to northeast Missouri's art corridor between Clarksville and Hannibal
will someday be able to view sculptures from all over the world
like these "Three Sisters" from China at St. Louis
University's Henry Lay Sculpture Park. The facility, the dream of
a St. Louis-area businessman, should open sometime in 2002.
Three large sculptures of
Chinese sisters dressed in traditional dance costumes stand on a small
island in a lake near Louisiana, Mo. A few miles away an incense manufacturer-turned
craftsman spins pewter on a lathe. Meanwhile, two artists, recent transplants
from Texas, adapt to a new home in northeast Missouri.
These seemingly unrelated
happenings are linked, part of a common concept and a greater goal.
Whether the development of a public sculpture garden, the expansion
of a business or a lifestyle change in pursuit of greater artistic expression,
a lot is happening within a 50-mile corridor from Clarksville to Hannibal.
Under a banner called The
Provenance Project, community development experts, artists and craftsmen
have come together to champion the idea that an area can prosper by
"The project is a two-pronged
approach," says Patrick French, executive director of the Northeast
Missouri Development Authority and one of the original proponents of
the idea. "One is the recruitment of artists and the other is marketing
of the area as a destination of cultural tourism."
The word provenance refers
to the origin or source of something, usually art. The Provenance Project
seeks to provide an origin for both art itself but also a revitalization
of the northeast Missouri communities of Hannibal, Louisiana and Clarksville.
Weber works in his Bowling Green studio.
"It just makes sense. It's
basic Marketing 101. You market what you've got," French says. "We've
got three historic river communities, great architecture, low costs
of living and established tourism trade. We have a central location
that makes a nice day trip. We have probably one of the prettiest drives
in the state."
The area is already home
to a number of successful artists among them potter Steve Ayers,
blacksmith Darold Rinedollar, watercolor artist John Stoeckley and sculptor
Harry Weber. Many artists choose the area because it is within a day's
drive of almost any Midwest art show.
Others are attracted by the
availability of affordable buildings. Louisiana, in particular, boasts
an abundance of Victorian-era structures, many of them available at
prices far below real estate in other artist's communities.
"We looked at Sante Fe.
We looked at California. We looked at various areas," says Allison Black,
a metalsmith who moved to Louisiana from Houston, Texas, with her husband,
painter and sculptor Ippy Greer. "There's many places that have an art
market but there's no support there. The rents are outrageous. The market's
already built and it's pretty much closed to new people coming in."
That is not the situation
in northeast Missouri where local banks offer low-interest loans to
help artists rehab older buildings. Also, developers here are actively
pursuing artists to the Provenance Project.
"It really is a revolutionary
idea. This kind of thinking just doesn't happen anywhere except in this
little corner of Missouri," says Pat Hooper of ASL Pewter.
of the aims of the Provenance Project is to fill vacant buildings
and storefronts. Louisiana's downtown offers artisans Victorian
architecture at prices much lower than established arts communities.
Hooper and her husband, Tom,
moved to Clarksville from Salem to expand their pewter and fragrance
business from the art show and Renaissance festival circuit to a retail
storefront. "You have support from these communities that an artist
isn't likely to get from other small towns and, certainly, not from
a big city," she says.
The support from the community
and other artists was one of the factors that drew Black and Greer from
Texas, where Black taught art and managed galleries. In Louisiana she
will administer the Provenance Art Center, a new gallery and learning
center launched by a St. Louis-area art professor. Meanwhile, the couple
will pursue their individual studio work in an atmosphere where they
hope to learn about the business of art.
"Ip and I both know the art
side of it really well. The business side, we're learning," Black says.
"We felt there were people involved with the Provenance Project who
were already entrepreneurs who could be mentors, and they have been.
These people are very generous."
The artists of Clarksville,
Louisiana and Hannibal have formed a network, the Great River Road Guild
of Artisans, to support one another and to promote the arts in northeast
Missouri. Working with
the Division of Tourism they've begun to position the area as an arts
corridor. Twice a year more than 20 guild artists open their doors for
a "50 Miles of Art" studio tour.
In addition to the various
artists working along the Great River Road a number of arts-related
attractions will soon draw tourists to the area. Besides the Provenance
Arts Center a new sculpture garden is being developed on the Pike County
estate of the late Henry Lay, a St. Louis businessman and arts patron.
The facility, which will also include an arts education center and children's
sculpture park, should open sometime in 2002.
Art Center, located in a former Methodist church and one-time Louisiana
city hall, will offer art classes, gallery space for area artists
and a home for visiting artists.
All of the activity spells
success for the Provenance Project. Already the effort has received
statewide and national recognition, including awards for its promotional
materials and Web site. The project even received one of the only National
Endowment for the Arts grants ever awarded to an economic development
project. Likewise, the state Department of Economic Development, an
agency more accustomed to chasing smokestacks than artist's palettes,
has awarded the project a marketing grant.
But more than recognition,
The Provenance Project is attracting artists to northeast Missouri.
Most recently a potter from South Dakota and a glassblower from California
have announced they will move to the area. And that, of course, is the
aim of the project.
"Bringing in these types
of essentially retail businesses is going to generate additional sales
tax revenue, primarily through tourism," French says.
Such successes also bring
the project that much closer to fulfilling its promise to artists as
"The way it was presented
to us was this was a growing community of artists and artisans and a
place that was sympathetic to artists that they could come in
here and find a place to settle and do their work and have some strength
in union," Greer says. "The project is on the ground level right now.
We have great hope for it but it's like any new venture. It's going
to take a lot of work."
For more information write
The Provenance Project, 201 North Third St., Suite 220, Hannibal, MO
63401; call 1-800-525-6632 or visit them on line at www.provenanceproject.org.