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The St. Vincent Greenway and art projects are efforts of the Great Rivers Greenway District in the St. Louis region.

arrowThis project was nominated for a Trails and the Arts Award as part of the 2013 National Trails Awards, hosted by American Trails.

 

Art along the St. Vincent Greenway - St. Louis, Missouri

photo of art spelling out DREAM

Art project along the St. Vincent Greenway  

 

The Great Rivers Greenway District is the public organization leading the development of a region-wide system of interconnected greenways, parks and trails in the St. Louis region. Over the past several years,the group has focused its attention on a West End neighborhood that had fallen victim to crime and deterioration. The new St. Vincent Greenway and rehabilitation of Porter Park through art initiatives has brought the local West End community together.  

The organization enlisted the help of nearby residents and community groups, who were eager to reclaim their neighborhood and their main park— the nine-block-long Ruth Porter Park— which had fallen into decline. Great Rivers Greenway worked to revamp Porter Park through beautification efforts and safety improvements, and area residents joined together to give Porter Park a fresh look through numerous art projects and art initiatives that reflect the rich history and culture of the nearby neighborhood.

The West End neighborhood is filled with much history, and Great Rivers Greenway wanted to reflect this along the new trail. In fact, Porter Park itself gets its name from an important St. Louis figure. In 1968, St. Louis City dedicated 11,500 square feet of land for Porter Park and named the park in honor of Ruth Porter, an important civil rights and fair housing advocate in the West End neighborhood.

photo of tall metal flower sculpture

Scupture by Tebogo Schultz

 

Porter dedicated her life to eradicating inequality and discrimination and promoted racial and gender equality, social justice and the amelioration of poverty. To preserve Ruth Porter’s legacy, Great Rivers Greenway installed three five-foot-wide interpretive signs along the new trail to celebrate her life and work, as well as the architectural jewels of the West End neighborhood through which the trail passes, and the history of the local street names. The Missouri History Museum created and prepared content for the signs in July 2012, including smartphone-activated video clips providing more information for trail users at each sign.

 

Sculptures

Two prominent pieces of artwork were created by local artists to help beautify Porter Park. In July 2010, local organization St. Louis Artworks, which works to broaden educational and career opportunities for youth in the St. Louis region through apprenticeships in the arts and through community collaborations, enlisted the help of 20 high school students to develop a theme for artwork for the park. Tebogo Schultz, one of the teaching artists, then created the sculpture— a contemporary interpretation of a flower. It stands at approximately 15' high and weighs about 1,150 pounds.

In addition, a 40-foot-wide set of concrete steps in Porter Park that previously served no purpose were transformed by Thomas Sleet, an artist living in the neighborhood. Sleet created the “Altar of Imagination,” rebarring new concrete forms vertically into the steps and using white and bright colors to give the sculpture a fresh look that reflects the vivacity of the neighborhood.

photo of sign and planters

Planters with interpretive sign

 

Art Projects

In fall 2011, Creative Exchange Lab, a local non-profit group dedicated to fostering creative entrepreneurship among area youth, worked in collaboration with Great Rivers Greenway and local group Beyond Housing, to supervise several youth living in the West End community and teach them the art of welding. The adolescents fabricated and painted elegant art pieces that also serve a useful purpose.

The works of art are nine metal benches and eight metal trashcans that lie along the greenway in Porter Park. Both types of art pieces are painted green and include spectacular, intricate designs. Additionally, youth from the area worked to decorate 28 planters throughout Porter Park by painting groups of planters in varied colors and attaching decorative metal cages in leaf and other organic shapes to many.

photo of colorful seating structure

Example of trash cans and park benches fabricated by local youth

 

Events and Other Art Initiatives

Beyond Housing has also been instrumental in bringing additional art initiatives to Porter Park and the surrounding neighborhood. The organization has been very involved in the West End neighborhood’s revitalization efforts and aims to strengthen neighborhoods in St. Louis by providing affordable housing and homeownership services; providing support services to families, children and seniors; being a catalyst for community-wide rebuilding efforts; empowering residents to be leaders of their own neighborhood revitalization efforts; and promoting individual and community asset building. In May 2012, the organization kicked off its “First Fridays” series of events, which take place the first Friday of every month during the summer with the purpose of bringing art to the local community. The events included:

• “Art along the Greenway” and “Jazz on the Greenway,” which allowed event-goers to view art and listen to music by local students from the Normandy School District.

photo of round concrete planters

Sculptural planters by Thomas Sleet

• The painting of a mural along the St. Vincent Greenway. Local artists from the community painted a health-themed mural during the day and displayed it during the event. The mural featured the slogan, “Health is Wealth.” This particular event also featured the musical talents of the ShowMe Sound F.O.C.U.S. Drumline, which entertained the crowd.

• A local artist creating health-themed 3D chalk art all along the greenway for residents to enjoy. At the end of the trail, community members were treated to the jazz stylings of University of Missouri-St. Louis Chancellor Tom George and friends.

• African Art and Dance along the greenway. Attendees were treated to the West African drumming and dancing of Mama Lisa Gage of Fundisha Enterprises, a cultural arts education agency that provides services for children and adults.

To help further advance the health, safety, vibrancy and interconnectivity of the communities and neighborhoods along the trail, the non-profit St. Vincent Greenway, Inc. was established in 2011. The organization's “Arts and Culture along the Greenway” program has the goal of engaging residents located along the greenway through arts and culture events and activities. The neighborhood’s vested interest in the artwork in the park and the local art initiatives is continuing to bring people together to protect and reclaim their park and keep their new trail safe to enjoy by all residents.

 

For more information:

Great Rivers Greenway District
6174 Delmar Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63112
(314) 436-7009 - Email: info@grgstl.org
http://greatriversgreenway.org/

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