If you are in St. Louis, Missouri and want to experience the relationship between art and nature, aim for a nice walk or want to practice yoga in an artsy, picturesque place, then only 20 minutes by car from the city center and you are in 105-acre (42 hectare) open-air Laumeier Park with more than 60 sculptures and a beautiful walking trail. First, let’s get the pronunciation right: the correct is “Lau” (rhymes with “now”) – “meier” (rhymes with “higher”). Laumeier is the family name of Henry and Matilda Laumeier, who founded the Park. Henry Laumeier's ancestors emigrated from Germany in the mid-19th century, therefore, the traditional German pronunciation is meant to be used.
In Laumeier Sculpture Park you can experience art romantically together with your partner (just don’t wear heels!), or with your kids, or even with your dogs. You can download convenient and user-friendly maps from the Park’s website and enjoy beautiful walks, a chance to have a picnic and admire a variety of sculptures by artists including Terry Allen, Manuel Neri, Andy Goldsworthy, Judith Shea, and Joyce J. Scott. We must happily note that half of featured artists are women.
One of the park’s objectives is to explore and expand our understanding of art in the context of nature. Many of the Laumeier sculptures were inspired by nature, were made using natural materials or were considered in their relation to the environment. All sculptures are accompanied by vast descriptions, so it doesn’t matter if you came here for a stroll and know nothing about contemporary sculpture, or if you are an art fan you will learn all you need about each work onsite. If you wish to enhance your experience, then take part in interactive Laumeier tours that provide specific perspective on the Permanent Collection.
We wanted to know more about the park and its activities and asked Lauren Kistner, Laumeier Marketing & Communications Manager a few questions:
How did Laumeier Sculpture Park begin?
In 1968, Mrs. Matilda Laumeier bequeathed the first 72 acres of the future Laumeier Sculpture Park to St. Louis County in memory of her husband, Henry Laumeier. Later, area banker and modern art collector Adam Aronson connected local artist Ernest Trova to St. Louis County. According to Laumeier’s own “First Decade: 1976–86” book, the idea for Trova’s donation began as a loan to Laumeier to relieve his own grounds of the volume of his completed works. In the end, Trova gifted 40 artworks – with an estimated total market value of approximately one million dollars – to St. Louis County in 1976 for the formation of a sculpture park and gallery. Laumeier Sculpture Park opened as part of the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recreation system on July 7, 1976, and was officially incorporated one year later. Today, Laumeier is an internationally recognized, nonprofit arts organization that is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and operates in partnership with St. Louis County Parks.
How often do new art objects get added in the Sculpture Park?
We usually install new sculptures once or twice per year, but it totally depends! The artworks on view in the Park are a combination of sculptures in Laumeier’s Permanent Collection and sculptures on long-term or short-term loan. Works on loan most often arrive here through a commission for a temporary exhibition. Very occasionally, Laumeier might acquire a new artwork through a purchase or donation. In addition, we sometimes temporarily remove sculptures from view for conservation work, to protect them from construction work happening in the Park, etc. This also gives us the opportunity to move other artworks to new locations within the Park to keep things fresh!
Annually Laumeier holds an Art Fair, what’s the main concept behind it? What can visitors expect to see May 12-14 at the Art Fair?
The main concept for the Annual Art Fair is actually that it’s the nonprofit organization’s single largest annual fundraiser. Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary, the Art Fair is a Mother’s Day weekend tradition in St. Louis! The Fair features local food and beverage vendors, hands-on activities for kids, live music and 150 juried artists from across the country exhibiting work in ten media categories: ceramics, fiber/textiles, glass, jewellery, mixed media, painting, photography/digital, printmaking/drawing, sculpture and wood. More than 350 total artists applied for this year’s event; total event participation is limited to 150 artists. All artists ages 18 and up who exhibit work of original concept, design and execution are eligible to apply. While all ten media categories are always well-represented, sculpture and jewellery are probably the most popular with our visitors!
Laumeier is famous for its’ hands-on and educational activities can you say a few words about your education programs for adults?
Laumeier’s education programs are offered as either multi-day classes or one-day workshops for youth, teens, adults and families. Art Classes and Workshops provide participants with a focused experience within a particular medium, process or concept. Participants work at their own level and pace with guided instruction for skill improvement. Laumeier’s education programs span many media, including clay, drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and textiles, and materials are always provided!
A multi-day, adult Art Class could be a five-week Wheel Throwing class, while a one-day adult Workshop might consist of a six-hour Mixed Media + Painting workshop on one Saturday. Other education programs for adults include a three-hour Mud + Merlot workshop for ages 21 and up with wine and snacks. Finally, Laumeier offers free, seasonal Conversation Series events (Coffee + Cocktails + Conversation) geared toward adults that don’t even require an RSVP. These are typically low-pressure, 1.5-hour-long lectures or discussions with a focus on gardening or a current exhibition — with refreshments provided! These short, free Conversation Series events are a great way for an adult to “try out” an education experience at Laumeier.
Kids must love the park and its vast territory, on your website you have great tips for family visits. And you also hold Art Camps for the little ones, how do they unfold?
Kids at Laumeier’s Summer Art Camps learn about art and art history; explore the Park grounds and woodland trails; and find inspiration in Laumeier’s artworks for drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpting and more!
Laumeier offers one-week, themed Art Camps in half-day sessions for ages 4 to 6 and full-day sessions for ages 6 to 15. Youngers campers create age-appropriate, themed art projects; explore Laumeier’s trails and sculptures; and enjoy snack time, games, storytelling, etc. Older campers (divided into groups by age category) learn about artists and art history through hands-on, interactive activities; practice a variety of contemporary art media and processes in daily studio sessions; explore Laumeier’s outdoor galleries; enjoy lunch at a different sculpture each day; and spend one afternoon each week at the nearby community pool.
Laumeier's programs reflect the unique qualities of the Park being at the intersection of art and the natural environment. And Park’s activities reflect the heart and soul of Laumeier’s staff that came up with tours for special-needs visitors. From 2009 Laumeier partners with “Lighthouse for the Blind” to develop a series of bronze cast scale models for artworks in the permanent collection, including a topographic orientation map of the Park, to help visitors with sight impairments navigate and enjoy the artworks. The Park also holds Early Memory Loss tours, where participants, along with a care partner, enjoy a one-hour interactive, themed tour. Tours are led by Laumeier Docents who have been trained by the Alzheimer's Association of St. Louis and can be tailored to fit all participants' needs and abilities.
Laumeier’s one-of-a-kind activities don’t stop there, we were very touched to learn that now you can adopt your favorite sculptures! Program proceeds support the ongoing cleaning, maintenance and care of the artworks. We once again asked Lauren Kistner:
How long has the program existed?
The Sculpture Adoption Program launched in November 2016, less than six months ago! It was largely a staff-driven initiative that has already raised $850. The nonprofit organization’s advertising resources are incredibly limited, but the program continues to gain momentum thanks to local interest and media coverage, and word of mouth!
First that comes to mind is “adopt, don’t buy”, but with regards to Laumeier it is very different from the famous shelter animals advertisement. In this case the sculptures already have a loving home and it is just a great way to support the Park that you can enter for free daily from 8:30 AM to 30 minutes past sunset. Laumeier offers a unique way to see Sculpture and Nature, but also it introduces new activities and new ways to give back.