Tourists and St. Louis locals alike can now enjoy a more interactive Gateway Arch grounds experience thanks to Riverbend, a temporary art project installed by local artist Margaret Keller. This installation, which stretched more than 100 feet, depicts the navigable portion of the Missouri River and was placed at the foot of the Arch in Luther Ely Smith Square to represent its role in westward expansion.
“I had to search for more than four months to find a material that would work to fulfill my vision and concept for my art,” says Keller.
She explains the project needed a medium that was reflective, durable, affordable and removable, and that she considered 300 material combinations before finding the final option: Alumigraphics Silver.
“I could have gone high-tech and created digital images and used a vinyl cutter, but I found the best way to fabricate Riverbend was by drawing with a pencil, tracing onto the aluminum and then cutting all 105 feet out by hand with scissors.” The final product is adhered to the ground so it can be walked on, touched and interacted with by all visitors.
Keller designed the installation using some 140 navigation charts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The piece not only celebrates the Missouri River’s historical importance, but its ongoing significance to agriculture and wildlife as well. Keller is also collecting and publishing people’s “river stories” through her website.
“With Riverbend, my goal from the beginning was for it to be playful as well as symbolic, and to allow people to walk, run, sit, dance, skateboard and scooter across it,” Keller says. “I also like how the art changes with the weather and the light and…is so incredibly bright and brilliant that it can be seen from the top of the Arch.”
Riverbend was selected for the Public Works Project by Critical Mass for the Visual Arts, and will be on display in Downtown St. Louis through December 21.