City Garden in downtown St. Louis: transformative art

June 30, 2009 | By | 9 Replies More

There is a brand new sculpture park in downtown Saint Louis.  It will officially open tomorrow.  My family and I walked through tonight and we were wowwed.

Image by Erich Vieth

Image by Erich Vieth

What used to be a bunch of office buildings (many of them less than inspiring) were transformed into a deeply beautiful and light-hearted extension of “City Garden,” a modern sculpture park occupying two city blocks.    I probably took about 150 photos tonight, but I’ll give you my favorite 16 [If you don’t see the photo gallery, click here ].

I’m shaking my head, thinking that the creators really nailed it.  In my mind, the function of art is to challenge but to also draw an audience.   This new park has succeeded in transforming dozens of sterile buildings into the all-too-willing background for a place that beckons people of all ages to come play, to walk, to talk, to ponder, to touch the sculptures and to stand back and admire.

[Epilogue 7/9/09: City Garden has turned out to be a powerful people magnet. Works of art draw in people, who draw in more people. It is truly one of the most remarkable transformations to hit downtown St. Louis. What used to be two big starkly empty lots is now a comfortable and beautiful place, open every hour of every day, for people to view the sculptures, to find themselves and to find each other. A big congratulations to the Gateway Foundation!]


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Category: Art, Community

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (9)

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  1. tmol says:

    The first photo, of the bust on its side, reminds me of Ozymandias, which says more about "the meaning of life" than anything else I've read:

    I met a traveller from an antique land

    Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

    And on the pedestal these words appear:

    `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

    The lone and level sands stretch far away".

  2. Mindy Carney says:

    It is absolutely phenomenal! St. Louis did something right – really right this time. I visited there at lunchtime today, and the place was full of people – yet still plenty of room to stroll and space for the girls to run and play. Erich's daughters showed my youngest all the best fountains in which to splash and act like children. A dear friend strolled over on his lunch break and I ran into a fellow parent from school who works downtown, a friend I hadn't seen in years – and everyone was positively beaming. Kids being kids downtown is sort of new thing for our city, and even better were the grown-ups acting like kids, hopping rocks in the fountains, taking silly pictures with the one of the two pink flamingos strategically placed to be played with, and bouncing on the nine squares imbedded in the concrete that chime as you cross them. A good time was had by all – I'm so proud of it!

  3. Hank says:

    Beautiful work, nice pics too. It must be said that the giant bunnies are my favourites but I love the fountains too. Unfortunately it's about 10 degrees celsius here and no weather for running about getting wet.

    Your post reminds me in no small way of Melbourne actually; there are many and varied sculptural & architectural gems scattered around our fair city. I believe you may have inspired a similar post Erich! I should work on getting my arse fired from here so I can spend a couple of days tooling around on the bmx and snapping.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Hank: There's a newish feature on WordPress that allows you to publish an entire gallery. When you come back with a bunch of pics, you might not have to choose only your best few! So, yes, show us the sculpture of Melbourne.

      BTW, I worked hard to get people in most of the photos, to give an idea of the proportions of the sculptures. The measuring-stick people dressed in blue are my daughters.

      Another BTW. My favorite time to take photos is twilight, when I took all of these. The light is then at its most magical. But it's also extremely easy to get a blurry photo, as you can see, and only some of them are intentionally blurry.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    TMOL: Your powerful excerpt from Ozymandias reminds me of Coldplay's Vida la Vida. And, yes, the head sculpture fits both:

    I used to rule the world

    Seas would rise when I gave the word

    Now in the morning I sleep alone

    Sweep the streets I used to own

    I used to roll the dice

    Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes

    Listen as the crowd would sing:

    "Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's a well-written description and analysis of City Garden by the Urbanophile:

    First a few facts about the park. The cost was approximately $30 million, paid for by the Gateway Foundation. The landscape architect is Nelson Byrd Woltz from Charlottesville, Virginia. It's 2.9 acres and spans about two city blocks. The park is unfenced and is designed to be entered or exited from almost any points.

  6. richard says:

    Does anyone know the cross streets of the park and if that restaurant opened up at the garden yet…I'm coming home for 2 weeks from Afghanistan and am taking the wife to st Louis for a week of dinner and parks and baseball and really want to stroll this park…appreciate a response

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Richard: You'll find City Garden between 8th and 10th Streets along the north side of Market Street. I just heard some people asking when the restaurant would be opening, so I am assuming that it is not yet open. You'll find many other restaurants open nearby, even if City Garden's restaurant isn't yet open. Welcome home from Afghanistan.

  7. Bob Morrison says:


    I totally agree with your review of City Garden. It's a gorgeous place for adults, kids and photographers. I've seen 3 other professional photographers there twice as well as a camera in every adults hands. I took some myself if you care to look on Facebook and search "danceshooter". Your sister Kathy is an old friend and recommended your blog. If you check my facebook, check out my dance photos as well.


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