St. Louis CITY SC, Great Rivers Greenway, City of St. Louis and Counterpublic Commemorate “Pillars of the Valley” Civic Art Monument with Surviving Mill Creek Valley Residents and Artist Damon Davis
In partnership with Great Rivers Greenway’s one-mile stretch of the new Brickline Greenway segment between St. Louis CITY SC’s stadium, CITYPARK, and Harris Stowe State University, St. Louis CITY SC is paying tribute to the historic Black neighborhood Mill Creek Valley with a powerful permanent art installation entitled “Pillars of the Valley” outside the southwest corner of the stadium. On February 16, the anniversary of the start of the Mill Creek Valley’s demolition in 1959, surviving former Mill Creek Valley residents and East St. Louis native Damon Davis joined St. Louis CITY SC and community partners to remember the neighborhood’s history, experience the art installation, and acknowledge the completion of this segment of the Brickline Greenway.
“Sports can be a force for good in helping create meaningful dialogue around social and racial equity issues, and this important project is unlike anything in professional sports,” said St. Louis CITY SC President and CEO Carolyn Kindle. “With our stadium district overlapping the footprint of Mill Creek Valley, we knew it was important to acknowledge the hard truths from St. Louis’ past. We want visitors to CITYPARK to learn, honor and remember the history and stories of who was here before us.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, author and former Mill Creek Valley resident Vivian Gibson, and project leaders also spoke at the event about the desire to raise up the story of Mill Creek Valley, about which many St. Louis residents don’t know. Pillars of the Valley is part of the Counterpublic 2023 civic art exhibition, which runs every three years for three months from April through July in the City of St. Louis. Counterpublic weaves contemporary art in the life of St. Louisans to help reimagine how civic infrastructure like public art can help us heal through our shared history and stories.
Pillars of the Valley Details
Nationally acclaimed post-disciplinary artist and East St. Louis native Damon Davis conceived Pillars of the Valley to honor and recognize the 20,000 Black residents displaced from the once-thriving Mill Creek Valley neighborhood in the name of urban renewal in the 1950s. This story was one of the key themes that came from the Brickline Greenway engagement process. A portion of the powerful art installation is on permanent display at CITYPARK’s southwest plaza on Market Street. The stadium’s southern side is landscaped to show the exact plotlines and addresses of the homes that stood on the stadium site over 50 years ago.
“As I learned more about the story of Mill Creek Valley, I kept coming back to the idea of going back in time, literally digging up the things that were buried, hoisting them up for everyone to see, making that history something you had to deal with as you walk by,” said Davis. “I’ve
created a series of pedestals and portals that represent an hourglass, holding time still in the form of the soil. In each one of the pillars, there is a quote inscribed from a resident who actually lived in Mill Creek. The landscaping and benches around them are in the shape of the plots of land, the apartments, and homes and businesses where people lived, worked, and gathered. I am thankful to get to tell the residents’ stories and be here with them for this moment.”
STL CITY SC hopes soccer fans, supporters and visitors alike will be encouraged to learn about and experience the history of Mill Creek Valley on game days and beyond, including recognizing the contributions of the people who lived there. In addition to the art exhibit, St. Louis CITY SC will share information and resources about Mill Creek Valley on the club’s website and social media channels. Pillars of the Valley will eventually span the one-mile stretch of the new Brickline Greenway segment between CITYPARK and Harris-Stowe State University.
“The Mill Creek Valley residents have generously shared their memories with us because they know that stories build community,” said Susan Trautman, CEO of Great Rivers Greenway. “Working with Damon and partners like St. Louis CITY SC let us bring their legacy to life in a powerful way through art and future programs along the Brickline Greenway.”
Running along Market Street from Compton Ave. to 20th Street in the City of St. Louis right-of-way, this future segment of the Brickline Greenway breaking ground this fall will connect to Harris-Stowe State University’s renovated Stars Park (former home to the St. Louis Stars of the Negro Baseball League) and their plans to renovate Vashon Community Center, one of the only remaining structures from Mill Creek Valley, into the Don and Heide Wolff Jazz Institute and National Black Radio Hall of Fame.