Ken Light, American, born 1951; “Race Wall, St. Louis, Missouri”, 1971, printed 1999; gelatin silver print; image: 12 1/2 x 18 3/4 inches, sheet: 16 x 20 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of August A. Busch Jr., by exchange 39:2021; © Ken Light

Featured Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum / Race Wall

Saint Louis Art Museum’s Art Along the Rivers: Art as Advocate Exhibit

Currently, at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM), museum visitors are welcomed to explore and engage with their featured exhibition, Art Along the Rivers: A Bicentennial Celebration. This exhibition runs through January 9, 2022, and showcases the creative heritage of the greater St. Louis area. The exhibition highlights a particularly inspiring section called “Art as Advocate,” which displays how visual art served as a form of recognition and representation of oppression, history, and violence throughout the history of the St. Louis region. Read on to learn more about the Art as Advocate section and the Art Along the Rivers exhibition before planning your visit.

A Wisconsin Eagle Tour!

Lewis W. Hine, American, 1874–1940; “Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00am”, 1910; gelatin silver print; 4 15/16 x 7 inches; The Art Institute of Chicago, Restricted gift of Charles & Ruth Levy Foundation 2021.169; The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum / Newsies at Skeeter Beach

Art as Advocate Exhibit

Social justice movements and social change advocates have long used art as a tool for identifying oppression, history, and violence and advocating for marginalized communities. The Art as Advocate section of the Art Along the Rivers exhibition is a collection of pieces depicting how art has been used in this way throughout history in St. Louis. Accompanying these pieces is a free exhibition audio guide offering 14 commentaries by a range of diverse speakers. The commentaries offer different perspectives on the art pieces from personal to scholarly and will help visitors understand the meanings held in these works of art. You can listen to the audio guide during your visit to the exhibit, or enjoy the enhanced virtual audio guide from home.

A Wisconsin Eagle Tour!

Emmet Gowin, American, born 1941; “The Abandoned and Condemned Village of Times Beach, Missouri”, 1989; gelatin silver print; image: 9 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches, sheet: 11 x 14 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Emmet and Edith Gowin in honor of Eric Lutz 26:2021; © Emmet Gowin

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum / Times Beach, Missouri

Times Beach, Missouri

One of the highlighted pieces from the Art as Advocate section is “The Abandoned and Condemned Village of Times Beach, Missouri” by American photographer Emmet Gowin. The photograph shows the community of Times Beach, abandoned after its residents were forced to evacuate in the mid-1980s. The community was forced apart because of negligence that resulted in the streets of Times Beach being contaminated by toxic chemicals including dioxin and PCBS. Museum visitors can take in the full meaning of the piece and learn more about what the community faced by listening to the audio guide. The commentary is a personal account from Marilyn Leistner, the last mayor of Times Beach.

A Wisconsin Eagle Tour!

Joe Jones, American, 1909–1963; “We Demand”, 1934; oil on Masonite; 48 x 36 inches; Loan courtesy of The Butler Institute of American Art, Gift of Sidney Freedman 2021.3; © Heirs of Joe Jones

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum / We Demand

Other Featured Pieces

Other notable pieces of the Art as Advocate section that are included in the museum audio guide are “Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00am” by Lewis W. Hine, and “Race Wall, St. Louis, Missouri” by Ken Light. However, there are plenty more pieces in the section that can only be seen in person, such as “We Demand” by Joe Jones. These pieces display other times of injustice, discrimination, oppression, and violence in St. Louis’ history. But they also show and help exhibit visitors understand how artists and photographers used art as a political tool for advocacy and social justice during times in history. The museum audio guide further creates a narrative for engaging with and recognizing past injustices and current social justice movements through commentary by current St. Louis community members.

A Wisconsin Eagle Tour!
Frederick Oakes Sylvester, American, 1869–1915; “The Mississippi at Elsah”, 1903; oil on canvas; 30 1/8 x 45 1/16 inches; Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Schriever 2021.103; Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri—Columbia

Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum / Mississippi at Elsah

Exhibition Details

The Art Along the Rivers exhibition, including the Art as Advocate leg, will be on view in the main exhibition galleries at the Saint Louis Art Museum through January 9, 2022. Visitors can expect to see objects from throughout history in the confluence region and to learn all about the area’s creative heritage and creators. Along with the free audio guide, there is a helpful 224-page, fully illustrated catalog that can be purchased in the SLAM shops to use at the exhibition. You can learn more about ticket prices and purchasing options on the Saint Louis Art Museum website, For discounted tickets, visit the exhibition from December 14th through December 16th for 50% off adult tickets. Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum website, call the museum at (314) 721-0072, or find them on social media for more information.

Saint Louis Art Museum

1 Fine Arts Drive
St. Louis, Missouri 63110