Created by photography students from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, this year’s University City Public Art Series Project was installed in Heman Park along the pathways bordering the River Des Peres. The twelve images on view explore the history, visual profile, and community perceptions of the river. The project began in Spring 2020, but the installation of their final work was interrupted by the pandemic and delayed until spring 2022. Students selected the site and worked on their images over the course of the semester, receiving input and critique from University City citizens.
The photographs created for this project are lenticular prints, a format which presents two images at once. A viewer sees one image when looking directly at the print and another when they move sideways. The interplay between images–where one “transforms” into another–foregrounds the students’ interpretations of the River des Peres as a layered, contrasting space, and as a protagonist in the history of St. Louis and its development.
Chloe van der Vlugt
Meghan Kirkwood, assistant professor and photography area coordinator
History of the University City Public Art Series
The University City Public Art Series, a collaboration between Washington University Art students and the city of University City, is the longest-running project of its kind in the United States. Since 1986 the project has brought more than 200 pieces of temporary art to the community. Some of these pieces have even become permanent fixtures in the University City landscape, such as The Rain Man fountain which sits in the Delmar Loop.
The collaborative projects benefit both the student participants and the citizens of University City. In preparing their creations the students investigate the history, people, and government of University City, gaining a greater understanding of this place they temporarily call home. These studies inform their artworks and give the completed art a greater gravitas, and speak in a more genuine fashion to the permanent residents. Along the way to completion the students have the opportunity to learn about review and approval processes for public artworks and gain experience designing creative site-specific pieces for a dynamic community.