Travis Sheridan's 'Framed Perspectives' Project Seeks to Spur Civic Conversations

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

After Michael Brown was shot last year, STL thought-leader Travis Sheridan didn’t know what to do. People, as they often do in St. Louis, asked him for answers, for ideas on solutions to justice issues in the city. “I don’t know,” he said.

One day, Sheridan looked out his window, as he often does, to his backyard, where an ugly, blighted wall created a divider between his house and his neighbor’s. Color was what was needed, he thought, a lift out of the grayness of the wall, but also out of the grayness of the situation the city was plunged into.

"Framed Perspectives"

“Framed Perspectives”

“When everything happened last summer, in my mind was, ‘What does justice look like?'” he says. “Everyone said, ‘We want justice,’ and ‘What does justice mean?’ How I respond to things sometimes is through questions, not necessarily answers: The answer just identifies a person’s position, but the types of questions we ask identifies what a person’s perspective is.”

So instead of looking for the answers that weren’t yet ready to emerge, he decided to ask the community questions that would—possibly, maybe—lead to answers. Framing was critical, so he crowd-sourced, asking Facebook and Twitter, “If St. Louis is going to be better tomorrow than today, then what questions should we ask?” The 154 resulting questions, online here, would eventually become a backyard art installation, covering the blight of the wall, the blight of the divide separating neighbor from neighbor.

They took the form of 154 Plexiglas tiles to fill a 16’x8′ frame. Each one is a vivid colored sheet, attached to a support cable.

“It’s been a little over 100 hours in the fabrication and installation of it,” Sheridan says. “I’ve been really intimately involved in the frustrations of it.”

Each square, he says, colors the wall behind it in a different perspective. He’ll sit and look at it and think and ponder, not just the metaphor of it all but of the answers that it could lead to. The tiles wave in the wind and different colors pop out to catch the eye and resonate, he says, maybe spur thought.

The idea has sparked interest in other communities as well: He was in Columbus last month for a conference about innovation and how it plays into art, and a few people asked if they could replicate the project.

“What’s really resonated is the power of asking questions and being comfortable with the fact that we don’t have all the answers. Especially in Western society–in Eastern societies, the power is in the questions,” Sheridan says.

“There’s a comfort level of just asking questions and creating dialogue. The goal is for this Framed Perspectives project to be a way for dialogue to be created. People are spending a lot of time on the website and looking through a series of questions; if nothing else, people are thinking about the questions and topics.”

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