In 2016, Americans for the Arts, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, discovered a relationship between people and art that had gone largely unrecognized in years past.
Upon interviewing thousands of citizens nationwide, nearly 90 percent reported that art improved their quality of life and added value to their community. Keep in mind: these respondents were not artists, art students, or even people who regularly engaged with art.
They may not have known why or how, but there was something about art that made life meaningful.
Around the same time, the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), Downtown STL, Inc. (DSI) and Explore St. Louis started a conversation about how public art could play a role in the ongoing transformation of Downtown St. Louis. A seed was planted, but they needed a unified vision to realize the idea.
While the iron was still hot, RAC, DSI and Explore St. Louis put together an all-star team of Downtown residents, workers, stakeholders, visitors, civic organizations and businesses to develop the region’s first public art master plan.
“There’s certainly no shortage of creative energy within the one-square-mile of Downtown St. Louis, but we needed a plan to channel that energy into our streets and parks for the public to enjoy,” said Meridith McKinley, lead consultant and partner for the Downtown STL Public Art Plan.
After nearly a year of preparation, the plan was announced at a dazzling event at T-REX on Washington Avenue, complete with digital projections, craft cocktails, live music and plenty of creative talent.
The new generation of public art will be integrated into Downtown St. Louis in four distinct ways:
A combination of temporary and permanent pedestrian-oriented installations will make for a rich, visually-stimulating walking experience in the streets of St. Louis. Building on the distinction of being the most walkable neighborhood in the region, the exploration projects will include streetscape infrastructure projects and artworks that enhance the North-South MetroLink extension.
Building upon Downtown St. Louis’ reputation as a hub for innovation, the Downtown Public Art Plan will incorporate an annual “Ideas Competition,” and interactive arts festival and rotating new media work projected onto buildings.
By reflecting St. Louisans’ shared experiences through public art, visitors and natives alike will feel the pulse of the Gateway City’s diverse and multifaceted culture. These projects will include temporary and permanent Riverfront art and visual storytelling initiatives.
When visitors travel to St. Louis, they deserve to be welcomed with visuals that give them a reason to stay and explore. With this in mind, the Downtown Public Art Project will enhance parking garages and blank walls as well as implement three-dimensional installations that highlight the talent and excellence of the region.
Together, the recommendations and opportunities will anchor the region, guide Downtown’s next steps in its transformation and harness the power of public art to make Downtown a place of possibility—where there is always something new to do, see, and be a part of.