Pop-Up Program Showcases Regional Art in Available Storefront Spaces

Pop-up gallery at 1204 Washington Avenue. Photo by Emily Amberger.Pop-up gallery at 1204 Washington Avenue. Photo by Emily Amberger.ST. LOUIS—Workers, visitors and residents of downtown St. Louis are discovering the work of local artists in unexpected places as vacant storefront spaces are transformed into temporary art galleries. The transformation is being made possible through a new program produced by Art Saint Louis with assistance from The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis and sponsored by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a St. Louis based subsidiary of U.S. Bank. The program, Pop-Up STL, is modeled after the Chicago Loop Alliance’s popular Pop-Up Art Loop program, now in its fourth year, and is similarly aimed at celebrating the work of contemporary artists while strengthening businesses and catalyzing urban renewal.

Pop-Up STL provides artists with exposure to downtown audiences through window displays and walk-in galleries in otherwise empty storefronts. These pop-up galleries beautify the cityscape at no cost to the artists or property managers involved. Property owners are free to give notice for the removal of the gallery as commercial tenants are secured, and meanwhile are welcoming the program’s help in heightening visibility and foot traffic around their available properties.

“We’re happy to take part in the project,” said Anthony Thompson, Chairman and CEO of the Kwame Building Group, owners of a 7,000 square-foot retail space at 1204 Washington Avenue. “We traded dark, covered windows for a striking display that lights up the sidewalk. That’s a win for us and for the neighborhood.”

Downtown audiences are invited to engage with the art on display through information on show tags in each gallery and online, including a Twitter contest to award prize money to exhibiting artists. New collections of artists and exhibits will appear in each gallery throughout the program. Art walks, receptions and other events are also being planned, beginning with a tie-in to the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis’ annual Downtown Living Tour, on Saturday, April 20 (details online at www.downtownstl.org/Live/Explore/DowntownLivingEvents.aspx).

“We’ve been interested in seeing something like this take shape downtown for quite some time in order to increase foot traffic and market available properties,” says Bill Bayer, Director of Tax Credit Syndications and New Business Initiatives for U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, the program’s lead sponsor. “Street-level activity continues to grow downtown, especially on Washington Avenue, and we believe this program will add to the city’s appeal in a distinctive way.”

The first five galleries appeared on Washington Avenue last month, featuring works by a collection of St. Louis-based artists, including photographer Greg Barth and painters David Dolak, Mark Horton, Paul LaFlam, Megan Rieke and Brian D. Smith. More galleries are envisaged, including installation and performance art, generated by public requests for proposals from artists and property owners.

Art Saint Louis aims to eventually activate a large number of commercial spaces downtown and in the surrounding metropolitan area, entirely through the work of local artists. Executive Director Chandler Branch cites results from a recent survey of St. Louis’ creative community conducted by the Regional Arts Commission wherein 40% of respondents, over 1,200 people, identified themselves specifically as visual artists. “That’s more than three times the national average,” notes Branch. “It’s exciting to have such a concentration of talent in visual art and to consider what a resource like that could mean for St. Louis with a project like this.”

Information on the pop-up program is available online at PopUpSTL.com.

About Art Saint Louis
Art Saint Louis has promoted the work of contemporary visual artists in and around St. Louis for over 28 years. Core services include a year-round series of exhibitions in the organization’s gallery in downtown St. Louis as well as a number of rotating exhibitions in offices and public spaces elsewhere in St. Louis.

About The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis
The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis serves as the catalyst for creating and promoting a vibrant downtown—a nationally celebrated asset that attracts investment and economic activity at the hub of our region. The Partnership also manages the Downtown St. Louis Community Improvement District (The CID) that provides enhanced services to make downtown St. Louis a cleaner, safer and more vibrant place.

About U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation
With more than $10.9 billion in assets as of March 31, 2013, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, provides innovative financing solutions for community development projects across the country using state and federally sponsored tax credit programs. USBCDC's commitments provide capital investment to areas that need it the most and have contributed to the creation of new jobs, the rehabilitation of historic buildings, the construction of needed affordable and market-rate homes, the development of renewable energy facilities, and the generation of commercial economic activity in underserved communities. Visit USBCDC on the web at usbank.com/cdc.