Publisher's Note: Voyages & Discoveries
A FEW DAYS AGO, I had lunch with a friend who has been working on how to tell the story of St. Louis. We talked about our world-class museums, treasured city parks and incredible architecture. The conversation then turned to our diverse neighborhoods, each with their own unique personality and vibrant arts scene with talented folks doing interesting work. We acknowledged our low cost of living and accessible resources, which are so important for entrepreneurs and makers alike. And we talked about that energy, that feeling of “almost there” that keeps us striving for what’s next.
But that’s only part of our story.
About a month ago, I saw an artist talk by Andréa Stanislav, a Freund Teaching fellow, about her current exhibit now showing at SLAM. In this body of work, Stanislav explores St. Louis’ natural and social histories starting at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Using a drone, she flies over historic sites to create an immersive experience with her work. The drone video moves through visuals of the Cahokia Mounds, a reminder of the decline of an empire, and the Old Des Peres Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches west of the Mississippi River, where dozens of slaves were buried (many whose graves were left unmarked), to a desolate playground in North St. Louis. Stanislav uses mirrored sculpture, a four-screen multichannel video, digital printing on mirrors and taxidermied animals to immerse us in an experience that gives us a different way of viewing our environment. When I spoke with the artist, I learned that while creating this body of work, she has fallen in love with St. Louis. She has developed a meaningful relationship with the region by spending time getting to know both our angels and our demons.
In memoir writing, you’re taught not to shy away from telling the parts of your story that you’re ashamed of. “We want to understand all of you,” one of my teachers said in a class, “your triumphs and your failures.” This made me wonder: What would it be like if we didn’t shy away from the moments in history that we are ashamed of and instead were willing to confront and learn from the complexities that stem from the rise and fall of empires? What if we thought of St. Louis as the city where anything can happen—art, creation, startups, progress, rebellion and change?
To me, St. Louis is human. She is beautiful and flawed. While I am deeply saddened by some of her failures, I am proud of her achievements. As I continue my lifelong discovery of this city, I prefer to know her for who she truly is so that my love for her can be as rich and deep as she.