Glazed Over

Building a 200-foot-long artwork along the floodwall has its perils

For two and a half years, Magel, her assistants and all those members of all those communities have been making tiles, constructing birds and butterflies and frogs and fish and fossils -- lots of fish and fossils, forms children were particularly attracted to. All the glazes have been made by hand: "It's a lot about painting, so the color isn't all flat," explains Magel. More than 17,000 pounds of clay has been worked.

Magel and her assistants like to talk most about the communities that have participated in making this public artwork a collaborative project. Jason Segall, a Kansas City Art Institute student who's been working on "Reflecting on a River," talks about the children at Kids Club House. Kids Club House counsels youth who have experienced the death of a family member or friend. The kids made the birds, then wrote notes to the loved ones they'd lost and placed them inside the clay. The notes burned when the clay was fired.

Artists can become much too enamored of the process of community involvement, creating works that are well meaning but visually atrocious. In fact, more communities need to stand up and say, "For God's sake, not another mural." But "Reflecting on the River" functions both as an attractive, pleasing work of art and as a model of community outreach.

Calvin Berry of the Americorps Trail Rangers assesses the damage done to "Reflecting on a River."
Jennifer Silverberg
Calvin Berry of the Americorps Trail Rangers assesses the damage done to "Reflecting on a River."

Magel assesses the damage of the vandalism. She thinks it's "pretty repairable." As for the juvenile perpetrators, she says, "I wish they could come down and work on this. They'd understand what it means."

Breaking barriers: The citizens who frequent Forest Park -- the daily bikers, runners and dog-walkers -- have been suffering through the massive reconstruction program of the park for months. Ponds have been emptied, then refilled. Huge gouges have been made in the earth to replace crumbling sewer lines. A stroll through Forest Park has not been like walking through a construction site -- Forest Park is a construction site.

One of the most annoying aspects of the construction is the seemingly capricious placement of those orange plastic-mesh fences to hinder trail access. The fences go up, and then nothing happens. Joggers run in place, look at their watches and reconsider their routes with a look of exasperation.

But St. Louisans have been showing real orneriness in the face of these impediments. Once those fences go up, it's no time before they're down. One barrier, on a footbridge, had both plastic and metal wires severed.

Vandalism should never be encouraged (see story above), but there's a certain perverse appeal to thinking of Forest Park joggers as urban renegades.

Ha: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis has hired its new director, Paul Ha. Ha ran the prestigious White Columns art space in New York City for a number of years. During that time, he made more than 900 artist-studio visits a year. Ha went on to a position at the Yale Art Museum but recently resigned, saying that he missed spending time with artists.

Any guy who quits Yale must have something going for him.

« Previous Page