I hope I’ve emphasized that the Cakeway to the West project is about more than just art to me. I’m not sure if I’ve shared one of the stories that is one of the big reasons why, though.
When I photographed this cake in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue at Fountain Park, an older (not sure I want to use the word elderly, but close to it, at least), gentleman stopped to talk to me. He wanted to know if I was officially involved with Stl250 (sadly no), and if I had seen some of the other cakes at some of his favorite places. Your basic cake-related small talk that takes places over many of these installations.
But then he said something that humbled me and touched me in a way that I didn’t expect a public art project could. He thanked me, for photographing the cake and the statue. Because he’s afraid that people will forget Dr. King, and he wanted to thank me for my role in keeping his memory alive. Here I was, just taking a picture of cake in its setting, but to him, I was doing something so much bigger, something with lasting value.
I think that was the day (May 25, if you’re keeping track), that I realized that this is about more than just art, or a scavenger hunt, or even celebrating St. Louis’ birthday. It’s about stories. The stories of the city, and the stories of the individuals who live here. These stories (and seeing the places that go with them), have truly changed my life. I’ve tried to hear as many of those stories as I can as I’ve traveled the metro area, but none have stayed with me the way that conversation on a Sunday afternoon in May has.