 2012.
The Pink House is a project of Rebuild Foundation and Beyond Housing. rebuild-foundation.org beyondhousing.org
6 In the Fall of 2011, a first more formal arts exploration convened at the Pink House. The Crate Project was planned in partnership with Wyman Teen Outreach Program (T.O.P.) and the Beyond Housing Family Support Center’s afterschool program. The Project fulfilled a creative service learning project for middle school T.O.P. participants. The Crate was intended to serve as a useful container for baby care items vital for the Nurses for Newborns organization also sharing office space inside the Pink House.
Meeting at the office of Roseann Weiss (center), director of the Regional Art Council’s Community Art Training Institute. Photo by Brea McAnally.
Dispatches from the Whole City Tour Text by Works Progress, Photos by Brea McAnally The River
An Honest Question
An Honest Question
After we made the decision to visit St. Louis, we took a tour using Google Street View. We dropped a pin on The Luminary, then one virtual step at a time tried to find our way to the Mississippi. We thought that if we could see the river that our cities share we might be able to establish a connection that would make our visit more meaningful. But each time we thought a view of the river was close, we met a pixilated chain-link fence, or a retaining wall, or an expanse of industrial real estate and a No Trespassing sign. We could see bridges in the distance, and if we wanted to, we could move across them. But finding the edge of water was difficult. We asked ourselves, as we often do: what kind of city turns its back on the reason it exists here in the first place? What happens when people don’t even know the water they drink?
What are you going to do with all of these buildings?
Is gentrification even possible in St. Louis? Where will all the people come from?
When you’ve been around for awhile, but not so long that you’re set in your ways. When you have an artistic vision and capacity, but not sustaining support. When you have a new space and a little seed funding, but not enough to renovate. When you’re somewhere in the middle, trying to sustain a meaningful creative life in this place. What do you do then? And who do you do it for - or with?
It’s easy to blame the Aldermen because there are so many. And because in a representative democracy, anyone can stop anything from happening for any reason. I asked him, What can we do to change the ordinance? And he said, nothing. It’s not going to happen. Ever. If someone were to design a spectacularly inefficient form of city government, it might look like this.
Unexpected Things Are Happening
The Upcycled City
Numbers The people who once lived here minus the people who live here. The year that racial and religious restrictive covenants defined who could or couldn’t own property in specific neighborhoods. The people who have nowhere to live divided by the number of vacant buildings. The number of Aldermen divided by two. The people divided by race, class and an east-west highway. The number of bricks stolen and used to rebuild homes in New Orleans. The proposed tax increase to help fund a renovation of Gateway Arch Grounds. The cost of a cheap coffee pot at Family Dollar. The cost of a cup of coffee at The Mud House. The total assets of a single family in Ladue. The total of a micro loan to a new business on Cherokee. The cost of the new Saint Louis Art Museum expansion. The cost of rehab on The Luminary’s space. The number of alternative art spaces that have recently closed. The number of alternative art spaces recently opened.
It’s a hot moment. Does everyone here have a storefront? The variety of art spaces, community spaces, independent businesses and people sitting on front stoops makes for wild space. The possibility of pollination. The precariousness of proximity. When one space closes, how long before another opens? How long before everyone forgets who actually owns all of this real estate. What do the neighbors think? Go ahead and ask them.
View From The Future We should talk more. We should really work on that. It’s a matter of language, mostly. It’s a matter of what to call this thing we do, and how we see our individual roles in a cycle of constant change. Let’s not kid ourselves: a bunch of art galleries don’t necessarily make a place better. That’s a pretty narrow definition of progress. Whose progress? Let’s not kid ourselves: a bunch of art galleries don’t necessarily make a place worse. Change is slow. Change is so so fast. Have a vegan ice cream while you wait. What kind of city are we making? It depends on who you ask.
There’s a bit of magic in the process of turning waste into something useful, something handmade and unique. Teaching others how to access their ability to transform, to turn things taken for granted into the relationships of a more resilient future. What would it take to upcycle a city? It’s really about problem solving. Where and when do we start?
You’re Going To Need A Bigger Table It’s often said that public life is like a table. Some of us are invited to eat, others are what’s for supper. A few keep busy sawing at the legs. Once in awhile, an artist sits down. More often than not, the invitation comes with very little instruction. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? Artists should be at all the tables. And so should children, because someone will have to figure out how to clean up the mess when dinner is over.
Northside Workshop in Old North St. Louis, St. Louis. Photo by Brea McAnally.
