There will be very little history in this blog post which is instead a celebration of the arts as supported and engendered by a St. Louis neighborhood which has its origin in a British immigrant with an eye for beauty and the soul of a botanist . . . . . . and the work of 135-something artists who exhibited this past weekend at the Shaw Art Fair along the park in Flora Place, directly east of The Missouri Botanical Garden. Henry Shaw, for whom the neighborhood is named, arrived in St. Louis in 1818, at the age of eighteen, seizing the opportunity to expand the family steel business back in Sheffield, England. For what he found when he stepped off the steamship Maid of Orleans and onto the St. Louis Levee was a flourishing inland river port brimming with prospective customers – residents as well as thousands of pioneers headed west. He set up shop on Main Street, offering essentials such as flour and sugar along with some of the finest steel cutlery in the world and made himself a fortune. Strolling the town at his leisure (St. Louis wouldn’t be incorporated as a city until December of 1822) Shaw became intrigued with the remarkable garden of Dr. Antoine Saugrain. Educated in Paris as a physician and chemist under Antoine Fourcroy (depicted on the left), Saugrain grew numerous medicinal herbs that he introduced to St. Louis, along with others native to the Mississippi River Valley. Henry Shaw would be inspired by Saugrain to create a botanical garden of his own and to endow medical research related to botany at Washington University in St. Louis. The Shaw Neighborhood website includes cartographer Camille Dry’s rendering of Henry Shaw’s (extensive) Garden in 1875 (http://www.shawstlouis.org/all-about-shaw/history/). If you click on the above link you will see that Shaw’s country estate was a part of and surrounded by prairie, specifically the Prairie des Noyers which had been platted in St. Louis’ French Colonial Period. Part of that estate (which Shaw purchased in 1840) is known today as Tower Grove Park and the rest as The Missouri Botanical Garden. An astute businessman, Shaw invested in elegant residential developments adjacent to his estate that spawned what is today much of the Shaw Neighborhood. The Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association (SNIA) launched its now famous art fair in 1993, making this their 21st annual event. On two perfect autumn days in the first weekend of October 2014, thousands strolled Flora Place to view a wide spectrum of art, many to take some of it home with them. In addition to the exhibit spaces an area was set aside for young people to create art. And student artists from neighborhood schools like The Grand Center Arts Academy, a charter school founded in 2010 in the former Carter Carburetor Complex, and St. Margaret of Scotland School were on hand to talk about their exhibited art work, and proudly point it out to family members and friends. Providing children with the opportunity to view their work in the context of professional artists – of jewelers, painters, printmakers, sculptors, and photographers who have devoted their lives to a daring and precarious profession can be inspiring. As is being able to watch an artist like Robert Powell work on a mahogany carving. Founder of The Portfolio Gallery and Education Center (http://www.portfoliogallerystl.org/) at 3514 Delmar Blvd. in the Grand Arts Center, Powell is a former industrial arts instructor who’s devoted the past twenty-five years to providing a showcase for African-American artists and “putting art in daily conversation.” There were artists from Michigan – Latvian artist, Marina Terauds, who produces her elegantly, whimsical prints using traditional methods faithfully preserved for more than four hundred years in her homeland (http://www.marinaterauds.com/) – and Wisconsin, sculptor Thomas Wargin (http://www.wargin.com/index_bio.php) whose fascinating marriage of man and machine took 1st Place in the Fine Arts Category – – alongside St. Louis artists like Jay Thompson of Kirkwood, whose hilarious and marvelously rendered Cat Works (http://thompson-catworks.com/) brought smiles and laughter from viewers.
What a wonderful, autumnal, neighborhood event this is!
References: shawstlouis.org website and wikipedia. org.
Illustration Credits: Ruin of Sheffield Manor and Antoine Fourcroy – in the public domain at wikimedia.org.
Photography Credits: Henry Shaw at 85 and Henry Shaw’s Tower Grove House – in the public domain at wikimedia.org; Family Sculpture in The Missouri Botanical Garden – Maureen Kavanaugh. All other photos used with the kind permission of Thomas Kavanaugh, Sr.