Tag Archive for Springfield Missouri

“MIX AND MINGLE” AT ASH GROVE’S MAIN STREET HERITAGE FESTIVAL

Although I arrived at the Ash Grove festival late in the afternoon there were still a few folks milling around on Main Street. There were, like many country trade centers, empty buildings, but none looked like they were about to fall in. Some had going businesses. Others displayed relics of the town’s past in their windows. Overall, the scene did not fulfill the stereotype of villages on the verge of economic and cultural collapse. Writers like Edgar Lee Masters and Sinclair Lewis may have erred when, a century ago, they located all that is dysfunctional and antiquated about America exclusively in small towns. Could it be that cultural stagnation and backwardness may manifest itself in urban and suburban environments as well? A place like Ash Grove that takes civic pride in former residents Nathan Boone (Daniel’s son) and notorious gangster Ma Barker displays up-to-date diversity. It mixes historical eras with wild abandon. The place fits our HYPERCOMMON slogan – ordinary isn’t.

Although I arrived at the Ash Grove festival late in the afternoon there were still a few folks milling around on Main Street. There were, like many country trade centers, empty buildings, but none looked like they were about to fall in. Some had going businesses. Others displayed relics of the town’s past in their windows. Overall, the scene did not fulfill the stereotype of villages on the verge of economic and cultural collapse. Writers like Edgar Lee Masters and Sinclair Lewis may have erred when, a century ago, they located all that is dysfunctional and antiquated about America exclusively in small towns. Could it be that cultural stagnation and backwardness may manifest itself in urban and suburban environments as well? A place like Ash Grove that takes civic pride in former residents Nathan Boone (Daniel’s son) and notorious gangster Ma Barker displays up-to-date diversity. It mixes historical eras with wild abandon. The place fits our HYPERCOMMON slogan – ordinary isn’t.

“Is this Ash Grove?” asked the woman in a red dress behind the wheel of a small car that pulled off on the shoulder beside me. “This is Halltown,” I told her. She didn’t understand my directions until a young girl produced a Missouri road map from the glove compartment and I showed her the way to Ash Grove. “I’m performing at some kind of festival there. Come see me.” She did a U turn and headed back east following my directions.

bl454When I finished taking pictures of Halltown I went on to Paris Spring Junction. (Click on the links to see those posts). Later that afternoon I did end up in Ash Grove, and I did see a picture of the lost woman in red propped up by the door of a café. There was no Sing-a-Long Sweet Memories of Silent Movie Music coming from inside, so I did not hear Teresa Arth sing and play the piano. There was a strolling harmonica player, though.

The light was perfect, but it would not last. Things were definitely winding down at the Ash Grove Main Street Heritage Festival. Attendance was sparse, but the old buildings looked good through my viewfinder. The century old structures were an intriguing combination of decay, restoration, and unfinished restoration, many enhanced with stylistic choices not yet categorized by architectural historians. Such esthetic chaos may disturb purists, but American development has been wildly eclectic from the beginning. Bricolage, an arty French word, describes the practice of incorporating readily available materials or styles into an object or work. Unfamiliarity with the theory hasn’t stopped the citizens of this small town from bricolaging the hell out of their buildings, the collections of artifacts in those buildings, and culture.

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Esthetically as well as socially, Ash Grove’s festival was indeed “mix and mingle” as 105.9 KGBX’s press release said of the event. I pulled it up on the web after getting home:

Back Roads to Main Street Heritage Festival
October 18  – 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Main Street – Ash Grove

CELEBRATING AND SHARING A FASCINATING HERITAGE

Notable Missourian Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, early settler – here…. Birthplace of notorious 1930’s gangster Ma Barker, on FBI’s Most Wanted List – here……Civil War bushwhackers’ terrorizing raids – here……Main Street shoot out between horse thieves – here.…..Murder over missing foxhound said to be basis of book and movie, “The Voice of Bugle Ann” – here.……Enterprises that distinguished our area nationwide, Ash Grove Portland Cement and Phenix Marble Quarry – here.

Celebration of this fascinating heritage begins on Historic Main Street. It is a mix and mingle of Civil War to 20’s and 30’s eras in fashion, buggies and vintage vehicles, live music – fiddle — ragtime piano -Irish folk songs, plus foods from the days of biscuits always on the table, sarsaparilla a favored drink, and nothing was better than catfish fried up in a pan.