Creative Placemaking We asked the Alderman on our tour why they call it Dogtown. Turns out it has little to do with actual dogs and everything to do with resources, specifically: coal. Even more specifically, the sheds that were built to cover the holes where men dug for coal. These sheds were called dog houses - hence the name Dogtown. Even back then creative placemaking was about economic development.
With, Not For We not me. With not for. Us not them. We’re all in this together. Sort of. Whenever I meet new people, I listen for these words, and when I hear them, I know I’m among kindred spirits.
Urban Pioneers From one neighbor to another: If you are a pioneer, what does that make me?
Re: Building To really make a space takes time, and patience, and most of all, love. Love for a place. Love for the hard work it takes to make it better for ourselves and for others. Most of all, love for the people who help us along the way. When we’re gone, it won’t matter if anyone knows that we were here in the beginning. In fact, I hope they’ll be too busy pursuing their own dreams to think about that. But the truth is, we’re here now, together, building a space of trust. Building relationships.
A Note About Trust And What It Means Trust is when you’re genuinely caring about a person. When you acknowledge common ground and difference. When you say: difference is not conflict. I’m here for you. We’re here for each other.
A Beautiful Little Oasis of A Block Here’s where we paint, and where we exhibit paintings, and where we share food with people in the community, and where we learn to make music. Where we dance, and where we worship, and where we learn how to be better fathers. We don’t give them art lessons, we give them life lessons. And if we keep it up we’re pretty sure that one day soon the whole city will be coming here to dance in the streets.
Hardship Jose stands in front of a painting: three AfricanAmerican sharecroppers in work clothes standing in a cotton field. He’s moved to tears by the image, says that he sees his own father and grandfather in that painting, and can’t help but long for those days, hard as they were. I miss those days because I was with my loved ones.
When The Story Is Told By Those Who Haven’t Been Here First of all, it’s not exactly pink. And sometimes we still call it by its first name: Salerno House, the name of the street where we all live for now. It’s only been a couple of years since Pink House opened its doors and Regina put that giant canvas on the lawn and said, Okay, let’s see what we can make together. It’s not like any of us asked for this place, and sometimes we disagree about what should happen here. We don’t have a roadmap, but we can tell you where we’ve been, and who’s been there with us. And since we’re on the subject, we can also tell you where we’d like to go in the future. Anything is possible. We know that now.
Tour stops included a walk down Cherokee Street, Fort Gondo, Perennial, Regional Arts Commission’s Community Arts Training Institute, Rebuild Foundation’s Art House in Hyde Park, 14th Street Artist Community, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, Northside Workshop, Gateway Arch, and The Pink House. Thank you to everyone who participated in the tour.
Artists and neighborhood residents representing Art House in Hyde Park, St. Louis and The Pink House in Pagedale, Missouri. Photo by Brea McAnally.
Moving from Advocacy to Participation Scott Ogilvie
n the year and a half that I’ve served on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, I’ve thought quite a bit about how to replicate what happened in my election, in which a progressive, young, previously unknown candidate upset an experienced yet vulnerable opponent despite being outspent more than four to one. The last seven or eight weeks of the campaign consisted of incredibly hard work, but it was pulled off by a team who were anything but political professionals: A bike mechanic and sometimes graphic designer, a hairstylist, and a corporate shoe designer, along with volunteer support down the homestretch. Why doesn’t something like this happen more often? There is, no doubt, considerable interest in urban and civic issues among people in their 20s and 30s. Correcting the missteps of the auto culture that transformed urban areas over the last 50 years is perhaps at the zenith of that interest. It seems, however, to trend decidedly toward advocacy, commentary and critique. On the other hand, I consistently attend neighborhood and party meetings — the foundations of civic engagement — at which I’m the youngest person in the room, sometimes by 10 years but just as frequently by 20 or 30. The bloggers, prolific online, can be hard to find in person. Perhaps the interest in advocacy and critique, but commensurate disinterest in participation, stems from the fact that municipal government doesn’t seem to respond very effectively to popular demands for improved urban design, transportation, preservation and transparency. At least, not here in St. Louis. As often as not, decisions are introduced as a fait accompli, with little hope of a deliberative legislative or planning process shaped by — or even aware of — public opinion. At times, there is so little public discussion or reporting on legislation and development activity that it is left to a few careful online watchers to break news to dedicated audiences. Many of the critiques are spot on. Much of the transportation, pedestrian, zoning and development advocacy is equally pertinent. But
