The Dialogue National Tour in Saint Louis, MOThe past two days in St. Louis have been fairly quiet. It's the first time we have set-up on a sidewalk area in a residential neighborhood. There are not a lot of people around, but I can sense that just being here is having a subtle effect on the area. Hopefully, our presence here will spark more thought about public art and the potential for other projects.
Local CBS affiliate, Channel 2 News, came down to do a live remote this morning... but we were late. So, imagine us scrambling around to set-up Dialogue with a news crew going live in 10 minutes... thankfully, we set-up just in (record) time. Going live in 45 seconds. Then the sprinklers where we set-up on the lawn come on! Move everything away from the sprinklers... ok, ready... "Good morning Mike, please tell us about your exhibit..."
Our host Daniel Krasnoff (with the Central West End-Midtown Development Association), brought us to St. Louis and what a welcoming it was... he put us up in a grand hotel just blocks away from the installation site, introduced us to the finest restaurants (including a delicious 5 star meal on our last night with an amazing group of local arts patrons) and helped make our two days in St. Louis relaxing and fun.
Con Christeson, a local public arts advocate, helped facilitate the entire process via Roseann Weiss (Director of Community Art Programs of the Regional Arts Commission) and Judi Taylor (another local arts advocate). Cathy Caps, who runs the Park East Tower sales office, allowed us to set-up on the sidewalk in front of their storefront and supplied us with bottled water and cookies all day. This was one of the first times local arts advocates & businesses sprang into action and helped bring us to a location.
While I was planning this national tour, local arts organizations were some of the first contacts I made in each city we were visiting. All, except Warren and St. Louis, told me they could offer no help (neither logistically nor financially) and basically said, "good luck with the project!"
It seems like most arts organizations (including public and community art programs) have incredible pro-arts mission statements, but don't really follow through. It was not from a lack of interest in the Dialogue project either... everyone was genuinely excited about the prospect of the project visiting. Maybe it's a lack of community power & support, no money or maybe just a lack of will. I don't know. If St. Louis and Warren can help bring an inspirational public art project to their community, then why cannot every city?
It was such a nice change having support from the local arts and business community... we greatly appreciate all their efforts and for making our time in St. Louis so welcoming.
As we drove into both the city and the setting sun, an incredible arch rose before my jaded eyes. As it loomed to staggering heights, I revived to this mighty, extended welcome. Ah, the fabled rainbow of Dorothy¹s song! Which came first? Did the lyrics inspire the reality or the concrete reality turn to music? In any case, the skies behind it really were blue. Somewhere over this rainbow, do dared dreams really come true?
With a giant arch and big city sights glowing warm corals, a "tear-along-dotted-line" default mentality woke up with ears pricked up and forward. St. Louis was giving us gorgeous entrée. As we wound above, around, then down and into the city, I felt sorry instead of elated that we were fast-approaching just a bed. Pulling up to the hotel, we offloaded and the bellman, Kevin, also went over the rainbow making us feel really welcome.
The Kevin angel showed us to our rooms. Wow. Another dream come true! St. Louis had put us up in the "luxury" section. And, didn¹t stop. After a late, outdoor and delightful quick bite, we hiked a half-block to tomorrow¹s installation site‹and again, felt gratitude. It was central and had a restaurant flanking it. Enthused, we headed for bed and an early wakeup.
Scrambling early to set up for the morning news crew, Mike and the news crew were going live when the lawn¹s sprinklers hosed us! Mike kept totally focused on-camera while the rest of us hopped around getting soaked trying to salvage and move everything beyond the inundation. Did the film capture our chaos behind Mike¹s aplomb? Usually such moments just crack me up, but for some reason, this time I feel like a ruffled wet hen. Must be age.
From then on all was good on a nice day. There isn¹t the press of people we¹ve had elsewhere, which gives me a chance to breathe, relax and St. Louis people watch. The next night, the arts council continued making dreams come true being our fascinating hosts at a sumptuous, five star dinner.
The day before the dinner also went well. The film crew came and they were good guys, affable and on top of their game. The great parts for me were the wonderful people who came up, and the agents in the real estate office our installation fronted, who graciously gave us cookies, water and open entree to their loo.