Works in Progress

Writing on the Wall

Creating a home for St. Louis's underrepresented arts scene

By Rebecca McCarthy | June 10, 2020
Shannon Levin
Shannon Levin

The Luminary, an arts nonprofit in St. Louis, has awarded local residents Shannon Levin, a graphic designer, and artist Marina Peng a $5,000 grant from its Futures Fund. The two friends have created a public arts platform, called PSA, for underrepresented poets and artists, and it’s generating a lot of positive responses from the community.

In the South City neighborhood, Levin and Peng have built a wire infrastructure on the western side of a brick building, owned by one of their friends. They can clip specially ordered 12-inch-tall letters onto the wire frame to display text. The first installation, from local creator Jacqui Germain, said, “It is dangerous to love against empire. Be brave. Love anyway. We are worth both joy and freedom.”

“The goal is to make this a platform for writers who aren’t heard on a wider scale,” said Levin. “We wanted participants to confront and challenge the idea of the ‘public good.’” She and Peng will install different works every two to three months throughout 2020.

Germain, a poet and journalist, said that seeing her writing “in a medium it has never existed in before will never get old. I honestly believe we can’t build a better world without becoming better people, and I wanted to try writing about what becoming better people might look like.”

The second installation’s text—“No matter what the world sees, all I see is you”—was created by Danielle McCoy. She and her husband, Kevin McCoy, make up WORK/PLAY, an interdisciplinary design/art duo, and he selected both the type and the high-visibility yellow color.

“The texts are generating a really positive reaction,” said Levin. “People drive by and give us a thumbs up, and people in the neighborhood say it’s affirming. The reaction is coming from the residents and the St. Louis arts community.”

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