The only thing constant is change. That is as true in life as it is any ambitious endeavor. A case in point is Laumeier Sculpture Park, located in the Saint Louis suburb of Sunset Hills. It boasts an impressive showcase for monumental contemporary sculpture. Wayne Kennedy was able to convince the widow Matilda Laumeier to bequeath the homestead she enjoyed with her husband Henry to the county in 1968. Native son, Artist Ernest Trova, was instrumental in setting the place on a course to becoming a truly significant institution when he donated 40 of his works to the county in 1976. Banker, Adam Aronson financed a partnership with the University of Missouri - Saint Louis (UMSL) that would attract a highly qualified museum executive director to assure a legitimate academic perspective.
Leadership of this initiative has always been driven by citizens of our region with a big vision. Wayne, Matilda, Ernest and Adam and countless others behind the scenes do what they do with little notice or credit. Bold moves need to be governed by temperance, confidence and patience. A key role is of Executive Director, currently managed, on an interim basis, by Stephanie Riven. This role has been held by Marilu Knode (2009-2016), Glen Gentele (2001-2008) and Beej Nierengarten-Smith (1979-2001).
Time marches on and change happens. Artists have visited, exhibited, loaned, come and gone. The Dog Days of Summer featured centerpiece of the exhibition a commissioned dog trail by Finnish artist Tea Mäkipää, who has worked with a range of experts from St. Louis and elsewhere to create a multi-sensory experience for both canine and human visitors along Laumeier’s Nature Trail. Mäkipää’s six interactive “stations” highlight the ways in which our four-legged friends “read,” and experience, the outdoors. It has been decommissioned, presumably to make room for whatever is next. Put this in another context – Tea Mäkipää was just a toddler when Laumeier Sculpture Park came into being.
Laumeier is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and serves over 300,000 patrons annually through sculpture conservation, education, exhibitions and events. Change happens. Sometimes it is a result of determined vision. Sometimes it happens because of time and circumstances. Sometimes it happens in chaos. Other times it is part of an orderly transition. Perhaps the most rewarding brand of change is that which is the result of following a strategic plan that sets the stage for a positive progress.
Above: Pieces of decommissioned Dog Days of Summer exhibit. Below: Flowers blooming in the Summer of 2017and Manuel Neri’s Aurelia Roma commissioned with funds from Aurelia and George Schlapp.
Wes Morgan is a volunteer docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. He has served as ex-officio board member and estimates that he had lead more than 100 tours of the park.