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A new look for Laumeier: Money from county nearly completes capital campaign

Aronson Center rendering
Provided by Laumeier Sculpture Park

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 5: This Sunday, Laumeier Sculpture Park is inviting the community out for a picnic, music, games and art. But this Discover Laumeier Festival could be the last new event before new construction begins there.

In May, the St. Louis Beacon reported that Laumeier’s board met with officials from St. Louis County and requested $2 million for its capital campaign. Last month, Laumeier announced it was getting $3 million from the county and was ready to build a new fine arts center and renovate an old building on the property.

“With this $3 million, it gets us to 80 percent of our goal,” says Marilu Knode, executive director.

Laumeier’s capital campaign’s total is $10 million; and thanks to the money from the county, it has $1.8 million left to raise, she says. Due to ongoing conversations with individuals and businesses, she says, that could happen soon.

Changes at the outdoor sculpture park include a new Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center and the renovation of the 1917 Estate House. The park will remain open as the construction goes on.

"It should be a very nice addition to the park," says Tom Ott, director of St. Louis County Parks.

Currently, the estate house is the only space at the park for indoor exhibits, as well as education and offices. Events there are a bit like seeing fine art on display at your grandma’s house, says Emily Rodenbeck, the park’s marketing and communications manager.

The estate house will become the Family Education Laboratory for Art. The $1 million in renovations to it include a new HVAC system for energy efficiency, year-round educational programming for all ages with multi-media classrooms, as well as a number of code-related updates.

The $4 million fine arts center, designed by Trivers Associates and named for the park’s co-founder, will offer a gallery space, storage and space for special events.

The Aronson building will be a jewel of architecture in the community, Knode says, and helps the park work year-round to bring art to the public. It also allows the park, which is run by both the county and a nonprofit organization, to be sustainable for the future with a source of earned revenue. The county maintains the 105 acres, and the nonprofit is all about the art. 

"I think the new building represents a great partnership that we have with Laumeier Sculpture Park," Ott says.

Parks are free, Knode says, but with the new and renovated buildings, Laumeier can hold classes and events and rent out its space and, in the process, make money to sustain itself. A portion of the campaign funds will go into a growth fund designed to support new projects, collaborations and experimentation.

She hopes the area's energy is represented here, as well as bringing in an international dialogue about sculpture art. Knode also wants new generations to discover new pieces by artists that will make an impact well into the future.

“Laumeier has always had a hand in showing how sculpture makes place for people in this community,” she says. And now, most major cities have sculpture gardens, and most municipalities have works displayed.

With the Aronson building, Knode sees a continuation and an expansion of how a building “makes place.” The park offers a variety of ecological climates, and the building itself reflects that in its barn-like design, she says.

“So we like to think that the Aronson is really of place.”

You’ll find that place as it is, for now, with this weekend’s festival. There, says Rodenbeck, the public is invited for a free day of family fun, with picnics, scavenger hunts, and a chance to see how art and nature interact here. Events begin at noon and continue until 5 p.m., with the community picnic ending at 2 p.m.

Construction is currently scheduled to begin in September, and renovations on the estate house are planned to be complete next spring. The Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center will be complete in the fall of 2014.

The capital campaign is also paying for a variety of improvements, some of which have already been done. They include

  • A new entry drive and parking spaces to improve public access
  • Improved handicap accessibility
  • Utility upgrades
  • Underground restrooms
  • A children's sculpture garden
  • An outdoor stage
  • Buying adjacent land to preserve a buffer between the park and nearby development
Kristen Hare

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