A Letter from the Editor: ALIVE Issue 1

 In Culture, Feature

There is no archeological record of weaponry, armies or a warrior class at Cahokia, a pre-American city whose footprint sits directly across the Mississippi River from modern-day St. Louis. Instead, we’re learning how the Cahokia people built their society on the sharing of knowledge.

A thousand years before Europeans set foot in North America, indigenous people of the Mississippian era built an urban center at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers. The city’s most notable lasting features are large, earthen, pyramid-like mounds that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The vast art, spiritual and trading center included hand-tool and garment manufacturing, coppersmiths, a market quarter and dense residential neighborhoods. Their sphere of influence stretched from what is now Minnesota in the north, Pennsylvania in the east, Oklahoma in the west and south down the meandering Mississippi to the Gulf Coast.

Until Philadelphia’s population surpassed 40,000 in the 1780s, Cahokia stood as the largest metropolitan area to have grown up on the continent.

Navigating the waterways of the middle of America, the Cahokia people traveled far and wide, teaching their neighbors how to make objects and grow crops, then inviting them to visit—a pre-Columbian open-source architecture for a peaceful society.

In “Pull No Punches, Waste No Words” on page 20 of this issue, Eileen G’Sell dives into the work and world of St. Louis artists Kevin and Danielle McCoy. We are confronted by their pieces that challenge what we think we know about ourselves and our society. Does their American flag emblazoned with the slogan “Everything Is Alt Right” soothe complicity in solidarity with our righteous anger, or challenge us to investigate our acceptance of and comfort with longstanding historic systems of racial oppression?

Alice Stites travels the middle of America curating works of contemporary art at 21c Museum Hotels with galleries that are free for all and open 24 hours a day. Clay is a spiritual portal that connects us to life and earth through the simultaneously pensive and whimsical mind of artist Rebecca Blevins.

We learn from Greg Benson that a holistic approach to sustainability can be discovered through play. In fact, the two ideas may be inseparable. The work of poet Tiana Clark reveals tenderness.

There are lessons of joy, community and welcome in Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem’s creative approach to food and hospitality. And what do we learn about love, devotion and judgement when poet Hanif Abdurraqib’s words suggest we hold up a mirror to ourselves?

Images courtesy of Attilio D’Agostino.

This story originally appeared in ALIVE Volume 18, Issue 1, available now online. You can order a print copy here or pick one up at these locations.

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