where are the results? Good-faith efforts to change the conversation and educate elected officials from the outside tend to be imperceptibly slow. Sometimes, you just have to speak the lingua franca. My new catchphrase has become “A dime of campaign money is worth a dollar in advocacy.” Rather than educate local leaders not naturally inclined toward your issues, why not influence them politically? Or replace them? It may be cheaper than non-profit based advocacy, and I can almost guarantee it will be more effective, as advocacy tends to preach to the choir and rarely measures results systematically. A natural response to a frustrating system might be to give up on it, write it off and believe that nothing will change until the system changes. But who is going to change the system? I heard a local politico, with whom I generally don’t agree, once utter a truism: “The system is always working for the people already in power.” Change requires more than an email or blog post. It requires engagement with the establishment. In areas with high barriers to entry, that might mean getting a foothold by fundraising for a political action committee. Raising a few thousand dollars and getting a seat at the table with some key elected officials is a great place to begin. So is helping to bankroll the campaign of an upstart. In areas with lower barriers to entry, it might mean running for office or playing a key role in another candidate’s campaign. I don’t like it, but we have a system that runs on money. Is it ugly? Yes. Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it fair? No. But in the absence of your money, backed by your interests, someone else’s money is running the show. They won’t stop because you don’t like it. In local St. Louis politics, that tends to be attorneys, developers, construction companies, trade unions, public employees, gas stations, convenience stores and the occasional retired billionaire. You won’t be able to dominate that conversation, but you should at least participate in it. I’ve had many conversations with young, civicminded people turned off by this idea. People who would rather forget making change if it
means bending their ideology or venturing out of their comfort zone. Unfortunately, they will continue to work in a sphere that barely, if ever, intersects with the sphere of people developing (or more often, not developing) policy and spending public money. As long as those spheres remain separate, policy will be the domain of the people already in power and the people already keeping them there. There is a cottage industry of civic criticism in St. Louis with enough energy to bend policy more to its liking. If only it were organized in a way that demonstrated its strength. A few months into my position I found a plan to amend our zoning code to implement a Minneapolis-like bike parking requirement for new construction. At a meeting where I brought it up, the mayor’s Director of Streets declared the policy idea dead. He was against it, and I knew no one else was interested enough to shepherd the idea through the legislative process. With a few changes, I got the bill passed. Advocates had only needed an ally in the right place. They had done the hard work of developing a plan, but not the work to develop the right relationship with a decision maker. There was no one to take it to until I got elected and stumbled upon it. Bike parking isn’t groundbreaking material, but in St. Louis it represented one notable step forward. One lesson I may have known vaguely before, but much more keenly now, is that progress almost never comes from an accident or natural evolution. It requires constant pressure, new ideas and sustained engagement to implement new policies and spending priorities. If you sit frustrated on the sidelines, that pressure is impossible to apply. There are no guarantees that engagement will pay off. I could just as easily have lost my election. But non-engagement guarantees failure. As I like to say, “Its easier to control the thermostat once you have the keys to the house.” Scott Ogilvie was elected to the St. Louis Board of Alderman in 2012, representing the Missouri city’s 24th Ward. This article was originally published by NextCity.org.
The Whole City Tour concluded with a conversation underneath the Gateway Arch. Photo by Brea McAnally.
Reflections from the Whole City Tour James McAnally
he Luminary formed just over five years ago around the question of what makes St. Louis a city in which artists can thrive. We asked everyone we knew what the tangible and intangible factors that come together to create a sustainable practice. The Luminary emerged in a context of strong museums and educational institutions, an active yet scattered artist-run community, but few sustainable organizations that would define themselves as “alternative spaces” or “artist run” projects that offered opportunities and resources for artists beyond the act of showing in a gallery. The question we have faced at each point in our growth has been an underlying expectation that somehow St. Louis was a stepping stone; that The Luminary was a strong, but short-lived initiative that would follow a well-tread path to Chicago or the coasts; that our work had a set horizon and this third option towards a sustained alternative support system for artists was untenable or at least unlikely. After touring various spaces with our artists-inresidence and again with Works Progress as a part of this project, it is clear that there is a different energy in the city. The question of “when are
