Fancy free in the gateway city

I am typing this—quite literally—in the shadow of the Gateway Arch. I had all day Monday and most of the day today to explore St. Louis, which is exactly what I’ve been doing. I began yesterday morning about 660 feet from where I am now. The arch features a 40 passenger tram inside each leg, leading to an observation deck across the top. It was as I was about to step into the tiny cabin that I had the idea of getting a disposable camera. However, until someone works out a way to download my memories, the most spectacular views—from the top of the arch—will just have to stay inside my head.

I have spent the most recent academic term in an exploration of public art and an experiment in public interaction with works of art. (In other words—for anyone reading this who isn’t family or hasn’t heard—I spent the last semester pretending to be a statue.) Naturally, I’ve been more drawn to art in public places on this trip than any I’ve taken in the past. So, it was only a matter of time before I found myself in Citygarden. This is a three-acre space with several sculptures, lawns, and fountains. There are also a number of people dressed as security guards but who really act more like ambassadors for the city.

I was also intrigued by the Art St. Louis space, where up-and-coming St. Louis area artists have their works displayed in a downtown gallery. Much of the work is for sale, but by the entrance was a piece that wasn’t: a work whose medium was described as “Stenciled Dirt” on the identifying label. It was a beautiful, geometric shape formed from dirt on the ground in a place where, for the next show, they might conceivably put a doormat.

From there, I went to the City Museum, and nearly walked right past it. All I knew about it beforehand was that it was highly recommended. I almost walked past it because the building itself is a converted 11-story warehouse. In one corner of three stories of the building is the collection, which is essentially a giant jungle gym made of bits and pieces of historic but not particularly valuable artifacts. I imagine I’d have had fun there about fifteen years ago, but seeing it through adult eyes, the twisted passages and surreal surroundings were just a bit unnerving. Or maybe I’m just jealous of kids having fun.

And the kiddos were having fun, crawling through and sliding down constructions such as these.

I close by saying that as much as I am enjoying this trip, it is definitely time to go home. In Minnesota, I was trying to squeeze in a few more things to do, a little bit farther to walk, or a little bit more to see in the gaps in my schedule. Now, I sit under the arch and write to pass some of that time until the train leaves. It’s not that I feel there’s nothing left to see in St. Louis, but that I’m on information overload and have to go back to ‘Burque to process it all.

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