Iconic 'Prime Beauty' sign from Ferguson to be displayed as art at Grand Center gallery | St. Louis Public Radio

Iconic 'Prime Beauty' sign from Ferguson to be displayed as art at Grand Center gallery

Jan 18, 2017

In 2014 Ferguson resident Bryce Robinson had the surreal experience of watching from a distance as his hometown became the center of national media coverage. When then-police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, the city erupted in protest.

Robinson, 29, was teaching at Notre Dame during the protests and civil unrest that occurred after the shooting. He was struck by the largely chaotic and disaster-focused narrative carried on livestreams and traditional news coverage.

He hopes to remind people of the thriving community that lived through troubled times with an exhibit at the Kranzberg Arts Center gallery.

Robinson found particularly troubling the proliferation of images documenting the destruction of Prime Beauty on the corner of West Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road.

We’re on our way toward rebuilding new developments which is exciting, but when you have something that lives in a quiet space for contemplation you know, that meaning can become more complex and rich over time. — Artist Bryce Robinson

“I really got upset, kind of distraught, realizing how [photographers and media outlets] really cropped out the community,” he said. “They’d really focused in on this unfortunate event — the rubble — and they’d really ignored the businesses that continued to thrive and the community that continues to thrive.” 

Robinson eventually acquired the sign and will be displaying it as part of his exhibit “Prime Beauty,”  which opens Friday at the Kranzberg.

The sign is part of a series of sculptures and images that the artist uses to critique stereotypes of the city. He wants to focus on the lived experience of people in the community.

Robinson said area residents were quickly left out of the national discussion about race, policing and class. That, he said, was wrong.

“I wanted to reclaim that for the people who live here — the people that care about this place and the people who continue to work and do business in the city of Ferguson,” he said.

If you go

What: 'Prime Beauty'

When: Jan. 20-Feb. 25

Where: Kranzberg Arts Center

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold