Seed the Change: A Public Art Project Informed by Its Audience

How can arts organizations engage new audiences and create opportunities for local artists to create new work?

Regional Arts Commission St. Louis

How can the work of artists enliven public space and draw people together?

This was a challenge that Critical Mass for the Visual Arts posed when it launched the “Public Works Project,” an initiative that invites visual artists to propose ideas for temporary public art projects.

Seed the Change

Photo by Jon Slavkin.

In 2016, Critical Mass commissioned the first Public Works Project, Seed the Change, created by artist Jessica Witte. Seed the Change was a day-long collaborative drawing event on June 5, 2016 on the Riverfront at the Arch in St. Louis. Using sunflower seeds, safflower and millet, an unforgettable “seed drawing” was made on the sidewalk along the river, centering on the Arch and extending hundreds of feet north and south. The underlying design, based on native wildflowers, was outlined by Witte and her team. Visitors helped build the drawing with seed throughout the day. The drawing grew and changed with the participation of the audience. Time-lapse photography recorded the changing form of the drawing over its lifespan. The Seed the Change website provides documentation of the evolution of the work throughout the day. The project was supported by a grant from the William E. Weiss Foundation.

Seed the Change Public Art

“Seed the Change” by Jessica Witte. 400-foot-long drawing with the public (middle 120 foot section). Sunflower, safflower and millet seed. Arch riverfront, St. Louis, 2016.

This summer Seed the Change was one of 49 projects honored (out of 325 submitted) through the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Public Art Network Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. Witte’s blog on the AFTA website talks more about her process. The time-lapse video of the installation was featured in the 2017 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.

Critical Mass for the Visual Arts plans to launch a second Public Works Project in 2018 with support from the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis.