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First Look At STL’s Expanded Pulitzer Reveals New Opportunities For Eyes, Ears

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation gave a tour of ongoing renovations Nov. 19.
Carly Ann Hilo | Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Although the Pulitzer Arts Foundation has been closed since August, a swarm of activity has been taking place inside the Grand Center institution.

Construction crews are renovating the Pulitzer’s basement area to create two new galleries. When they’re done in May 2015, the Foundation will have one-third more exhibition space, totaling 104,000 square feet. The work is being done in cooperation with a representative of the original architect, Tadao Ando.

On Wednesday night, a small crowd enjoyed a hard-hat tour of the progress. The parade of some dozen yellow-vested participants followed the renovation architect across concrete floors embellished with red spray-paint markings.

The group of mostly architects was interested in technical specifications, throwing around terms like “Cat-6a cable” and “data infrastructure.” But engineer Keith Cooper, who helped design the data systems, said you don’t have to be a technology geek to appreciate the end result.

Cooper has worked on several other museums but he’s never seen this kind of state-of-the art operation. For example, both galleries have multiple anchors for adding temporary walls. Those anchors are conduits for accessing the internet. The system allows artists to include video and audio in their work, in innovative ways.

“As an engineer I can’t even imagine what creative people, a lot more creative than me, are going to dream up down the road,” Cooper said. “They’re going to have a lot of flexibility. We’re hoping not to limit their imaginations.”

Sound and space

The makeover means more opportunities not only for visual art but also auditory experiences. When it reopens May 1, the Pulitzer will debut a program series called “Press Play.” For five months, visitors can listen and participate in sound.

Calder, Sphere Pierced by Cylinders
Credit The Pulitzer Arts Foundation
Calder, Sphere Pierced by Cylinders

The opening will also include an “erasure poem” by Cole Swensen.  Swensen will work with passages written about the Pulitzer building when it opened, erasing certain word to expose new ideas.

Wire works and the exploration of space are themes of the visual exhibitions. Theart of Alexander Calderwill fill the upper galleries. Calder’s wire sculptures and large mobiles will illustrate concepts of weightlessness.

The work of Richard Tuttle will be displayed in one gallery on the new lower level. In an exhibition curated by Pulitzer founder Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Tuttle’s 1972 wire pieces will illustrate his dedicated examination of spatial relationships.

Fred Sandback
Credit Provided by the artist
Fred Sandback

A highlight of the lower level will be a display of Fred Sandback’s work.These include sculptures made of Sandback’s trademark acrylic yarn as well as some of his earlier pieces created from metal rods and elastic cord, that speak to the idea of delineating space.

Sandback’s work draws attention to the floor, Tuttle’s, to the walls and Calder’s, to the ceiling, according to programs coordinator Philip Matthews. Paying attention to a variety of spaces is something that will also be reflected in “Press Play.”

“We want to do the same thing with sound,” Matthews said.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.