Kirkwood's new metal sculpture still needs a name

Thursday, August 11, 2011 | 6:34 p.m. CDT; updated 10:57 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ST. LOUIS — What's 10 feet tall, green, weighs more than 400 pounds, holds a pitchfork and stands in front of the Kirkwood Farmers' Market?

Well, it's hard to say because, for now, the thing has no name.

The new painted metal sculpture, donated by artist Brother Mel Meyer, was unwrapped July 16 in front of Summit Produce at 150 East Argonne Drive. It won't have a name until one is chosen during a naming contest under way.

Kori Thompson, Kirkwood Farmers Market event coordinator, said the sculpture appears to be a farmer holding a pitchfork.

"I think he symbolizes different things to different people, which is why we're asking the community to participate in a naming contest," Thompson said. "But people already love him, and we've been told he's a wonderful addition to the market. Some pass by, don't notice him right away, walk back and tell me he looks like he's always been here, which is a compliment, that he fits in."

The naming contest opened July 23 and has about 50 entries, Thompson said.

"It's fun looking at them all, though we've had some duplicate names suggested, such as Farmer Kirk," she said.

A committee will judge all submissions, and the winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Downtown Kirkwood.

Marianist Brother Mel Meyer has spent six days a week for the past 36 years at his studio on the grounds of St. John Vianney High School in Kirkwood. He works in a variety of media, including acrylics, metal, handmade paper, stone, glass and watercolor.

Although many of his pieces are religious, such as altars, tabernacles and stained glass windows, Meyer has worked on other projects for St. Louis institutions, including a war memorial in Forest Park and pieces for Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The genesis of the sculpture's arrival came when the nonprofit Kirkwood Living Green group, which advocates protecting and conserving natural resources, asked Meyer if he had a chicken or rooster sculpture that would fit in with the group's "Eggstravaganza" Earth Day event this spring. They wanted to place it in the greenway on Argonne at Kirkwood Road.

"But Brother Mel told them he had something better, a farmer sculpture, then on loan to a group in Illinois," Thompson said.

Meyer told the group the market would be a better setting for his sculpture, she said.

After Mayor Art McDonnell, the City Council and others gave the nod, Meyer donated the sculpture to the 35-year-old market.

City workers transported it from Vianney and installed it on a concrete pad at the market.

A renowned artist for more than 50 years, Meyer, 83, said the sculpture was created originally for a Kansas City area mall.

"I did four all told years ago for the mall: a woman on a spiral staircase, an artist with a beret and a skateboarder, in addition to this one," Meyer said. "But then they told me they didn't want to emphasize farming in Kansas, so I loaned it to Belleville."

When he was asked for a sculpture for Kirkwood, he gave Belleville a replacement and asked for his farmer back.

"I thought this would be appropriate for Kirkwood because a farmer would be ideal for the market," Meyer said. "The city did a nice job putting him in place in a prominent setting, and I think the naming contest's a good idea."

Dan Mitchell, owner of Summit Produce in the market, praised the new addition.

"I've done some welding, and I really appreciate all the work, the time and effort, that went into it, especially since Brother Mel just gave it to us," he said.

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