Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mound City Highlights

Mound City refers to the ancient man-made mounds that were part of the complex culture created by the Mississipean peoples at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers 1,000 years ago, and whose epicenter is celebrated at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and Museum in Collinsville, IL, just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. The Mound City exhibition at Laumeier Sculpture Park explores the remnants of the succession cultures that exist in the St. Louis region.

Geoffrey Krawczyk Recess Project is a hybrid home that uses the red clay bricks that typifies the 19th century emigrant enclaves of North and South St. Louis to create a modern mound that has collapsed on Laumeier’s grounds.

Sam Durant for Free Hanging Chain has taken as his touchstone the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch, to trigger his work at Laumeier. Durant strung five metal catenary arches (like those used by architect Eero Saarinen in the Arch), upside down on the Whitaker Woods Trail. These works are flexible, not fixed, embedded inside the disturbed landscape of Laumeier.

Marie Watt’s sculpture Earthmover, 2014, commemorates the tools for the movement of earth to create the great mounds at Cahokia. A partially buried recycled 12 foot mega mining vehicle tire weighing 5,000 pounds creates a monumental rubber archway. It is believed that the Cahokians hauled 50-60 pounds of earth at a time from borrow pits and carried them to mound construction sites. 

Beverly Pepper’s Gromlech Glen, 1985-87, is found along the park art trail where visitors come upon her densely planted green amphitheater as if it is a recently discovered ruin. Pepper created this earthwork, one of Laumeier’s earliest site specific commissions, to evoke “myths and archaeological associations” that conjoin humans together across time and space.

Jackie Ferrra’s Laumeier Project, 1981 draws from ancient building forms to create her first open step temple. Ferrara use of wood, a natural material, also recognizes that all human constructions can, and will, disappear.

Richard Fleischner’s five-part work St. Louis Project, 1989, uses stone, another natural ancient building material, looks like ancient building fragments left in the landscape. Fleischner scattered his work so that it “jumps” Laumeier’s Northern Grove to a site across Rott Road, allowing for the ancient associations of his work to be interrupted, and animated, by our modern car culture.

Alison Saar's Leelinau 1997 is worth seeking out. It is another site specific installation. Only this work is up a tree along another art path at Laumeier. Made of wood, copper and steel wire, it represents the legend of a North American Indian girl.   

Alexander Liberman’s The Way, 1980, is made of battered, used oil drums to create a “ruined” Greek temple slumping from its abandonment.

Juan William Chávez, for his 2012 show at Laumeier, grappled with the evidence of a contemporary colony collapse in our midst. Chávez created a modern Woodhenge using old telephone poles to outline a block from the notorious Pruitt-Igoe, one of the first planned housing developments in the United States.

Visit Laumeier Scupture Park from April 11 to August 24, 2014 to view the Mound City Exhibition that includes events, activities, the artists included here and more.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

AIGA Portfolio Review 2014

The talent is astounding. The work is impressive. The students are part of the annual portfolio review process and converge again on campus at Maryville University in the Donius Student Center. Maryville, of course, is well represented and showing an impressive esprit de corps. The pride is justified if you get a peak at the work. But Mizzou, Missouri State, and UMSL (The University of Missouri, Saint Louis) are well represented too. As are several other schools within driving distance of Maryville University, just west of downtown St. Louis. They are part of the annual ritual portfolio review presented by the St. Louis chapter of the AIGA. They are mostly graduating seniors at that career crossroad anxious to transition from academia to the cold hard reality of the real world of work.

These students have polished portfolios showcasing their classroom exercises. “In this assignment we were challenged to design three spreads of a magazine. It was entirely up to us to choose the publication but we were expected to show how editorial spreads and images might be presented.” So it goes, with student work. It is part reality and part fiction. But the designs are compelling and believable. “In this assignment I wanted to show how graphics might enhance the customer experience of using public transportation. A Metro-Rail rider can use a mobile app that will allow them to plan a trip down to calculating the arrival of the next train and paying their fare.” Wow, it’s graphically exciting and tech savvy. “My portfolio includes a number of logos and type that I have designed. I like to create images that will reinforce a brand story.” And another impressive presentation with unfettered confidence.

I love this confluence of passionate design students and those who emerge among the ranks of professional reviewers. I have participated several times in the past fifteen years. As such I have witnessed, in that span, evidence of paradigm shifts: from Print to Digital; from oversized portfolio cases to tablets; from respectful homage to designers and typographers to Wikipedia; from physical mock-ups to virtual experiences on student built websites. Meanwhile the marketplace changes and reviewers are relying on this new wave for completely fresh skill sets. The tables turn ever so slightly in favor of the emerging talent. The implied promise of training and development is now more elusive. The expertise, while undeveloped, lives with the next generation. These individuals have every right to assume they will rise, and quickly. If not they will leave for another experience or depart for an entrepreneurial venture. (Fair enough.) 

Maybe. But cash is king, Content is critical. Concept is still driven by strategy. And students know they still have a few things yet to learn about marketing themselves and their ideas. The good news is they have incredible tools to do so. I like what I see.      

