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  • Dork Art and the Board of Education Building

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Toby Weiss 4 comments
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    While digging in the basement for something that’s still missing, I found the artifact shown above. It is a detail of the former Board of Education Building in downtown St. Louis from a photo I took in the mid-1990s. It is rendered in acrylics on a sheet of linoleum 30″ x 22″. It was to be a floor mat for the kitchen.

    Yes, a floor mat.
    Yes, it’s OK to laugh.
    I remember that it was because of everyone’s laughter that I abandoned the project in the first place. This is why it has remained hidden for well over 10 years. Enough time has passed that I now, too, find it hilariously dorky.

    But I am not embarrassed at how inspiring this building has always been for me. The shapes, the colors and the textures of this 1893 building by architect Issac Taylor make my heart sing. Learn a little more about it here.

    In the days when downtown St. Louis was on life support and my daily lunch walks felt like traipsing through a graveyard, this building always appeared optimistic, as if it knew better days were coming.

    The elaborate art deco store front on the Locust Street side was always a special thrill, especially when the Board of Education was still actually in residence. As seen above, kids’ art work in the gracefully curved display windows was disgustingly charming, and just added to the impulse to paint a portrait of the building…. so I could walk on it?

    In 2005, the Roberts Brothers erected a few signs promising a new life for the building, and my heart fluttered. But because it stood in the shadow of the scars of the Century Building (to the left in the photo above), cynicism and worry trampled on hope.

    But all is now well. The building – now called Roberts Lofts on the Plaza – is fully rehabbed and renovated and nearly full. The art deco store front is even safe and sound. The Roberts Brothers are truly knights in shining armor for rescuing so many worthy buildings and creating new ones, and my heartfelt thanks goes out to them for keeping the Board of Education building forever fabulous.

    I wonder if they’d be interested in a commemorative floor mat for the lobby…

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    4 Responses to “Dork Art and the Board of Education Building”

    1. What is the art deco storefront being used for? It looks really cool!

    2. Dear Toby,

      Thank you so much for your blog and cataloging all of this. I grew up in St. Louis and while I am glad to have spread my wings to NY, I’ll always (sort of) have a fondess…

      From 1993-2000 I spent many days and nights driving around STL looking at many of the buildings and much of the signage you have here. I had saved them to memory, but I’m glad you have put them here for everyone to enjoy and remember. Especially now, as many are quickly disappearing.

      St. Louis is one of those places you have to be from to appreciate. When I speak of architectural marvels in STL to New Yorkers, I get the eye roll and glare of “Surely you jest…” I will have to reccomend your site to some of them.

      Anyway, thanks again and Happy New Year! Keep it up.
      -Ryan, NYC

    3. I would have bought a floor mat like that.

    4. […] It is a detail of the former Board of Education Building in downtown St. Louis from a photo I took in the mid-1990s. It is rendered in acrylics on a sheet of linoleum 30″ x 22″. It was to be a floor mat for the kitchen. …$anchor_text[$anchor_choice] […]