What does “Citizen” mean? Ten Washington University in St. Louis students made art proposals out of their individual definitions this past semester, vying to be one of the four chosen for the 29th annual sculpture collaboration project between the Municipal Commission on Arts & Letters of University City and the university’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. The selected students receive funding to build their pieces in parks and public places in the University City area.
The theme was chosen because of a desire by collaboration professors Noah Kirby and Buzz Spector that their students be more engaged as citizens within the community. They pointed out that it also fits well with the collaboration program founder Marvin Levy’s hope that the annual project would continue to explore “ways to involve the citizens of a community in the processes and conversations of public art.”
Chosen for 2015:
Jonathan Berger’s “Golden in Silver” utilizes a photographic art tool from the past, the tintype, to bring together people of the present. Events are planned where citizens can tell their stories about University City and have their picture taken with a tintype camera. These pictures and stories will then be shared in exhibitions and through the mail. Berger hopes that through this process “we can begin to recognize the gold of University City, its citizens.”
Sarah Hull’s project, “Hands of Change,” celebrates the activist role of citizens, “when people recognized their duty to their community and lifted their voices.” She feels that “activism requires a sense of ownership of one’s community that goes far beyond the role of a resident and forces a community to come together to respond to an issue.” Concrete hands will come up from the ground along Ackert Walkway near the Delmar Loop, holding large semi-transparent historical photographs of activist moments in University City.
A sense of ownership is also reflected in Madeline Marak’s sculpture, “Have A Seat: Say, What’s Good?” which is scheduled for construction in Millar Park. The piece will consist of a colorful outdoor living room space, couch and chairs and artificial flowers, where she said “the community can come together and interact in a comfortable setting.” Marak believes “as citizens, we don’t always get to choose where we live, but we can choose how we live in that place.” Her research into the use of public spaces also brought to light the responsibility citizens can come to feel about the public spaces they frequent. The unexpected nature of her piece, she hopes, will encourage even more of a responsibility to the space as well as foster questions and enjoyment.
Jared Stein’s “Stockade” reflects the artist’s belief that “To be a citizen is to enter into a social contract with a given community.” It looks at what happens when the community feels this contract has been broken, through a monument consisting of a large transparent Plexiglass stockade. Scheduled for installation on the area west of the Craft Alliance in the Delmar Loop, it matches the traditional placement of the stockade – a central and heavily-trafficked public space – and, according to Stein, should represent “the transparency of the modern judicial system and as a symbol of the social contract between citizens and the agents of the judiciary.”
“This was a tough call,” said the commission’s chair of the Community Visuals committee, Garrie Burr, who said that the commissioners went through several rounds of voting to select the four. He said they were “very proud of the efforts made by all of the students this year, from the initial proposals, to the presentation before the Parks commission to the finale. He also noted that, as well as the specific work on the projects, the students went out to the community this semester and worked with visitors to the first Better Blocks project on November 1. “Their work this year exemplified what being a good citizen is all about,” said Burr.
Other students participating in the project were Caitlin Aasen, Andrew Catanese, Sophia Keskey, Moya Shpuntoff, Austin Wolf and Cherry Xie.
The collaboration contains two components: as well as the sculpture project taught by Professor Kirby, there is also a gallery showing curated by the university and Professor Spector. The gallery presentation opens the second week in January in the University City Public Library, followed by a reception at 2 p.m. on January 24 in the library auditorium. The sculpture project opens Saturday, April 11 with a reception at 2 p.m., also in the library auditorium.
This will be the 29th year of the sculpture project and the third year for the gallery component. Some of the project’s past sculptures, like Rain Man by the Post Office, have become icons of the University City landscape. Funding for the project is made possible in part by the generosity of the Marvin Levy Family, as well as the Regional Arts Council and the City of University City.
Send questions on the program to the commission by email, to firstname.lastname@example.org.