Jennifer Colten, WPC. Section 14 [107.9], 1992, inkjet print, © and courtesy of the artist.
Higher Ground: Honoring Washington Park Cemetery, Its People and Place
March 3, 2017 - August 26, 2017
This multi-media exhibition, conceived by photographer Jennifer Colten, includes 50 large scale, color landscape photographs by Colten, as well as video and oral histories by Denise Ward-Brown, historical land documentation, historical narrative panels and an art installation by Dail Chambers, which together provide an overview of the history and issues surrounding this historically African-American cemetery. Washington Park Cemetery, located near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was established in 1920 as a burial ground for African-Americans at a time when rigid segregation was common practice. For nearly 70 years, it was the largest black cemetery in the region, and the final resting place for many prominent African-Americans, including Oscar Minor Waring, the first African-American principal of Sumner High School and Dr. Miles Davis, Sr., father of the great trumpeter. In the 1950s, the cemetery was split and parts paved over by Interstate 70, and again in the 1970s and 1990s disruption and erasure occurred; bodies were disinterred and moved when parts of this land was appropriated by Lambert Airport and Metrolink. This exhibition tells the story of the cemetery’s long and tragic history and reveals the complicated tangle of social injustice, racial politics and neglect that it has suffered. A fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue and a dedicated resource webpage hosted by Washington University Olin Library, Special Collections accompanies the exhibition.
The exhibition is made possible by a Ferguson Academic Seed Fund Grant from Washington University in St. Louis, the Missouri Humanities Council with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Karen and Lawrence Kotner, Barbara and Arthur McDonnell, Nina Needleman, David Capes Photography LLC, Officer Funeral Home P.C. and James and Brenda Rivers. In-kind support is provided by the Special Collections, Olin Library Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri History Museum.
Gallery Talk: Friday, April 7, 2017, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Featuring project artists Denise Ward-Brown, Jennifer Colten and Dail Chambers. Admission free, but reservations are required. Contact Paula Lincoln at email@example.com or 314-533-9900.
Panel Discussion: Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Missouri History Museum
Higher Ground: Honoring the Story of Washington Park Cemetery
Moderated by Gwen Moore, Missouri Historical Society Curator of Urban Landscape and Community Identity, and featuring Higher Ground project artists Jennifer Colten, Denise Ward-Brown and Dail Chambers; catalogue essayist Michael R. Allen, Director of the Preservation Research Office and Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design and Art; and others, the panelists will illuminate the history of Washington Park Cemetery and discuss the process of honoring its history in an exhibit. Missouri History Museum’s Des Lee Auditorium, admission free. Information at mohistory.org or 314-746-4599.