Jeff Vander-Lou residents have a new Black hero to admire.
"Rumors of War," a sculpture by the world-famous Nigerian American visual artist Kehinde Wiley, is now located on North Jefferson Avenue near Martin Luther King Boulevard. The sculpture features a Black male fashioned in a hoodie, blue jeans, high-top sneakers, and dreadlocks.
It is one of nine smaller figures from Wiley’s original "Rumors of War" statues on the grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Doorways, an interfaith non-profit committed to providing housing and resources to the HIV/AIDS population experiencing homelessness, installed the sculpture at the grand opening of its New Jefferson Avenue Campus in October.
“The sculpture takes back this narrative we all live in and grew up with about who we are, who we can be and how we see ourselves,” said Doorways President and CEO Opal M. Jones.
“It was important to me for our residents who come from this place of adversity and trauma to be able to imagine themselves in a different light through this piece. I hope when they see the sculpture on the street they can take a breather, relax, and know they are loved and supported.”
Doorways’ new $40 million headquarters features offices, 50 housing units, programming space, and a playground.
“Our desire to move on Jefferson Avenue in north St. Louis was very intentional,” Jones said. “We want it to be in a space that has public transportation, access to amenities for residents, and have them become part of what will be this vibrant community.”
Doorways, partnered with Gateway Foundation, which purchased the sculpture and made a long-term loan of it to Doorways. Gateway Foundation is responsible for creating City Garden, and other area pieces of sculpted art.
“Gateway Foundation is always looking to expand the reach of art to parts of the city where it does not have enough of a presence,” said Paul Wagman, Gateway Foundation spokesperson. Gateway could not be more delighted about the piece and its placement. They are perfect for each other.”
Lisa Melandri, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis executive director, serves on the Gateway Foundation’s board and voted in favor of the Wiley statue’s installation.
“It’s exciting to bring work by an artist who is so internationally acclaimed to our community, so that we have a chance to see it, live with it and [experience it] first hand,” Melandri said.