With a splash of color, a bit of music and excited chatter, the dream of an arts district for the city is taking shape.
The Granite City Art and Design District (GCADD) is a consortium of creative project spaces in downtown Granite City, a program under the wing of Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit community arts forum founded in 2002 in St. Louis.
For the last six months, a team of artists, architectural landscapers, and community volunteers have been working together to bring life to the 1800 block of State Street. The project’s progress had a grand opening celebration on the evening of July 18, beginning at 7 p.m. and hosted by The Old Bakery Beer Company of Alton and St. Louis financial organization Justine Petersen.
Enthusiastic attendees were arriving early, filled with excitement and hope that this is going to be the start of the rebirth of another area of the city.
“I hope this is the beginning of a new life for a town that I love,” Geff Glenny of Granite City said.
The mission of Justine Petersen is to connect institutional resources with the needs of low- to moderate-income families and individuals in order to build assets and create enduring change. This mission has now reached Granite City’s downtown State Street. As the second largest SBA Micro-Loan Intermediary in the country, Justine Petersen provides access to micro-loans up to $50,000 for small business owners unable to access capital elsewhere. Donations are required as loan loss reserve and matching technical assistance funds to leverage SBA resources.
Galen Gandolfi, Chief Communications Officer of Justine Petersen and Christopher Carl, lead project engineer and architectural landscape artist are the men that are the driving force and energy behind the GCADD.
“The most difficult task of the operation is gathering and harnessing all the resources needed in order to achieve the dreams and goals for sustainability of our work for today’s residents and future residents of this community,” Gandolfi said.
These two men are giving Granite City their blood, sweat, and tears. They are not just the “front men”; they get in there (along with 11 accomplished artists, college interns and volunteers) and get their hands dirty, doing all they can to make the rebirth come to fruition.
The State Street project truly is Gandolfi and Carl’s baby and they have been through two “trimesters.”They know this may be just the beginning of raising this “baby,” but feel it is worth the investment.
“Their efforts become contagious and the community takes on ownership of the endeavor to insure that State Street remains a vital living asset to Granite City,” Carl said.
The team is already seeing the appreciation of their work from surrounding neighbors, refurbishing their own nearby property. This has given the team vim and vigor to tackle this huge gargantuan project and sink their teeth even deeper into their work.
Carl designed the garden space behind the buildings of the 1800 block of State Street. His main aspiration was to create the space to be not only functional but also give the inhabitants the sense of the poetic beauty of the natural setting. He expressed himself through the implementation of a rain garden, green roofs, which includes hardscaping details.
“Drain and storm water control is used as a reservoir system to maintain the plants and green growth of the landscaping,” explained Carl.
The artists had exhibitions of their art in the buildings from 1814-1826 State Street. Many of these noted artists have already been acclaimed by the art world. Artists showcased included JE Baker (a curator at the Pulitzer Foundation), Christopher Carl, Addoley Dzegede, Meredith Foster, Grace and Esther Hong, Marianne Laury, Cole Lu, Anna Minx, Laurencia Strauss, and Sopearb Touch. The exhibit ended with JE Baker’s art video shown outdoors.
Both Gandolfi and Carl hope the community checks out State Street GCADD project on a regular basis.
“The work will continue and build and the revitalization process will evolve and metamorphose periodically and the changes will hopefully create a domino effect for the entire downtown area,” Carl said.