Laumeier Sculpture Park has seen a lot of changes in the last two-and-a-half years. Back in the summer of 2014, the staff was working out of shared construction office trailers on our parking lot. Now, we’ve finished our renovation of the original Estate House – transforming it into the Kranzberg Education Lab and staff offices and built the brand-new Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center.
Our ten-year Sculpting the Future Capital Campaign for growth allowed for the renovation and fine arts center and we’re excited by what our new indoor gallery space, visitor center and gift shop means for our programing. Simultaneously, we completed a major brand refresh—including a new logo and website— and launched an expanded event rentals program to local acclaim (thanks to that new indoor space!).
Now, we’ve adopted a new mission statement during our 40th Anniversary year to better fit our unique institution as a museum within a park AND to carry us forward into the future: engaging the community through art and nature.
One of the very best parts of celebrating a major anniversary, is that it allows an organization to celebrate and reflect on the past, present AND future — all at the same time. But it turns out that many locals don’t actually know all that much about Laumeier’s history, and it’s kind of an amazing story!
Back in 1968, Mrs. Matilda Laumeier bequeathed the first 72 acres of the future Laumeier Sculpture Park to St. Louis County in memory of her husband, Henry Laumeier. She made her bequest thanks (in large part) to the efforts of Wayne C. Kennedy, former Director of St. Louis County Parks & Recreation. Then, banker and art collector Adam Aronson connected Kennedy with local artist Ernest Trova, and in 1976, Trova gifted 40 artworks, with an estimated market value of approximately one million dollars, to St. Louis County for the formation of a sculpture park and gallery.
Laumeier Sculpture Park opened as part of the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation system on July 7, 1976. One year later, Laumeier Sculpture Park was officially incorporated.
Forty years, 650 artist commissions and exhibitions, and 8,000 education programs later, Laumeier Sculpture Park has grown to 105 acres showcasing 60+ works of large-scale public art. The nonprofit arts organization is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and continues to operate in a uniquely successful private / public partnership with St. Louis County Parks. Free and open daily, Laumeier serves 300,000+ patrons each year through sculpture conservation, education programs, temporary exhibitions and public events.
Speaking of our 40th Anniversary, we have a host of upcoming special celebrations planned! This year also marks Laumeier’s 30th Annual Art Fair, presented by Emerson, from May 12 – 14. With an annual attendance of 12,000, the Art Fair is a beloved Mother’s Day weekend tradition. We are so excited for the St. Louis community to join us at the Park for beautiful spring weather, local food and beverage, hands-on activities for kids, live music and 150 juried artists from across the country.
And we are thrilled to announce the upcoming acquisition of a new artwork by Tony Tasset, whose Eye (2007) is already one of the most iconic and photographed sculptures in the Park. His 12-foot tall Deer (2015) will be installed in August 2017, followed by a formal dedication and community-wide celebration in late September to wrap up our 40th Anniversary. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!
You may not know this, but every year we install at least one new sculpture in the Park through an artist commission for an exhibition or through a purchase, donation or some combination thereof—like Tasset’s Deer.
In 2016 alone, Gigi Scaria’s stainless-steel totem pole Woodhenge was installed in the Ferring Family Foundation Museum Lawn as part of our spring/summer exhibition, Gigi Scaria: Time, and Alison Ouellette-Kirby and Noah Kirby’s Arena, consisting of five marine wood megaphones, was commissioned and installed on the Amphitheater stage for the 2016 Kranzberg Exhibition Series.
In addition, we acquired Alexandre da Cunha’s Mix (Americana) (2013) a painted “found” cement mixer, thanks to an outright donation by the artist and CRG Gallery, New York, following the artwork’s exhibition at MCA Chicago. If you haven’t visited the park recently, I highly recommend seeking out these large-scale pieces on your next trip.
Laumeier’s dedicated Collections Committee and Curatorial staff are constantly working to keep the Park “fresh” in a variety of ways—including the regular cleaning, maintenance and care of the artworks; the reinstallation of sculptures that have been off view and in storage; and the presentation of temporary, indoor exhibitions that complement the outdoor artworks.
Unfortunately, sculptures must sometimes be taken off view for major conservation work due to damage from vandalism, weather and other forces. Still others may come and go as loans to and from artists, galleries and institutions. These situations often present additional opportunities to refresh the landscape by moving existing sculptures to new locations within the Park.
Laumeier’s permanent collection and exhibition history boasts artworks from some of the most prominent local, national and international contemporary artists, including Vito Acconci, Niki de Saint Phalle, Mark di Suvero, Sam Durant, Andy Goldsworthy, Donald Judd, Alexander Liberman, David Nash, Beverly Pepper, Tony Tasset, Ernest Trova and Ursula Von Rydingsvard. The breadth and depth of our collection and history is beautifully demonstrated in our current anniversary exhibition, Drawing from the Collection: 40 Years at Laumeier, curated by Associate Curator Dana Turkovic. It’s on view now through Sunday, July 16 in the Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center.
I can’t wait to see what growth and excitement is in store for Laumeier’s next decade. If our 40-year history is any indication, the future is bright, bold and filled with art and nature!