Many St. Louis commuters, particularly those using public transit, spend a lot of time waiting. Bus shelters and Metro stops turn into a second home for people like architect Sam Avery.
“A lot of people spend a lot of time out in the cold waiting for their bus and for Metro and anything you can do to help that experience I think is great,” said Avery.
His contribution to improving the experience sits over his shoulder at the bus shelter along Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur. The image of a painting he created, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” adorns the wall. It’s one of ten chosen in an annual contest to decorate transit stops around the Bi-State. It’s heady stuff for a guy who, in the art world, is essentially a rookie.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” Avery said. “I honestly didn’t expect to win anything. I’ve only been doing art for about a year. I was worried that it would look kind of strange this large, but it turned out all right.”
Avery’s piece joins what is now a more than a three-decade old collection of works by “Arts in Transit,” Metro’s effort to beautify bus and train stops.
Jessica Fox is another one of the 2018 winners, and she can also appreciate an effort to make these spaces a little nicer.
“I used to ride public transportation all the time. I’ve sat here before, so it’s awesome to have my piece here right next to me,” she said standing in a 14thStreet bus shelter downtown. “It’s great. It’s a conversation starter. You look at different works and talk and get to know your fellow St. Louisans. It brightens up the mood on a dreary day. You’ve got some color out there.”
Both artists found out about the contest through their parents, who caught news clips and urged them to enter. Both say it was an unexpected thrill to get word their work would soon be plastered all over the region.
“I was at work, and I saw the email and I was like, ‘No way! That’s awesome!’ It was great and it’s such a great opportunity,” Fox said.
Avery was also at work.
“I got the email and it was kind of like a big jolt to my stomach like, ‘Holy crap! I just won!’ So I looked around at my boss and I was like, ‘Hey look.’ And he said, ‘I told you you’d win something!’”
One of Fox’s works, “Organized Chaos”, might remind you of daily life.
“The inspiration — we’re surrounded by chaos, but there’s a lot of repetition to it, creating an order to it,” she says.
“Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” by Avery has everything to do with persistence. It’s inspired by the controversial coy fish.
“This fish will swim upstream against all odds. It’s even known to swim up waterfalls,” Avery said. “I wanted to paint something to encourage resiliency to always bounce back and try your hardest against all odds.”
An endless pattern of chaos and determined souls doing all they can to overcome the current. The two paintings sound a little bit like the morning commute.
“It could represent the transit system! All the energy swirling around and connecting to each other, and (poof), ya know?”
Avery sees that connection as fuel for the local arts scene.
“To keep things home grown,” he said, “To have local St. Louis artists decorate those areas and get people involved in the arts within St. Louis, I think it can help.”