Friday, March 21, 2014


David Hults is a career coach, author, professional speaker and Columnist. His insightful presentation is based on content from his new book, Ringmaster. David wants you to focus on how to master change in your career and inside your organization. He encourages you and your staff can become more engaged at work. As author of five books, he says this one was the hardest to write because it is the most succinct because he wants to business leaders to take action and lead change in meaningful ways.

“Disengaged employees cost the US Economy 370 Billion annually according to Gallup research findings,” says David and that means the many businesses need to change. “Using the idea of a three ring circus, he suggests there are basically 3 Rings of Change:  change you control, change you influence and change of which you can only respond. Once you understand this they key to changing is understand basic personality types in your organization. “Here the Ringmaster manages five types of performers.”

Dare Devil - Daredevils Are Likely To: THINK: These opportunities and possibilities are so exciting! SAY: Can’t wait to get started! DO: Take action.

Lion Tamer - Lion Tamers Are Likely To: THINK: I need to create a foundation and plan action steps. SAY: I have some questions about the big picture DO: Plan and define.

 Juggler - Jugglers Are Likely To: THINK: I’m not totally convinced, but I’m open. SAY: I don’t know. Maybe this change will be good. Maybe not.  DO: Ask others their opinions as part of the evaluation process.

Tightrope Walker - Tightrope Walkers Are Likely To: THINK: I’m really skeptical this change is right. SAY: Why is this change so important? I need more details about why this is happening.DO: Gather information.

Weight Lifter - Weight Lifters Are Likely To: THINK: Oh no. This is not necessary. Things are fine the way they are. SAY: This is a mistake. However, they may not say it out loud unless they know others think the same way. DO:  Bare minimum - they want to be asked. Mostly they’ll try to lay low and avoid attention. They may be building their case for fighting the changes.

For more information on David Hults and his new book Ringmaster visit

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Journalist and the Family Reunion

I met a guy at an art opening in St. Louis recently. He was a friend of the artist. He introduced himself as we met in the gallery. “Nice to meet you, my name is Chris Desloge.” Saint Louis being the big small town that it is I offered. “Well that is a name that is familiar to St. Louisans. I knew a writer named Rick Desloge. He was a fine journalist for three decades for the St. Louis Business Journal.” Chris smiled. It was his brother, of whom I was expressing fond memories. (Rick passed away too soon in 2012 at the age of 63.)

“If you knew Rick you will appreciate this story,” he said. “Our family was planning a reunion. I live in Darrien, Connecticut. Many of us had to travel considerable distances to attend this event. We had some big plans the cost of which would be in the neighborhood of $90,000.” The figure was an estimate of travel, food, entertainment, accommodations etc. The family planning committee included Chris, Rick and another relative who was a partner in a top accounting firm, Coopers Lybrand (now part of PriceWaterhouseCoopers).

As the reunion date neared, the committee met to review details. The accountant reported from a spreadsheet that the committee was in the red more than $50,000.  

“You call this a family reunion, I call this fraud!” Rick emphatically insisted. The accountant quickly realized miscalculations on his spreadsheet and the family committee had a good laugh. The Journalist and his outrage, even as good natured as it was, saved the day. The accountant was embarrassed in making a careless error.

The story was a wonderful memory of Rick and also a tribute to the role an investigative Journalist can play in keeping business appropriately transparent with all stakeholders. It is also a reminder that even the most credentialed experts make mistakes.

Special thanks to Chris Desloge for sharing that story in a loving memory of Rick Desloge.
Photo above: Artist Barb Flunker with Chris Desloge.

This Just In

Academy Awards, polar vortex, sports programming, trending on social media, live, raw and real: It’s about right now. Maybe we feel more alive if we are engaged in seeing events unfold before our very eyes. We are drawn together in suspense.

And yet, investigative reporting is a thing of the past. It’s not so much about getting it right anymore. The Pew Research Center annual report on the state of the media has been tracking the news industry notes they are more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from Pew’s public opinion survey reveals that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information of which they had grown accustomed.

If not for TBT (Throwback Thursday) we might never take a moment to reflect. Once more, there is no reason to wonder about anything more than a few moments while you access your tablet or smart phone for an answer. Who won the Super Bowl last year? Who did they defeat? What was the score? Where did they play? Answers: Seattle Seahawks, defeated Denver Broncos, by the score of 43-8, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

So it seems, now we have a culture of immediate gratification and no need for retention. It is any wonder that there seems to be a rise in reported cheating even within the military where honor and honesty are essential values. While the first and hardest-hit industry, newspapers, remains in the spotlight, local TV finds itself newly vulnerable too. The move to digital news and time shifting devices allows us to consume our news, information and entertainment on our own timetable and on our own terms. The result is the rise in binge viewing. Is that a good thing? 

What’s happening? Are we becoming so reliant on technology that memory and knowledge are no longer kept in our own memory banks? Have we become so hardened to learning from experience that we focus only on real time reports? Are we choosing reality TV over production values and plotlines? When it comes to news are we forgoing hard news journalism in favor of crowd-sourcing?