Warehouse shapes up for sculpture show
Upon learning that the Washington University sculpture show would be held in a warehouse in downtown St. Louis this past Friday night, I couldn’t help but picture a graphic and edgy event. Add to that the title of the show, “-isms and -ities” and the racy flyer showing a topless woman and bottomless man (albeit the important parts were covered up), and I had no idea what to expect.
“We weren’t trying to be racy or anything. We left the title up to the senior class, and they figured that since it was the last show, anything goes,” said Zoe Hillenmeyer, the show’s coordinator and a senior sculpture major in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts.
The main idea behind the show was to showcase the variety of works created by the sculpture students. Among the 22 works created by junior and senior sculpture majors were a light-up volcano, melting popsicle sticks, video projects, a ballerina skirt and mounds of dirt.
Some of the works, such as the cardboard farm and the sunken playhouse, were actually commissioned by the University to be displayed publicly around campus. You may have seen the playhouse sinking in the playground on the Swamp and the farm exhibited in the grass median in front of the Brookings Archway.
The students have been working on these pieces since at least last semester, but many have logged years working on their artwork. After the show, each piece faces a different fate, be it disassembly, public display or private purchase.
One of the biggest challenges in putting on the show involved the building chosen to house it all. An old, 20,000-square-foot warehouse with scaffolding offered a tremendous space to showcase large works but also brought many obstacles.
“We didn’t want to pay for heating until the day of the show, so we were working on cleaning out the warehouse, setting up lighting and the artwork all in the cold weather during that snow storm and with no heat,” junior Kate Owens said. The space represented a huge change from the normal location for shows put on by the art department.
“Shows are usually in [art] galleries where work has to be minimal [in size]. This inspired everyone to make big pieces and many of them,” Owens added.
Hillenmeyer also weighed in on the difficulty in transforming the warehouse into the desired venue.
“It was a huge production—taking an entire space used to manufacture steel parts and turning it into a space to inspire people. We wanted a space for people to mingle and think and engage with the art,” she said.
The end result was an atmosphere that was relaxed and comfortable; work was spread well throughout the space with some pieces hanging at 40 feet from the ceiling.
“We wanted it to be about open-mindedness. [The warehouse] is a space where people don’t feel they need to behave or react in a certain way. I like art to break down barriers and allow people to ask questions and have open discussion,” Hillenmeyer said.
With a large draw of students, parents and some St. Louis locals, the large space proved beneficial in accommodating all of the viewers.
The next step for the artists is to work on proposals for a project in University City. This is a big part of the work of a sculpture major, and only a few proposals will be selected. Those artists will then be funded to create and display their art around University City.
In the meantime, look out for video footage of “-isms & -ities” to be posted this weekend on www.culturesurfer.com, a site featuring videos and information about local culture in St. Louis.