International Conference to Explore Role of Public Art This Weekend at the Chase

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

Public art has power. It can help to revitalize a neighborhood by uniting the citizens or, conversely, can tear people apart. St Louis has many sculptures that have international significance, such as the Arch—which unites the city and instills a pride of place—or “The Meeting of the Waters” by Carl Milles, a huge coup for St. Louis at the time that nevertheless generated some conflict.

True, there was some initial resistance over depicted nudity in the fountain, but there was far more dissent over the sculpture having a European aesthetic rather than an American one. Why not depict pioneers and Indians? So what exactly is public art’s role? A new initiative, Sculpture City Saint Louis 2014, will explore that question with Monument/Anti-Monument, an international conference that will take place at the Chase Park Plaza April 10-12.

Richard Serra's "Joe" Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts Photo Christopher Reilly

Richard Serra’s “Joe”
Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts
Photo Christopher Reilly

Led by Laumeier Sculpture Park executive director Marilu Knode and Via Partnership’s Meridith McKinley, Sculpture City will look at how sculpture is rooted in our local culture, and how it reflects our ideals and values. The conference brings together practitioners of a wide range of intersecting disciplines, from artists to art historians, curators to architects, and urban planners to archaeologists, as they look at the relationship of sculpture and the place it inhabits. While St. Louis’ monuments and public sculpture will be a major focus, the conference will expand the dialogue to a global perspective.

Consisting of a series of 90-minute panels, the conference will delve into localized topics such as the Gateway Arch’s role as an triple-threat icon—sculptural, historical and artistic—to more sinister global concepts, such as the panel on counter monuments created to commemorate negative events in history or “When Communities Reject Monuments.” The conference also boasts an impressive lineup of experts, including Glenn Harper, the editor of Sculpture Magazine, Peter MacKeith of Sam Fox School, and Erika Doss of Notre Dame, just to name a few.

Sculpture City’s Monument/Anti-Monument conference takes place at the Chase Park Plaza April 10-12. For more information, visit the Sculpture City website.

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