It has been 15 years since the first Let Them Eat Art event in 2006. Sometime before that I recall standing in front of one of the most famous paintings in America, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, and thinking that if the old white farmhouse in the painting was Woodside it would be completely restored and tour buses would be pulling up in front of it. Such is the power of art.
Woodside (2200 Bredell) is the oldest building in Maplewood that we know of. It is safe today but in 2006 it was badly deteriorated and in danger of demolition. Finding the money to restore it seemed like an impossible dream.
Additionally, the Maplewood Mill buildings were for sale. Owned for nearly 100 years by the prominent Blood family they would soon have a new owner. I wanted the community to know that the chimney and cyclone dust collector were part of the historic fabric of the site and should be preserved. They were both structurally sound. I began to think of ways that the dust collector might become a feature to be appreciated. Who better to ask than artists? I have written about this so I won’t repeat the struggle here but you can link to those writings.
I thought that we needed an art event in Maplewood which would allow me to farm some of the artists for ideas. Fortunately a new community development director named Rachelle L’Ecuyer had recently been hired. I called her and told her Maplewood should have an art event. She had been thinking the same thing and suggested Bastille Day. Jay Schober named it, Let Them Eat Art.
The first year was wild. We had very little money so we divided up and canvassed the business community for donations. I still remember how much I was able to raise. $0. Despite that frustrating beginning, many other things went well.
My idea was to have a contest with prizes for works of art that were inspired by Maplewood. Could be anything. Music, songs, poetry, performance art, as well as the usual paintings and photographs. There was a special cash prize for a juried single work of art that featured the cyclone dust collector. The artist, Steve Turner, won that one. Ultimately it wasn’t enough. The cyclone was demolished in 2007.
Much has happened since that first event. Rachelle L’Ecuyer has moved on to become the executive director of the Delmar Loop. I am very happy that our newest community development director, Laura Miller, has decided to continue the tradition, this Friday, July 9th, in downtown Maplewood.
Happy Let Them Eat Art everyone!
We truly had a great time at that first Let Them Eat Art Celebration. They have only gotten better each year since. Lat year got skipped due to the pandemic so be certain to make the scene this year. Tomorrow night, Friday, July the 9th, in the 7300 block of Manchester (and Sutton too), in downtown Maplewood! Don’t miss it!
Doug Houser July 8, 2021