Hello! Our names are
Hap Phillips and Nita Turnage. We recently received information that
you are planning to shoot a documentary film about the Mississippi river
in the spring. You may be interested in a project that we organized
on the Mississippi river this past summer, and are planning to expand
upon next summer.
Artica 2002 was an
unauthorized art festival that took place in an abandoned and neglected
industrial section of St. Louis just north of the Gateway Arch and along
the banks of the Mississippi. This area was the site of the St. Louis
Mound Group, which at one time held the third largest pyramidal structure
in the world until it was torn down for "progress". It was
also the site of slave trade and the underground railroad.
We received permission
to use a small piece of property and subverted the rest of our site,
which had about a 5 x 5 block radius. We had about 20 "official"
participating artists, and many more people who hadn't before considered
themselves artists, come to Artica to create work.
Most of the art, mainly
performance and installation, was fleeting and is now only a memory.
Everyone at Artica was encouraged to celebrate the Mississippi in a
creative manner, whether it was building something new out of the rubble
of demolished buildings, creating boats of dreams to be launched down
the river, playing instruments and dancing during a procession to the
river, etc. A Tibetan Lama chanted at sunset, people lit fires and smoked
pottery. There was music, dancing and exploration.
The most amazing aspect
of the event was its quality of timelessness. On Saturday August 11th,
there was a blazing sun and 100 degree heat. The only water came from
a running fire hydrant. At 1:00 when the first note of music kicked
off the event, it seemed that a magic circle had been drawn around Artica
and everything beyond it was moving at a different speed. People moved
around as if they were swimming through the atmosphere. No one complained
about the adverse weather. Several people made the comment to me that
"time is different here"
On Sunday, we awoke
to pouring rain. Little by little the core group of artists began assembling
under the eaves of an abandoned train depot. Josh, our resident poet,
had spent the night on the banks of the river in a "tea room"
that he had built as a part of his performance piece. He awoke to it
falling down around him. But we found him waiting for us with his dog
companion Cassidy. About ten of us just stood on the loading dock watching
the rain fall. We were all very silent, sort of in shock about how the
events had gone the day before. We didn't need to say anything, the
magic was understood.
Suddenly we heard
a screech and watched as a hawk flew past us chasing a pigeon. We all
decided to damn the rain and walk around Artica. We were like children
playing in puddles. New wild flowers were springing out of cracked cement.
Everything had turned green around us.
By Monday morning
Artica was a spectre, a creative Brigadoon.
We plan to bring it
back next year and involve more of the community in participation, possibly
doing workshops with artists and the community that will culminate in
a sort of shamanistic parade along the banks of the river and end in
Artica as a festival similar to the one we had in August. (Though admittedly
we need to quit dragging our butts and start organizing!)
Our web site is www.artica.org.
Since our web master volunteered all of his time, the site is a little
behind on its upkeep but you'll get a good idea about Artica and the
basis for the event. We do have a lot of raw video footage and still
documentation of the event, not yet posted on the site. Our intention
is to make a video of our own for archival and grant purposes. Artica
2002 was completely self-funded or relied on volunteers, quite a shoe
We've had quite a
bit of positive feedback since the event took place. A few city and
art "officials" have appeared from the woodwork to tell us
they support what we're doing whole heartedly. I'm not sure we would
have gotten the same response had we tried to cut through the red tape
in order to make this happen. But we didn't seek out any red tape and
Artica was a success!
If you're interested
in talking more please contact us:
4601 S. Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63111
The best of luck on
your documentary! In our city, it seems the river is just something
that divides Missouri from Illinois. People have forgotten what a special
and powerful entity she is. I'm glad there is someone else out there
trying to bring her back to life.