Come in historic full attire…enter the 10:00 am costume contest (for all ages and gender)… and a free order of biscuits and gravy is yours. Costume up your whole family and not only is your breakfast covered but so are the Halloween costumes.

No costume? Get in the spirit of the day with a flapper headband or gangster hat from the Headband and Hat shop. Don’t forget your camera to get a photo of your new look with flapper, Sara Vega, professional model.

Listen to the story telling and watch the re-enactments of stories from our heritage….join in the games and competitions….see artisans demonstrate their skills…make and take a painted gourd… make a planter from Ash Grove cement and paper… AND keep an eye out for Ma Barker’s boys – they’re usually up to no good.

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As well as the display of a log cabin quilt that was being raffled off for a good cause, there was a photo exhibit on Main Street. Clothes pinned to clothes lines were photographs taken by the citizenry. Voting was underway to select the best images for a community calendar. Sunsets were the most popular subject.

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Even if I had missed the opening act, the coda of the celebration was a provocative visual display of old, new, in between and outside the boundaries of time. It certainly wasn’t one of the laid-out-on-a-slab villages I’d photographed for Ozark Prairie Border. Ash Grove has a pulse.

Googling Ash Grove, I pulled up a dissenting opinion. “Agricultural commerce has abandoned Ash Grove. It isn’t a sleepy community. It’s in a coma,” wrote freelance reviewer of live music, Bill Glahn. He pronounced the town of 1,500 a victim of corporate greed that has killed the family farm and sent factory jobs overseas. Glahn is active in Occupy Springfield, a franchise of Occupy Wall Street, so it’s not difficult to discern his political leanings.

He motored up to Ash Grove from Springfield on Labor Day of 2010, “to make some kind of photographic record that this place actually existed before it crumbled into dust.” The anti capitalist protest group didn’t begin until September 2011. So he wouldn’t have been able to start a subchapter – Occupy Ash Grove – to protest the pernicious influence of big business on small towns. After my brief sojourn I don’t get the feeling the place was or is ripe for revolution.

Mural proclaiming Ash Grove’s debt to the coming of the railroad. Although the homestead of Daniel Boone’s son Nathan has become a popular state park just north of the town it was the arrival of the Missouri Pacific railroad in the late 1800s that spurred an era of prosperity, and is embedded in local memory. As well as a decent farming resource (which blogger Glahn prematurely dismissed) a nearby vein of excellent limestone was mined for building stone and crushed as aggregate. During the Depression construction virtually ceased in America and farm commodities suffered a price collapse. Ash Grove has more than survived. Though the train no longer stops and the quarry has closed, it has highway access to Springfield, a small city with a surfeit of shopping and gobs of jobs.

Mural proclaiming Ash Grove’s debt to the coming of the railroad. Although the homestead of Daniel Boone’s son Nathan has become a popular state park just north of the town it was the arrival of the Missouri Pacific railroad in the late 1800s that spurred an era of prosperity, and is embedded in local memory. As well as a decent farming resource (which blogger Glahn prematurely dismissed) a nearby vein of excellent limestone was mined for building stone and crushed as aggregate. During the Depression construction virtually ceased in America and farm commodities suffered a price collapse. Ash Grove has more than survived. Though the train no longer stops and the quarry has closed, it has highway access to Springfield, a small city with a surfeit of shopping and gobs of jobs.

PRETTY UP THE POLES

Like many municipalities Springfield, Missouri has a number of “special districts” whose social justifications many times confer some “special” tax benefits. Click to enlarge.

Like many municipalities Springfield, Missouri has a number of “special districts” whose social justifications many times confer some “special” tax benefits. Click to enlarge.

The Springfield, Missouri News-Leader covered this story twice in October 2014. One feature is titled “The Pole Painting Project – Moon City spruces up utility poles – public art project aims to beautify Woodland Heights, curb graffiti.” The other article is titled “Moon City’s latest project: pretty up the poles:

While some neighborhoods push for underground utility lines to pretty things up, the artsy folks with the Moon City Creative District are using the utility poles in the Woodland Heights Neighborhood as canvases.

On Saturday, about 60 local artists — professional and amateur, young and old — spent hours painting unique designs and scenes on more than 35 poles. The public art project is aimed at calming traffic, curbing graffiti and beautifying the neighborhood.

