Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Stream of Consciousness" Art Mural

"Stream of Consciousness" is an installation art piece composed of over 200 works of art painted primarily by children and residents in and around Old North St. Louis.

Stream of Consciousness is located in the median on North Market Street between 13th Street and 14th Street, less than 1/2 mile from the Mississippi River. The installation depicts the interwoven history of the Pallid Sturgeon, an endangered species, and the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in which it lives. The installation represents a timeline past to present, from left to right. At the top is a sketch of the installation (the dark ovals represent the painted Pallid Sturgeons). As the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers have been altered from free flowing, braided systems to single-channel systems, Pallid Sturgeon populations have plummetted to levels that put this ancient species in danger of becoming extinct. At the end of this post you will find more background information and detail.

Stream of Consciousness
provided an opportunity to educate children in our community about our important natural history; it served as a creative outlet for nearly 200 children and brought their creativity into the public sphere; it beautifies our neighborhood; and it is a source of pride for the child artists. Stream of Consciousness is currently 2/3 complete. See pictures below.
An implicit part of this project is a critique of the way we St. Louisans interact with our great rivers. Although the Mississippi River is only half a mile from our neighborhood, it is buried behind I-70 and heavy industry. Most children in our community have never been to the river.
This project is a collaboration between The Urban Studio, Ames Elementary School (with the artistic direction of teachers Anne Wirthlin and Alveta Nelson), and many near-north side community members. Thank you to the many volunteers that made this project possible.

More Background and Pictures
The Pallid Sturgeon is an old species that has existed since the time of the dinosaurs (approximately 70 million years) due to its strong ability to adapt to environmental change. For all of their known histories, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers flowed in many snaking, slow-flowing channels that looked like braided hair. However, in the last few hundred years, for the sake of barge traffic, farming, hydro-electric power generation, and other commerce, these rivers have been channelized into single channel rivers that flow fast; they have much fewer bends and curves than before; and they are interrupted frequently by dams. Scientists explain that this has destroyed most of the Pallid Sturgeon's habitat and thus has resulted in major declines in the Pallid Sturgeon population. With the Pallid Sturgeon's listing as an endangered species, some new river management measures have been adopted. One of these measures is the release of seasonal bursts of water from dams. The seasonal bursts are supposed to imitate natural seasonal flooding. It is hoped that the seasonal bursts will create some additional Pallid Sturgen habitat.

One scientist that we interviewed told us that the Pallid Sturgeon historically traveled huge distances up and down stream. Dams block this migration. He hypothesized that this inability to travel up and down the rivers may be the largest contributing factor to their decline.

The following pictures show Stream of Consciousness installed on the 1300 block of North Market Street!

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