As the Gateway City, St. Louis sits at the intersection of many things, including its own past and future. Counterpublic is a nonprofit dedicated to exploring our community’s vast history and its connections to daily life through the power of contemporary art. The triennial exhibition brings art into public spaces to reimagine civic infrastructure and push St. Louis toward impactful change while also spotlighting the region’s artistic and cultural scene both nationally and internationally. Its second edition runs through July 15.

Counterpublic brought together 30 artists to create works for the 2023 exhibition. “Whether local or not, everyone came to St. Louis to create something new that looks at the region’s history and elevates it,” explains executive and artistic director James McAnally. “We invited each artist to think about what they are leaving behind, and we extend that question to visitors. These sites are cornerstones of how we understand our past, and we’re using art to open up new doors for expanding our future.” The exhibition runs the length of the city down Jefferson Avenue, with The Griot Museum of Black History in the north and going south to Sugarloaf Mound, the oldest
human-made structure in St. Louis and the last intact Native American mound in the city.

Further connecting the past and present of St. Louis, the exhibition’s opening was held at CITYPARK Stadium, which is home to the permanent installation Pillars of the Valley by artist Damon Davis. The monument pays tribute to Mill Creek Valley, the once thriving Black neighborhood that was demolished in the 1950s in the name of urban renewal. “We’re thrilled that thousands of soccer fans will be able to learn about a piece of local history that has been forgotten,” notes Lee Broughton, Counterpublic co-founder and chief brand architect of St. Louis CITY SC. “It’s massively important to have a venue like CITYPARK to give a platform to community voices that would otherwise go unheard.”

For those wanting to explore the exhibition, McAnnally recommends starting at CITY Pavilion, The Griot Museum or The Luminary. These hubs are open at minimum Wednesday through Saturday and offer resources like free parking, exhibition materials, merchandise and staff who can answer questions. “We’ve designed the experience to be something you can revisit,” he says. “You can take a few hours in the afternoon and explore different aspects.” Counterpublic also has partnered with other arts organizations like the Kemper Art Museum, Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Saint Louis Art Museum for unique events and experiences.

While organizing an exhibition of this scale is a large undertaking, Counterpublic’s mission is even bigger. Its goal is to interrogate civic infrastructures to facilitate change. “We believe that artists hold up an important mirror to society,” Broughton notes. “Through storytelling, they can weave the chords of shared experience to bring us together. Art gives us the ability to have conversations that would otherwise be much more difficult. With Counterpublic, we’re sharing historical trauma and how those effects reverberate throughout St. Louis. It’s an opportunity to inform generational change within the community.”

CounterPublic is a triennial civic exhibition that uses the intersection of contemporary art and life in St. Louis to move toward generational change. Its second edition runs through July 15. Pictured on the cover: Micah Mickles, Cara Starke, Lee Broughton, James MCAnally, Vincent Stemmler, Aja Corrigan, Marcela Manjarrez, Melisa Sanders, Yvonne Osei. For more information, visit and follow @counterpublic on Instagram.

Cover courtesy of Cannonball Agency

Pictured at top: Pillars of the Valley by Damon Davis at CITYPARK
Photo by Jon Gitchoff