Atlas Obscura Day leads the curious to extraordinary sites around world, in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Atlas Obscura Day leads the curious to extraordinary sites around world, in St. Louis

Apr 15, 2016

Two St. Louis area sites are among hundreds of locations around the globe being featured in an exotic festival of places of interest this Saturday.

Atlas Obscura Day encourages participants to make haste to unusual sites they may not know about or chose to ignore. Not some mere fabulist celebration like Festivus, the event was started in 2008 by namesake travel website and intellectual refuge “Atlas Obscura,” which The Wall Street Journal calls “an online compendium of the world's wondrous and curious places.”

Each year on April 16, the website takes online appreciation into the real world with special events at most sites. Many of the featured travel destinations are off the beaten track; others are right around the corner. Among them are a church in the shape of a gigantic, blue high-heeled shoe in Budai Township, Taiwan, and the mysterious grave of the unknown stranger in Alexandria, Va.

In their company are two St. Louis “obscurities”: Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills in St. Louis County and Firecracker Press, which has two locations in the city – one on 14th Street in Old North St. Louis and another on Cherokee Street.

Firecracker Press uses its traditional presses to create a variety of items, from posters to business cards.
Credit Firecracker Press

Design studio Firecracker Press has built a prosperous business employing the past by using letterpress technology on machines it has rescued from the scrap heap to produce contemporary works “that bring surprise and joy,” according to its website.

The press’ Missy Knight said, “We use all antique presses, hand-carved woodcuts, and we combine that with modern graphic design to produce lots of unique items,” such as business cards, wedding invitations and works of art.

Last year, Firecracker won the Best New Product distinction at the National Stationery Show in New York, and work produced by Firecracker Press is included in the big print show at the Sheldon Galleries.

For Obscura Day on Saturday, Firecracker is offering a workshop at its Cherokee Street store from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants will design, print, score and saddle stitch pocket-sized travel journals to be used to record visits to places both obscure and highly touted.

“It's actually an extensive workshop,” Knight said. “In three hours you'll print two colors on a three-color cover for the journal."

Atlas Obscura Day participants can make a travel journal at Firecracker Press using their old-timey technology and modern designs.
Credit Firecracker Press

The fee is $30; space is limited to 30 participants. Knight said there is still space available, but reservations should be made soon. 

Meanwhile, Laumeier Sculpture Park is marking Atlas Obscura Day by highlighting works from a corner of the world that, while perhaps not obscure to aficionados, are not as prominently featured in the U.S. art scene.

Contemporary Indian artist Gigi Scaria opens the exhibition “Time” at Laumeier this Saturday, the first time large scale examples of his work have been shown outside of India. The show, curated by Laumeier’s Dana Turkovic, includes motion pictures, photographs, a commissioned sculpture in the park and a temporary installation in the Adam Aronson Fine Arts Center.

“I am really excited for this opportunity at Laumeier and am looking forward to the interaction of the Park’s visitors with my work,” Scaria said in a post on the Sculpture Park’s website.

Scaria’s work fits neatly into ever-increasing conversations about loss and revival. It focuses on the hurried and often willy-nilly destruction of places that are not only of architectural substance, but also are the fragile vessels of memory and components critical to maintaining continuity in a civilization. In that sense, participants may find connections to issues such as the carefully researched restorations of elements of the Cahokia site near St. Louis to present-day migrations of refugees around the world.

Scaria himself will conduct a tour of his work from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.