Sculpture designed to give hope, courage and more to north city bus riders and passers-by | St. Louis Public Radio

Sculpture designed to give hope, courage and more to north city bus riders and passers-by

Jan 15, 2016

If you see people craning their necks to look up at Riverview Transit Center in north city, here’s a reason why: They’re likely contemplating a new 24-foot-tall sculpture called “Adinkra Tower.”

Officials from Metro’s Arts in Transit program formally dedicated the work today. It features Adinkra symbols of the Ashanti people of Ghana in West Africa, representing principles including creation, hope and wisdom.

St. Louis artist Thomas Sleet created the aluminum panels attached to an existing tower.  He said the sculpture is meaningful as well as eye-catching.

“It’s quite attractive visually because each symbol is different,” Sleet said. “And it’s quite powerful symbolically because each of those different attributes adds up to something that’s bigger than the individual parts.”

Martin Luther King Jr. connection

This symbol on one side of "Adinkra Tower" means "bravery."
Credit Arts in Transit

The dedication took place on what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 87th birthday. The symbols reference many of King’s principles and qualities, according to Sleet.

Not only are the ideas familiar, but Sleet also said many people already know the ancient markings.

“They’re used in collaboration with the Kwanzaa celebration,” he explained.

Sculptor Thomas Sleet spent 18 months working on "Adinkra Tower."
Credit Thomas Sleet

Sleet’s goal is to see his work inspire people to be their best selves.

“[I hope that] over the course of time, people’s repeated exposure to the sculpture and these messages will start to sink in, and they will start to embrace, if not exhibit, the qualities that the sculpture is projecting,” Sleet said.

On the other hand, he said he’ll be happy if the sculpture affects even a single life.

“If it inspires one child, just one, then it’s a worthwhile project,” Sleet said.

Money from the Federal Transportation Administration paid for the sculpture. It joins more than three dozen other pieces of public art commissioned by Arts in Transit.

David Allen of Arts in Transit said the power of "Andikra Tower" is in its simplicity.
Credit Arts in Transit

David Allen is director of that program. Rarely has he been so impressed with the outcome of a project, he said.

“This very well may be one of my favorite art projects I’ve ever commissioned,”  Allen said. “And I’ve been doing this now for three public agencies over a period of 30 years.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL