Frankie Muse Freeman

Submitted by Brian Owens

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Client: NAACP St. Louis gifted to City of St. Louis

Location: St. Louis, MO, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $118,000

Project Team

Client

Adolphus Pruitt

NAACP St. Louis

Client

Donald W. Roe

City of St. Louis Panning & Urban Design Agency

Artist

Brian Owens

Overview

A 6-1/2 foot tall bronze monument of civil rights attorney Frankie Muse Freeman as I imagine she appeared in 1955 after winning her landmark case against the City of St. Louis. I was also responsible for the design and fabrication of the bronze base, delivery, and installation.

Goals

The sculpture was integrated into a very high profile, newly redeveloped public park (Kiener Plaza) two blocks from the St.Louis arch. Location and orientation was key, because the Old Courthouse where she won her first major case, faces the park. This courthouse has a special place in the public imagination, as it was connected to the infamous Dred Scott Decision over a century before.

Process

I was responsible for all aspects of the design, but worked closely with the City Planner and the landscape architect that designed Kiener Plaza. Collaboration was key, because construction of the park was well underway when the City agreed to install the sculpture in it and a small portion of it had to be redesigned. The project also benefitted from my artistic collaboration with Frankie Freeman's daughter who is also an artist. She was helpful in her critique of the hair and helped sculpt it during a visit to my studio.

Additional Information

The commissioning agency, NAACP St. Louis, desired a "turn key solution" that required a larger scope of work than is generally required for a project such as this. The City has no public art agency and contracted with a regional arts organization to look out for their interests, requiring an unusual degree of flexibility, understanding and patience on all sides. Everything worked out fine. This project was seen as a unqualified triumph.