Thursday, 29 August 2013 10:54

Welcome to the Wunderkammer

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In my hand, I am holding an invitation to the opening of an art gallery. Regularly, that would mean a crisply clean info card or brochure with bright splashes of color.

Not this one. This one is a thin slip of yellowed paper that looks like it was printed seventy or so years ago and was recently found in a dusty trunk in grandma’s attic. The only reason I’m sure it’s new is because of the web info and hashtag at the bottom.

In my hand, I hold my entry into the mysterious Living Gallery.

Photo by Jarred Gastreich

Photo by Jarred Gastreich

Kristin Cassidy, 22, and Bryan Payne, 28 are the artists and curators behind this project.   The two scavengers search the riverside and other locations to find remnants of the past. At home, they carefully clean the items, bring them back to life, and present them in a respectful way. The Living Gallery is a creative hodgepodge. According to Payne and Cassidy, it is a “museum/I-Spy game/art gallery/performance art piece”. Wheh! In short, it is an experience in history.

In addition to the soon-to-be-opened Living Gallery, Cassidy and Payne have also created “Where’s Mahach?”, an online personality of the Living Gallery and an extension of the performance.

The beginning of the Living Gallery starts and grows from love, not only of historical objects, but between two people.

Almost four years ago in Los Angles, a shy Bryan was working as a barista at a Starbucks that Kristin, who is originally from Alaska, frequented.   Noticing her fashionably fun outfits, Bryan finally decided to speak up.

“Evidentially, I told her that she was wearing her best outfit to date, “ Payne shares. “I meant her best outfit so far that I’d ever seen and she thought I was asking her out.”

Cassidy smiles. “Well, I wasn’t sure. I was thinking, ‘What does he mean by that? Why would he state it in such a strange way? Was that a Freudian slip?’”

Freudian slip or not, the eccentric pair hit it off. It is that leap of faith and appreciation for wonder that pointed them to St. Louis two years ago. Bryan, who is a native St. Louisan, was back in town working on a project when Kristin came to visit. Together, they fell head over heels for the city and its textured history. On Kristin’s last day, she suggested that they move here. Now, they call St. Louis home.

As many of us can see, St. Louis is in the midst of a slow-growing transformation. For the movers and shakers that are spearheading this, it is extremely important that that growth be organic and loving. That sort of passion has not only strengthened the pride of those who live here, but are attracting individuals who are looking something more real.

Payne explains, “You get a bigger sense of reality that doesn’t exist in the bigger metropolis. A true passion rather than an imposed passion because people have the chance to discover themselves here and work together to accomplish anything.”

“This city is very much based off of love,” Cassidy praises. “People do what they are passionate about and they have the ability to do what they are passionate about because the city is coming out of a ruin. They get to create from within rather than build on top of something else. People here are really passionate. It’s really wonderful to work with such humble, passionate people.”

For two years, this humble and passionate couple has been building their own wunderkammer (“cabinet of curiosity” for you non-German speakers) and this holiday weekend, they open it for the world to see.

On August 31st and September 1st, the Living Gallery will be giving free tours to patrons. This is a great place to be if you love curiosities, history, or just a good game of I Spy. To learn more, check out the Living Gallery website.