Cakeway to the West–More than Just Art

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.

Cakeway to the West–Meeting People

Another thing I love about the “Cakeway to the West” project is meeting people along the way. I’ve had the chance to talk to many different folks, find out how many cakes they’ve seen, and which ones. It’s not like I’m making friends for life or anything, but it’s interesting, even if only for a moment, to hear their stories, and find out where they’re from.

I’ve talked to college kids looking for something to do, runners looking to make their run more interesting, and people like me, who are determined to find all of the cakes. I’ve talked to people who are taking interesting photographs, making sure their child, or dog, or a special object are in each picture. I’ve talked to people from all over the metro area, and people who are back here visiting, looking for cakes at their old favorite places. I’ve talked to people from all walks of life, and people doing all kinds of things, including biking, fishing, and patrolling the streets (yes, even the local law enforcement is getting into the cake search!).

My favorites, though are the older people I’ve talked too. People who have told me about St. Louis 40 and 50 years ago, who remember people and events, and who have made a difference in the city. Everyone has a story to tell, and I’ve discovered that most people are just waiting for someone to listen to them and hear that story. And it’s been an honor for me to be that someone to a few people, and hear their stories, because it’s those stories that make St. Louis what it is today!