On August 29, a group of 11 artists, activists, urbanists, and thinkers met at the Pulitzer to enjoy coffee, tea, and a light breakfast before a workshop on listening, presence, and making music with clay chimes. The group discussed the city, brick history, brick theft, the year since Michael Brown’s death, the nature of race + neighborhoods, and their own relationship to the larger story about St Louis + the nation. Here are some highlights from this conversation featuring layered stories by Michael Allen, Cheeraz Gorman & Kevin McCoy. Check out these excerpts below and click through to read the conversations in whole.
I. The Land & The Brick
The architecture of St. Louis is epitomized by the red brick. In some ways, the red brick also is a cultural icon. A brick reflects the city’s way of life, and some even call the city the “red brick mama.” The fact that the city has red brick, however, is not a matter of selection. The color of our brick is the color of our clay, and that color was unknown to the city founders back in 1764. Their fortuitous choice of a site would put St. Louis in a rare league of cities that have red clay. We stand with Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore and New York. We stand apart from Chicago, which has to rely on ruddy yellow brick from Indiana, or Detroit, which has little of its own clay. read more . . .
II. The Theft of The Brick
The other issue is we are still exporting our brick, as some of you know. We are demolishing buildings. Although our rate of demolitions has never been lower in my lifetime than it is now. The biggest rate of loss was between 1970 and 1990. Bricks are leaving St. Louis legally and illegally. We’ve delved into the issue of brick theft, brick burglary. read more . . .
III. The People & The Brick
Well I have an interesting relationship with brick in the city. My aunt was the first woman journeyman here in St Louis. She was the first woman bricklayer. So my relationship with brick has been . . . Her name is Elizabeth Robinson. She assisted with building a lot of the buildings downtown in the eighties like the Channel 5 building. She used to take me on site with her, and I didn’t realize the importance of that until I got older. Not only was she the only woman, but she was often the only black person on the site as well. And I am there with her, just being a kid. At the same time that pretty much told me that I could exist and be whatever I want to be, and I don’t need somebody’s permission. read more . . .