Monday, August 6, 2012

Browns Display Part of Urban Beautification Project

Last November Jacob Schmidt took out the trash. It was not for the first time; Schmidt, 18, has been taking out the trash of his Compton Heights home for years now. But this trip was different.

"I don't know what made me really notice it that day, but it just struck me how Dumpsters are everywhere, and they are incredibly ugly," Schmidt said. "I started looking at all of these ugly things —Dumpsters, billboards and I realized these are normal and accepted in city life.

Schmidt decided to do something about it. With permission from the city, he painted two Dumpsters in his alley. From there, he met with St. Louis streets officials. Schmidt wanted to paint 100 alley Dumpsters, but streets officials worried some folks wouldn't be able to tell the difference between their recycling and trash Dumpsters. And inevitably some residents would grouse that they prefer their army-green Dumpster to a brightly colored work of contemporary art.

Bill Rogers, Browns Fan Club President, contacted Schmidt and Megan Rieke to see if we could put some St. Louis baseball history on display as part of the project. Megan did the work personally. Pictured is her rendition of the St. Louis Browns recognizing their winning the American League pennant in 1944.

The Dumpsters are 20 feet long by 8 feet tall, with protruding ribs and bars — not exactly a flat canvas. Schmidt's team of professional and amateur artists have transformed the Dumpsters into panoramas of racing cyclists, bursting fireworks, the Milky Way and abstract street scenes.
"It becomes a traveling art show," Schmidt said. (Click on photos to enlarge)

The working conditions are miserable; they've been laboring daily on the scorching blacktop of a streets department parking lot all month. The pay is lousy; Schmidt chose to forego summer in New Hampshire to run the all-volunteer project. Schmidt raised about $4,000 to pay for 80 gallons of paint and 150 cans of spray paint through an online Kickstarter campaign.

Artist Megan Rieke of Kirkwood donated to the campaign, and then offered to help and get her friends involved. (Click on photos to enlarge)
"I like the idea of free beauty," said Rieke, who painted the cyclists as well as a mural of a VW bus. "As an artist, I know artists need to sell their work to survive, but I also like the idea that art can and should be anywhere, even on a trash Dumpster."

Flake hopes to bring Schmidt back next summer to paint the city's truck beds. He thinks colorful trucks would bring the same whimsy to city streets as the popular Cardinals, Rams and Blues street sweepers do.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
At the start below