Back before I got sick last summer I had begun to explore my city with a camera. There’s a lot I want to write about St. Louis, and I’m thinking I’ll illustrate many of these posts with my own photographs as I write them and put them up.
I’m also getting more serious about photography. I’ve started a photo stream at Flickr and am trying now to build it up as I explore Adobe Lightroom. I think I’ll try to post photos every week from now on, in addition to the ones I’ll use in posts about the city and other things and places. I had thought to get my photostream built up a good deal more before posting the first photos here, but I have a reason for beginning now that will be immediately apparent.
This morning I braved chilly weather for a walk down South Grand, about a half mile from my house. It’s a strip filled with restaurants, boutiques, service businesses, a bank, and it serves as the comercial center of three more or less contiguous neighborhoods around historic Tower Grove Park: Tower Grove East (my neighborhood), Tower Grove Heights, and Shaw (where Vonderrit Myers was shot). Though protests about the Ferguson decision were mostly peaceful along South Grand there was some looting and a good many businesses had windows broken out. My church, St. John’s Episcopal Church just half a block west of Grand on Arsenal, had windows broken along the alley.
I’m going to write more about that evening and my church’s role in it later. Right now I’m still thinking about my morning’s walk. Here’s a photo taken at the southeast corner of Grand and Arsenal looking down past the storefronts on the east side of Grand. The same gestalt could be seen repeated in each block of Grand for the next six blocks.
Something remarkable occurred in the hours after the plywood barriers went up. In late morning, early afternoon, people began to paint signs and murals on their storefronts. I don’t know how much of this was spontaneous and how much was orchestrated by neighborhood merchants, and I’m not sure I care. As the painting went on more and more artists joined in, painting whatever they were inspired to say in the spaces offered by the boarded-up storefronts. By late evening, when we walked to South Grand to have dinner, the street was alive with what in the sixties we might have called a happening, and what we now sometimes call a smart mob, made up of folks painting whatever vision they had on the walls left behind by calamity.
A good many of the South Grand Murals aspire to be prophetic, like this one on the front of Salon St. Louis where my beloved gets her hair cut.
Or this one, in the window of the Wyoming St. Post Office.
Others are more prosaic, like this one on a side wall of The St. Louis Bread Company.
When I drove down Grand at mid morning yesterday, I noticed a good many boarded up windows spray painted with the slogan, “Why? We need our jobs.” Here’s one mural that stuck to that message, on the Medicine Shop window at Grand and Juniata.
A brand new restaurant, Rooster, was particularly hard hit. Its large expanses of glass were too good a target, I suppose. Here’s what Rooster’s front looks like now.
The flag is the city flag with a peace sign substituted for the central fleur-de-lis. Because we met friends from church inside last night when we had dinner there, and because we then stopped by the church on our way home, my initial reaction to the invitation to table was to think of church, but I’m sure Rooster was only advertising.
Here’s a photo that shows more of the damage at Rooster. It’s a former bank building and has been jammed with crowds since its opening in October. The owner is local entrepreneur, Dave Bailey. You’ll find a number of good reviews if you Google.
As we were walking last evening after dinner we met lots of folks to talk with. There was a festive, almost holiday atmosphere along the street. One man we spoke with, not a young man, had a couple of cans of Krylon paint in his hands which he kept shaking as he spoke. We complimented the murals and asked which ones he had a hand in. He laughed enthusiastically, “I’ve not started yet, but I’m about to!”
I’ll post more mural photos at Flickr as I’m able. It will be interesting to see whether these murals grow as time goes by. Of course they aren’t permanent, but grafitti tends tends to grow while it lasts. Our server at Rooster commented about the murals that they made him proud and happy—he lives in the area. “Isn’t it interesting how sometimes the worst in people brings out the best,” he said.