Critical Mass for the Visual Arts

Critical Mass for the Visual Arts is a nonprofit, self-formed visual arts collaborative dedicated to promoting, enhancing and initiating contemporary visual art in the St. Louis region.


5 Questions – Sarah Paulsen


Join us as we interview Sarah Paulsen about her approach, her work, and her keen perspective on race, finding one’s center, and understanding how our own perspectives relate and differ from those of our fellow beings. Sarah is an artist and animator from St. Louis, MO.  With art projects ranging from parades and happenings to social justice documentaries and portrait paintings, she has been inspired by the communities she has met.  A Spanish speaker, she has visited Spain, Mexico, and South America. Her work has occurred at spaces around the US including; Regional Arts Commission, Three Rivers College, Morehead State, Gallery 210, Mildred Lane Kemper Museum, BS Gallery, Hub Bub, Fort Gondo, and Ragtag Cinema.  Paulsen’s animations have screened at White Flag Projects, St. Louis Film Festival, Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and The Foundry. She received her MFA from Washington University in 2007. Teaching in the past with Forest Park Community College, C.A.M., SLAM, and SCOSAG, she currently instructs art at Marian Middle.  She is a 2010 CAT fellow with recent projects including: founding the People’s Joy Parade and the Chautauqua Art Lab, and coordinating SGCI Cherokee Events. She was named the 2010 RFT Best Local Artist. Sarah was recently the recipient of The Contemporary Art Museum and the Gateway Foundation’s 8th Great Rivers Biennial, her work is showing at CAM until August 19.


Margaret Keller’s Riverbend in Alive Magazine

Check out Rikki Byrd of Alive Magazine’s a feature on our latest Public Works Project recipient Margaret Keller and her Riverbend installation. Riverbend will open in September on Ely Smith Square.

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Public Works Awarded! Margaret Keller’s Riverbend to be Sited at Gateway Arch National Park


Critical Mass for the Visual Arts is pleased to announce that Margaret Keller and her project Riverbend has been selected for the Public Works Project, a program of Critical Mass that invites local artists to propose and develop temporary public art projects. Riverbend is a 90-foot-long reflective, mirror-like artwork which represents the navigable portion of the Missouri River, the longest river in North America. The artwork will be sited on the pavement of the newly renovated Luther Ely Smith Square and will mark the River’s history as the primary means of westward expansion at this crucial spot in the shadow of the Gateway Arch. The artwork will be oriented to the actual route of the Missouri River and created by Margaret Keller based on detailed navigation charts from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. As visitors walk along and interact with the artwork, they will experience the aerial shape of the Missouri River at its confluence with the Mississippi River at the east end of the artwork and the shape of the river as it moves westward. Says Keller, “this project will make comprehensible the physical vastness and importance of the Missouri River. It celebrates and makes visible the river’s massive role both past and present.” Margaret Keller will fabricate Riverbend and install it in Luther Ely Smith Square where it will be accessible to the public for three-months this autumn. Keller has designed Riverbend to be brilliant and ever-changing, to appear almost animated as the surrounding atmosphere is reflected in its surface. Reminiscent of the surface of the Gateway Arch itself, Riverbend will also capture reflections of visitors and highlight them as a part of the site. Other interactive components of the project will include an opportunity for the public to share their stories about rivers and instructions to find and listen to a podcast with more information about the Missouri River. Find Margaret’s concept renderings here.


Creative Stimulus Project Call – Due August 10, 2018


Since 2008, Critical Mass for the Visual Arts has recognized the needs of outstanding local visual artists through the Creative Stimulus Project.  Building upon the mission of Critical Mass to promote and initiate contemporary visual art in St. Louis, the Creative Stimulus Project provides up to three artists or artist collaborations with $1,500 of unrestricted operating capital, the opportunity to exhibit their work in a group exhibition, and participation in the Critical Mass “5 Questions” podcast. Recipients are also eligible to curate future Creative Stimulus exhibitions. Award recipients will receive stipends based on the outstanding nature of their work and their commitment to advancement and career development.  Submissions will be reviewed by a jury panel comprised of local artists, arts professionals, and former Creative Stimulus Award winners. Past recipients include: Jessica Baran, Martin Brief, Tate Foley, Cameron Fuller, Meghan Grubb, Emily Hemeyer, Sarrita Hunn, David Johnson, Asma Kazmi, Angela Malchionno, William Morris, Sarah Paulsen, Carlie Trosclair, Mel Watkin, Brett Williams, Ellie Balk, Addoley Dzegede, Amy Reidel, Sage Dawson, Kahlil Irving and Adrienne Outlaw.  Applications due August 10, 2018. For more information, click the link above; For a full list of past recipients check out this link:

Critical Conversations – A Matter of Taste- Video Now Available

Thanks to all who came out for our most recent Critical Conversation- A Matter of Taste. In particular, thanks to our panel James McAnally, Jessica Baran, and Elizabeth Wolfson! These three took on critical agency, taste, canon, and dug into their own critical and organizational presuppositions with regard to supporting artists and furthering and supporting creative practice. Critical Mass would also like to thank The Luminary, and all of you who engaged with our panel either digitally or otherwise.


2018 Creative Stimulus Award Exhibition


This exhibition, curated by past Creative Stimulus Award-winner Mel Watkin, presents work by the 2018 winners of the Critical Mass Creative Stimulus Award: Kahlil Robert Irving, Adrienne Outlaw and Sage Dawson. Winning artists received an award of $1,500 to use as creative operating capital, along with the opportunity to present their work in this exhibition, which is hosted by the Sheldon Art Galleries. Creative Stimulus awards unrestricted funding to support artists to pursue special projects, experiment with new techniques and deepen their understanding of their working processes. The show opens to the public Friday June 1, from 5-7 pm and closes August 12 at The Sheldon Art Galleries- 3700 Grandel Square, St. Louis, MO 63108. For hours of operation, check out the Sheldon’s website.