Chroma’s outdoor plaza, at the corner of Sarah Street and Chouteau, is a newly expanded and uniquely designed public space for residents and community programming. Colorful geometric bollards bookend the plaza, a quirky Tom Otterness sculpture greets passersby beneath the iconic Grove sign, a custom wood-beam sculpture of the Sarah Street Ampersand, and a 7800 square foot mural on the ground plane was recently installed. These are the first of many planned works of public art as part of the Sarah Street St. Louis Project to create an open gallery that everyone can experience at Chroma in The Grove and extending beyond the property line north along Sarah Street to Cortex.
The ground plane mural, titled River Cities Population Map, is a large-scale data visualization by local artist Ellie Balk. The mural graphs the population of St. Louis and 11 river cities, chosen by recent boom in tech culture, through time from 1900-2017. Circle graphs are sized based on current population and placed geographically in the space. Lines connect the circles, showing the distance between cities and creating shapes that play off of the geometric facets of the bollards. The design sparks fun and engagement through its interplay within the physical space and with the data itself.
Balk describes herself as “obsessed” with color, pattern, music and math. Her compositions are driven by creating specific rule sets and color codes that build systems with which can be read and interacted by the viewer. Although the work is formally abstract, there is a language to the compositions that engage participation and investigation. She has spent the last 15 years making work primarily in the public realm, most recently in Cortex with the Sister Cities mural and in St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport.
Read more about the mural in Alive Magazine and the St. Louis Jewish Light: