'Wailing Wall' concept chosen to address 'Delmar Divide' through storytelling | St. Louis Public Radio

'Wailing Wall' concept chosen to address 'Delmar Divide' through storytelling

Aug 23, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: University City residents, shoppers and diners may soon see a small wall go up in The Loop. But it’s not designed to be a barrier -- it’s meant to be a bridge.

The concept of the 9-by-15-foot brick structure called “Wailing Wall” was selected in a contest called "St. Louis Soup Across the Delmar Divide,” sponsored by the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Missouri History Museum and the Anti-Defamation League. Last Sunday, 70 people came to the History Museum to hear seven finalists present their ideas about bridging the “Delmar Divide.” The term was coined in a BBC news documentary last year to describe vast economic differences in a small area north and south of Delmar Boulevard.

Damon Davis
Credit JoVonda Winters

Each attendee ranked their top-three presentations, with the winner -- South St. Louis musician and artist Damon Davis -- emerging from those lists. Davis’ project results from his desire to create opportunities for storytelling. His plan is for people to write their stories about “Delmar Divide” disparities and place them in small mailboxes around the wall.

“It can be anonymous or you can write your name on it,” Davis said. “Every week, I’ll come by and get them and put them up on a blog that goes along with the project.”

Participants should also feel free to write on the wall and to place stuffed animals and other relevant items at the wall site.

Last Sunday's soup-and-bread gathering, with a suggested $10-a-person donation, generated $425 for the project. Davis believes that will be enough to build the wall. He hopes to complete it before the weather turns cold, but no date can be set until he finds out what permits or other permissions may be required. Davis didn't check beforehand because he hadn't expected his idea to come to fruition.

"I didn't think they'd go for it so I didn't even think about the city and whatnot," Davis said.

Davis is meeting next week with the all three"St. Louis Soup Across the Delmar Divide" organizations to help him get approval for the project.

Davis chose The Loop because he wants a site with high traffic and visibility. Three to six months after the wall goes up, it would be destroyed, symbolizing a tearing down of the divide.

“We’ll bring out sledgehammers and let people go at it,” Davis said.

Davis’ next project is bigger, interactive public installation called a “Mood Room.” The idea is for a computer to record brain waves as someone cycles through emotions. Later, the computer would play video, say, sunshine for happiness or a tornado for anger, triggered by the subject’s thoughts.

Davis hopes publicity from the “Wailing Wall” will boost his chances of wining a Regional Arts Commission artists’ grant to fund his next concept.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a few more eyes on me from some patrons of the arts,” Davis sai