We began following the ReBuild Foundation in Omaha, NE and decided that we would visit every location that artist Theaster Gates has facilitated this movement in the Midwest. In St. Louis, there are neighborhoods that were once fruitful and populated parts of the city. Over time, due to social issues and the mass exodus of a large percentage of the previous community, the areas have been left to crumble. Now mainly inhabited by human rights & religious groups, young progressives, working families, and homeless individuals, the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation towards revival. The termite infested and crumbling late 1800’s buildings are slowly being inhabited. Some of the inhabitants are donating time and money into gutting the buildings and getting them “up to code” for living, some are just living here off the grid.
We were pleased to receive a guided tour, thanks to project manager Charlie Vinz, of one of the REBuild’s Mallinckrodt St locations. This Hyde Park building is being transformed into an “art house” for the community and is home to the Most Holy Trinity church’s youth arts program, Urban Expressions. Besides hosting a communal creative space, the building itself is an architectural gem, emphasizing the three periods of history in which it was built. It is full of subtle character and rich with spacial consideration.
These neighborhoods have been ignored for far too long and it was inspiring to see a diverse group of people take responsibility for developing a sense of community again.