you moving to Chicago” has been redirected into “how does everyone in New York not realize that the real opportunities for an interesting artistic practice exist here?” This energy is one that views abandoned space as opportunity, discarded objects as valuable, and public policy something that can be challenged and changed. The energy is coming from above as well, evidenced most prominently by the Regional Arts Commission’s recently announced Artists Count survey and subsequent direct artist grants, but also in lesser known manifestations like the Trio Foundation’s investment in innovative small projects like Perennial (and, full disclosure, our own residency program), the Old North Restoration Group’s attempt at holistically addressing the needs of a long-underserved neighborhood and The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts’s initial work with Rebuild Foundation. Yet, issues persist. By our count, at least eight galleries closed in St. Louis just last year. The physical, political and social structure of the city seems designed to exacerbate every kind of division. Population decline has marred the landscape and public funds are drained into
blue chip solutions that continue to lead the city away from the proven vitality of self-organized initiatives and creative re-imagining of civic life. Whole City and projects like it are a necessary reminder of what makes the city work and why we continue the work we do. Documenting all of these various responses, leading us to see projects we overlook for whatever reason, distributing it back out into the public remind us to continually reconsider the city in all of its parts. James McAnally is the Co-Director of The Luminary Center for the Arts and Executive Editor of Temporary Art Review. theluminaryarts.com
A few parting thoughts. From start to finish, this newspaper was created in four days. It was our first visit to the Whole City of St. Louis. We began with a tour of local projects on Monday, April 29th and sent the final layout to the printer on Thursday, May 2nd. We printed 1,000 copies of it. In that short amount of time we were fortunate to cross paths with over 30 people who are passionate about St. Louis. This project wouldnâ€™t have been possible without their radical hospitality. Below is a directory of places and projects we were able to visit while here, and a list of the people who contributed to the newspaper in one way or another. We thank you all! The Luminary Center for the Arts 2644 Cherokee Street St. Louis, MO 63118 theluminaryarts.com
Northside Workshop 1306 St. Louis Avenue St. Louis, MO 63106 northsideworkshop.tumblr.com
14th Street Artist Community 2701 North 14th Street St. Louis, MO 63106 facebook.com/14thstreetartcommunity
Fort Gondo 3151 Cherokee Street St. Louis, MO 63118 fortgondo.com
Old North St. Louis Restoration Group 2700 N 14th Street St. Louis, MO 63106 onsl.org
Perennial 7313 Broadway St. Louis, MO 63111 perennialstl.org
RAC Community Art Training Institute 6128 Delmar Boulevard St. Louis, MO 63112 art-stl.com/cat
Rebuild Foundation The Art House in Hyde Park The Pink House in Pagedale rebuild-foundation.org
James McAnally Brea McAnally Jessica Baran Jenny Murphy Roseann Weiss Lisa Harper Chang Dayna Kriz Richard Foy
Donna Lindsay William Burton Jr. Peter Sparks Claire Wolff Sage Dawson Amelia-Colette Jones Scott Ogilve Jeff Vines
Randy Vines Michael Allen Martin Casas Marco Antonini Regina Martinez Kamshia Evans Patrick Fuller Tabitha Tate
Alex Ihnen Lyndsey Scott Em Piro Emily Hemeyer Kirsten Torres Juan WilliamChavez
This newspaper is our best attempt at representing the short amount of time we spent in St. Louis, but this project, much like the city itself, will remain a work in progress. Please be in touch if youâ€™d like to contribute to it. We look forward to hearing from you! Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson Works Progress / worksprogress.org / email@example.com / @works_progress
Whole City St. Louis
Works Progress at The Luminary Center for the Arts
You can’t make it whole, it is whole.
The Art House in Hyde Park, St. Louis. A project of Rebuild Foundation. Photo by Brea McAnally.
Whole City St. Louis
The Luminary Center for the Arts
Whole City is a month-long project by public art and design studio Works Progress asking inhabitants of St. Louis to talk about the city’s identity as a place, as well as the creative life and aspirations of its residents - beginning with the question, What makes us whole? Using collaborative inquiry and reflection, the project explores St. Louis - specifically, the connections and disconnections that socially-engaged artists have made both inside and outside the arts community, and how those connections or disconnections might shape and shift the future of the city.
Works Progress is an experimental public art and design studio led by artists Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson. We create visual and performance art projects with and in public, engaging with a wide range of creative practitioners, field experts and communities in order to create art projects that are embedded within a particular place and that activate the creative capacities of the people who live, work and play there.
Whole City St. Louis was organized for The Luminary as a part of the ongoing series How to Build a World That Won’t Fall Apart, exploring how artists and alternative arts organizations sustain themselves in times of social and economic instability. The Luminary’s exhibitions are generously supported by the Arts and Education Council, the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council. The residency is supported in part by the Trio Foundation of St. Louis.
Published on Dec 9, 2013
Published on Dec 9, 2013
This publication resulted from a residency project at The Luminary Center for the Arts in Saint Louis, MO. We spent a week asking inhabitant...