Artist Travis Sheridan Strives to Make Sense of a Senseless World with ’12of12x12′ Series
Since moving to St. Louis, Travis Sheridan has used his voice to help strengthen the region. As president of Venture Café Global Network, he connects local innovators of all backgrounds in order to foster entrepreneurship and remove barriers of entry to business. As a resident of Old North St. Louis, he’s striving to bring economic stability to underserved neighborhoods while conserving the city’s culture.
Now this community leader is using his art to address the political and social issues that are impacting both St. Louis and the nation. With his new series “12of12x12,” Sheridan is creating one politically driven piece each month that will explore how we might have gotten to where we are as a country today and where to go from here.
Sheridan’s professional life has long focused on the left brain and the logical, whether it was his time in banking or in economic development. To balance the more analytical areas of his life, he began to pursue art in his free time—first as an actor and standup comedian and then as a writer. But it was the unrest in Ferguson that steered him toward the visual arts.
“It really came to task after Michael Brown was killed, when I began to create pieces as a way to help me understand the chaos in the world,” he says. “That’s what I want to do with my art today. If I get confused—especially on the logical side of my brain, and the things around me just don’t make sense—then I try to process them in a new way by producing a piece of art around what I’m feeling.”
As a result of the shooting and the subsequent grand jury decision, Sheridan created “Framed Perspectives” to engage the community in the creation of art as a tool for understanding. His installation featured 154 tiles, each representing a question that was based on the prompt: “If St. Louis is going to be better tomorrow that it is today, what questions should we be asking?”
In January 2019, Sheridan took this creative coping mechanism to the next step by launching the “12of12x12” project. Each month, he examines equity, race, social justice and human connections as well as America’s position and reputation on the world stage, helping to ignite conversation and find hope in a country of turmoil.
The birch wood, Plexiglas and .44-caliber bullets of his first piece, “This is America,” allowed Sheridan to delve into the country’s fascination with guns and discern why the perceived patriotism behind the Second Amendment takes precedence over the thousands of lives that are lost each year to gun violence. While Sheridan admits his pieces skew to a more liberal audience, he has found that his conservative friends have responded favorably to his work, agreeing that a discussion on gun culture is needed.
In February, he explored the changing demographics of the country with “Manufactured Majority,” identifying the systems and strategies those currently in control—especially the white male population—have put into place to maintain existing power dynamics, whether through policy or punishment.
“For my audience, I don’t want them to be flippant about what’s happening around them—yes, we have a crisis at the border, and yes, there’s mass incarceration of the black population, specifically males. But what does that mean in the bigger scheme? How are they helping maintain positions of power that have been around for generations?”
Sheridan will create up to 12 editions of each work, and anyone who purchases a piece of art by May 10 will receive a VIP ticket to the Old North St. Louis House & Community Tour on May 11. The pass includes a private cocktail party at the home of Sheridan and his wife, Gina, the night before, giving art-lovers their first inside peek inside their one-of-a-kind house, built from nine steel shipping containers.
Featured image courtesy of Travis Sheridan.