"Light is my paint,” visual artist Raven Fox of Radiant Studio Works states, and an installation by him now at Ritz Park certainly supports that statement.
“City Campfire,” that commissioned aluminum-and-rivets installation, runs till Aug. 1 in the outdoor event space at 3147 S. Grand Blvd. in St. Louis’ South Grand business district and Tower Grove South neighborhood.
Stunning, even mesmeric, against the velvet backdrop of night in the metro area, it uses light-emitting diodes and other technology to simulate a logs-on-the-flames, marshmallows-on-sticks campfire.
A press release from Rachel Witt, the executive director of the South Grand Community Improvement District, notes that the district “partnered with Campfire, a local organization that teaches and practices storytelling and group facilitation. Campfire sees a future where people know their story, tell their story and own their story.”
Fox, who operates out of California, Missouri and New York, characterizes himself as a storyteller, among other things, and has created similar community-oriented works both locally and nationally.
During the initial COVID-19 lockdown, the press release continues, Fox found himself “wondering about what kinds of stories people would tell after the pandemic. He set out to create an environment to encourage people to come together to share stories, much like the storytelling that occurs around a campfire.”
“City Campfire” incorporates half a dozen narratives from Campfire storytellers through an audio component at the installation, in hopes of inspiring visitors to Ritz Park to share their own coronaviral tales with family, friends or others.
“Everything has a story and has always had a story,” Steven Harowitz, the executive director of Campfire, notes.
Harowitz continues by discussing the communal rationale for Fox’s installation. “I believe that when someone chooses to share their personal story, we should give them respect and attention,” he states. “It’s one of the most sacred and vulnerable gifts a person can give.
“The default position as a listener should be to start from a place of trust and belief in the person’s story. The personal stories – of our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers – shared at ‘City Campfire’ deserve our attention and respect.”
Finally, Harowitz reflects on the aesthetic informing his organization’s efforts in general and the Fox installation in particular. “Personal narrative isn’t about making life stories look or feel better,” he relates. “It’s about honesty, vulnerability and using story to reflect on the things that happen to us.
“At Campfire, we actively tell people not to perform their stories or make them something they’re not. The really good stories are the ones that people tell in their free and natural voice about moments that have impacted their lives in meaningful ways. There isn’t much that must be done to ‘aestheticize’ a story.
“Storytelling work is more about the storytellers – rather than the stories – and creating a space for the stories to be heard, seen and felt by others. That space is exactly why we at Campfire were excited to partner with Raven Fox and South Grand Community Improvement District on the ‘City Campfire’ installation.”