“Why poles? Well, poles are everywhere,” said Phyllis Ferguson, one of the event coordinators. “They are not the most beautiful thing in our sight when we look around, so we decided to paint the poles.”

The project, Ferguson said, also helps create awareness about the Moon City Creative District located in the Woodland Heights Neighborhood, a specially zoned “live/work” overlay district that features many types of artists who operate studios or galleries from their homes.

Only a small percentage of utility poles have so far been enhanced.  Click to enlarge.

Only a small percentage of utility poles have so far been enhanced. Click to enlarge.

Ferguson and fellow artists, Steve Miller and Linda Passeri, got the idea after traveling to an art district in Victoria, British Columbia, where artists have painted about 300 utility poles.

In Victoria, Ferguson said, they are seeing less graffiti on the poles because graffiti artists seem to appreciate and respect the painted poles. Also, traffic has calmed somewhat due to drivers slowing down to look at the poles.

Passeri said she hopes the painted poles will cause people to get out and enjoy their neighborhood.

“The more people see public art, the more they appreciate public art. And it just makes people happy. It improves quality of life, just to have art in our everyday,” she said. “When you get in your car and you are driving to work and you see a pole painted with some flowers — it just makes your day better.”

An unpainted utility pole can be assertive, but it does not distract from the integrity of an industrial landscape. This scene is from Chase Street, looking toward Commercial Street. Click to enlarge.

An unpainted utility pole can be assertive, but it does not distract from the integrity of an industrial landscape. This scene is from Chase Street, looking toward Commercial Street. Click to enlarge.

The project was possible thanks to a collaborative effort with the district and City Utilities, Ferguson said. The Healthy Living Alliance gave a $2,000 grant to buy paint and supplies, and Mexican Villa also contributed supplies.

Another “Paint a Pole” project will be scheduled for next spring, Ferguson said.

Want to see the poles?

Yes I did want to see the poles. Sunday morning found me waiting for the sun to rise on Commercial Street, which runs parallel to Chase Street, which the newspaper said was the site of some of the pole painting. Between sips of lukewarm coffee I photographed the assortment of sculptures at a little park at the north end of the 1902 iron footbridge that connects Woodland Heights with Commercial Street. C Street, as it is called, is a Federal Register Historic District.

A similarly enhanced transformer box photographed by Crystal on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.  There seems to be a widespread effort to decorate all manner of objects in public spaces. As well as paint, art groups cover utility poles and sculpture with knitted cozies. This practice is called yarn bombing.  Click to enlarge.

A similarly enhanced transformer box photographed by Crystal on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City. There seems to be a widespread effort to decorate all manner of objects in public spaces. As well as paint, art groups cover utility poles and sculpture with knitted cozies. This practice is called yarn bombing. Click to enlarge.

The also-federally-recognized 628-foot span permits creatives who live in the Moon City Creative District to shop for vintage clothing, chug a micro brew, be inspired by art exhibitions, and possibly contribute to the down-and-outs who come to C Street for the charities and shelters, not the culture.

With the sun up, I drove down Chase Street pole watching. It “made my day better” as I was prompted to later research pole painting and other similar efforts worldwide to beautify public spaces with sanctioned and subsidized graffiti.

Decorating telephone poles is a phenomenon that resonates with our Hypercommon thesis. What is more hyper than soliciting funds and painting banal symbols on these exceedingly common and natively unsuitable for embellishment utilitarian objects? The shape, receptivity to paint, and the usual architectural environment of utility poles are hostile to these well-meaning efforts at civic improvement.

Artists through the ages have attempted to defend against criticism by evoking religious or political justification. To suggest lackluster graffiti performed by groups of middle class amateurs will thwart gang tags is exceedingly inventive we must concede. The “creative” elevation of the mundane is the very essence of hypercommonality.

 

Had Edward Hopper happened upon this decorated pole in front of the majestic abandoned grain elevators he might have chosen another angle to paint.  Admittedly, the raw American commercial landscape may be an acquired taste, but adding silly doodles to power poles does not domesticate it.

Had Edward Hopper happened upon this decorated pole in front of the majestic abandoned grain elevators he might have chosen another angle to paint. Admittedly, the raw American commercial landscape may be an acquired taste, but adding silly doodles to power poles does not domesticate it.

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