May 26: A Preview from 7 Years in the City

When I was still doing the calendar, I always had stories running through my head. Every place I drew seemed to tell a new one, either because of its history or its architecture or its impact on the community.

But, in writing about each of these places, I found it difficult to stay inside the lines, because no piece was strictly about history or community or art or architecture or popular culture or anything else. Every piece was personal. Every picture told a story. To me.

My account of Tower Grove Ruins is meant to be a springboard to other people’s stories, a dialogue to be built on, a way to open up the conversation. It appears in the 2023 section of 7 YEARS IN THE CITY, available at https://ayearinthecity.com/product/seven-years-in-the-city/  

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TOWER GROVE RUINS – SEPTEMBER 2023

Every image I created during the calendar years was accompanied by a brief paragraph. Had I not done a little research for these descriptions, I might never have known the story behind the Tower Grove Ruins.

The Ruins are the remains of the downtown Lindell Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1867, just four years after it opened. Henry Shaw saw value in the hotel’s remains and rescued them for the new Tower Grove Park, arranging them to form three structures on the lake.

I like to think that it was because Shaw was an aesthete that he sought to use these “ancient ruins” as recycled – or upcycled – art; that, however compromised, the remnants of the Lindell Hotel still had some intrinsic value for the people of St. Louis.

In college, my professors often advised us to use found objects in our art. I was not a mosaicist or a sculptor, so I had trouble seeing any value in scavanging for art’s sake. But now I see found art as a metaphor for all of us. Even when we are burned out, even when we fall down, even when we can’t quite put our finger on what it is we’re supposed to be doing here, we still have tremendous potential and value. We are, as found art, beautiful and purposeful in the eye of the beholder.

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