Sunday, February 9, 2014

250 Years Ago ... Celebrating the Founding of St. Louis at the Sheldon Art Galleries

On Friday night I attended the opening of a new exhibition at The Sheldon Art Galleries called Imagining the Founding of St. Louis.  This is part of the 250th birthday celebration which kicks off this month.

Of course there were no artists who traveled with Auguste Chouteau to the location of what would become St. Louis, hence the word Imagining in the title.  This exhibition consists of paintings, drawings, sculpture and artifacts depicting either the founding of St. Louis or the people (or groups of people) involved.

Some of the most interesting items in the exhibition are artifacts of the native Americans who lived in the area at the time:  Osage, Missouri and Illini tribes.  I was surprised by the items that came from the collection of the St. Louis Science Center.  I had no idea that the Science Center had these types of artifacts in their collection. Some of the artifacts were large. There was a shield belonging to Chief Black Dog of the Osage. 

One of the highlights of the exhibition (at least, for me) was an original page from Auguste Chouteau's handwritten memoir, lent by the St. Louis Mercantile Library.  This original document will only be exhibited during the first month of the exhibit because it is tremendously fragile.  But to see Auguste Chouteau's actual handwriting was thrilling.   A woman standing next to me seemed as awed as I was.   "It's in French?" she asked.   Yes. 

I also enjoyed seeing some of the rare books and maps that were displayed.  One of my favorite items was an early Christmas card from one of the Chouteau descendents that was sent in the 1800's that contained a depiction of the founding.

There are also a number of fairly large depictions that imagine the actual moment when Auguste Chouteau arrived to begin the building of the settlement.   The curator has helpfully included descriptions of where these depictions are and are not accurate.   They are very helpful in imagining The Moment as the exhibition calls it.  

The exhibition runs until August 23, 2014.   I recommend it.  But if you want to see the page from the Chouteau manuscript you need to get there this month.   There will be an Osage blessing of the exhibit on the actual anniversary date,  next Saturday, February 15, at 1:45 p.m.  And on that date, in honor of the actual birthday, the galleries will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

*Part of my continuing blog series leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis in February 2014.  

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