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St. Louis leaders plan public art piece to honor near north St. Louis history

A sculpture aimed at honoring the history of near north side neighborhoods will sit on North 14th and Biddle Streets. The city is working with the nonprofit Urban Strategies Inc and the arts organization Via Partnership to commission the sculpture.
Chad Davis
St. Louis Public Radio
Arts leaders say a planned public art project at North 14th and Biddle streets in north St. Louis will help honor the area's history. Artists are encouraged to submit proposals for the project, envisioned as the first of a variety of improvements for the area.

St. Louis leaders say a new public arts project in the Carr Square neighborhood could help attract visitors while celebrating the area's history.

The initiative is part of a partnership among nonprofit Urban Strategies Inc., arts organization Via Partnership, the St. Louis Community Development Administration and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The project at North 14th and Biddle streets will spur artists to create a public art piece residents want, said Bernie Powderly, a senior project manager for Urban Strategies’ Choice Neighborhoods initiative.

“There's a lot of things that people really don't know about that the community itself had gone through and still are going through some of those things that we can express through art,” Powderly said.

The Near North Side Choice Neighborhood Initiative includes the Carr Square, Old North, Columbus Square and St. Louis Place neighborhoods. The area once included the Pruitt-Igoe public housing project and was the site of the 1969 rent strike by residents against the St. Louis Housing Authority.

Over the past several years, area residents told Urban Strategies leaders that they wanted more safe spaces, a unified community identity and an art piece that represents the community.

Interested artists must submit an application and their portfolio by Feb. 19. The initiative’s art advisory group, composed of community members, will pick up to three finalists, who each will receive a stipend to prepare a proposal. The selected artist will receive a budget of up to $200,000 to complete the sculpture and install it by Aug. 31.

“We give them our goals, we let them know about the community, its history, its aspirations for the future, and then we ask them to create a piece based on that,” Via Partnership co-founder Meredith McKinley said.

McKinley said the art piece is part of a variety of planned enhancements for the area, including additional landscaping on that plot, mosaic murals at the Loretta Hall Park, new crosswalks and paths to connect the nearby parks and schools and metal banners describing the region’s history.

Arts leaders hope to attract local artists but are accepting applications from anyone around the country.

“This art project is another avenue for them to really express their love for their community and for others,” said Raven Pugh, associate project manager at Urban Strategies' Choice Neighborhood initiative. “We're just excited that everything is coming into full play, our residents are really excited, and it has really been a journey to be able to watch the community change and grow to the point where it is now.”

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.