Mosaic Art

Fairview Heights to get art development along St. Clair Avenue | Pro Club Bd

Silas Coggeshall paints the Circle K gas station from the deck of his home on the Old Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights.  He is one of two artists-in-residence at a non-profit organization called Art Village.

Silas Coggeshall paints the Circle K gas station from the deck of his home on the Old Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights. He is one of two artists-in-residence at a non-profit organization called Art Village.

Fairview Heights is known for its shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and trampoline parks.

David Kniepkamp wants it to be known for art too.

The local businessman has bought homes and commercial properties along St. Clair Avenue, just west of Bunkum Road, and plans to build the Art Village, a two-acre development with studios, galleries, classrooms, a sculpture park and artist housing. in-residence and rooms for music, theater and dance.

Kniepkamp and his fiancé, the artist Catharine Magel, also founded a non-profit association so that others can support the project with money, materials, services or ideas.

“I think it’s something that can improve the community, engage the community and bring economic value to this side of Fairview Heights,” said Kniepkamp, ​​61, who lives in the neighborhood.

The City of Fairview Heights agrees.

City councilors voted in June to lease an adjacent city-owned lot at 10035 Lincoln Trail to the Art Village organization for $1 a year, beginning August 1. It is used for a sculpture park with changing outdoor exhibitions.

The city bought the 2.3 hectare lot about four years ago and demolished a run-down former dental practice on it.

“One of our long-term goals as a city is to revitalize the west side of the city,” said Paul Ellis, director of economic development. “That was one of the reasons for the location of The Rec.”

Ellis was referring to the city’s fitness and recreation center, which opened on Bunkum Road in 2019.

Model (1).jpg
Art Village co-founder David Kniepkamp (left) answers questions at an open house held at The REC in Fairview Heights in December. He is standing next to a model that shows what the project could look like one day. City of Fairview Heights

Sculpture park near the school

The Art Village Sculpture Park will be located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Bunkum Road and the section of US 50 known as the Lincoln Trail, which becomes St. Clair Avenue west.

The property is across the Old Lincoln Trail from Grant Middle School, across Bunkum Road from the rest of the Art Village and less than 2 miles from Moody Park, home of the Midwest Salute to the Arts Festival each summer.

The City of Fairview Heights has applied for a $2.3 million grant for its nearby Lincoln Trail Corridor Streetscape project. The Rebuild Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Grant program is administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity using federal COVID relief funds.

If approved, the grant would be supplemented with city funds from the Lincoln Trail Tax Increase Funding District and used for the installation of sidewalks, decorative lighting, and landscaping along the Lincoln Trail and St. Clair Avenue between Pasadena Drive and St. Clair Road, according to the application .

This would benefit Art Village as streetscape improvements would run along its north side.

“Whether (the grant) goes through or not, we’re going to use TIF funds and take it as far as we can,” Ellis said. “Winning the grant would add value to the project. Not winning the scholarship would not stop it.”

The motion says the city has been working for years to revitalize the Lincoln Trail, described as Fairview Heights’ original “Main Street,” before decades of divestment and decline.

Kniepkamp and Magel hope to open the sculpture park in August, just ahead of the Aug. 26-28 Midwest Salute to the Arts Festival. The first exhibit features works by Noah Kirby, a sculptor and blacksmith who teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

This map from a PowerPoint presentation shows the area of ​​Fairview Heights where Art Village is planned, including a 12-acre block (left) for studios, galleries, and artists’ housing and a sub-block (right) that the city is giving to the organization rents a sculpture park. Provided

Larger than average block

Kniepkamp is the founding owner of Smart Controls, a 29 year old company located at 10000 St. Clair Ave. that designs, manufactures and sells control products for commercial building automation.

Kniepkamp bought the entire lot on a nearly two-acre block bounded by St. Clair Avenue, Bunkum Road, Old Lincoln Trail and St. Clair Road, except for a vacant Casey’s gas station and a private home. He also bought a building across from Old Lincoln.

“It’s always been one of my goals to take this block and repurpose it to improve this area and the community,” he said. “It needs a new life, a new energy.”

Kniepkamp’s understanding of art has grown since meeting Magel, who specializes in public art, including ceramic sculpture, cast metal and large-scale murals. In 2020, they founded ArtSculpt International, a business through which she sells custom handmade mosaic tiles and other work made in her St. Louis studio.

That same year, the couple entered Art Village in the Metro East Start-Up Challenge Business Plan competition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. They won the $10,000 first place prize.

Kniepkamp and Magel see art not only as a cultural enrichment, but also as an economic engine and an opportunity for social networking.

“The art seems a bit lacking in this area,” Magel said. “It takes a shot in the arm, and art has a way of revitalizing, inspiring and energizing people in the community to come together.”

Artist Catharine Magel and businessman David Kniepkamp pose in front of their artwork on display at his Fairview Heights office. They work together on Art Village development. Teri Maddox

Village is in the works

Kniepkamp and Magel don’t have a firm schedule for completing Art Village. It is considered a work in progress. Landscaping is scheduled to begin next spring.

A house purchased is already being used as an artist-in-residence for painter and sculptor Silas Coggeshall, 25. He recently earned his master’s degree from SIUE and works as a gallery assistant at the Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries in St. Louis.

Coggeshall, who can often be seen painting on the patio behind his small white house, is fortunate to be on the ground floor of the Art Village planning and execution.

“I’ve always been interested in how these kinds of programs come about,” he said.

Three other homes on the block are being converted, one into housing for a second artist-in-residence, mixed-media sculptor Sarah Knight; one for an ArtSculpt gallery; and one for a rental unit. A commercial building is also leased by a State Farm insurance agency.

About 75 people turned out for an open house for the Lincoln Trail Corridor Streetscape project at The Rec in December, where Kniepkamp displayed a mockup of what an “arts district” might one day look like.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in the community,” Ellis said.

“There were no negative comments,” added Kniepkamp. “Everyone was very nice and helpful.”

Paul Ellis
Fairview Heights economic development director Paul Ellis is working with nonprofit Art Village to revitalize Lincoln Trail and St. Clair Avenue. Teri Maddox

Teri Maddox has been a reporter for 37 years and joined the Belleville News Democrat in 1990. She also teaches journalism at St. Louis Community College in Forest Park. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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