Local art initiatives shine light on literature

The Missouri Review, a literary magazine, has collaborated with city departments to produce street poems and pop-up park-style seating.

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Walking to class in the middle of a downpour in Columbia can feel like trying to outrun a monsoon. Puddles of water fill your shoes, umbrellas have magically vanished, and not your clothes and your belongings are dripping wet as you wring out your hair endlessly. People think of walking in the rain as a buzzkill, but The Missouri Review, a literary magazine based at MU, is turning it into an opportunity to not only appreciate poems, but to win a contest.

Throughout downtown, there are nine hidden snippets of famous poems written on the sidewalk outside of local businesses. The catch is that they are only visible when it rains, and they will only last four to six weeks.

“The number nine doesn’t stand for anything significant,” Assistant Director of Outreach Jennifer Coffman said. “What is significant is that each poem has something to do with the business that it’s near.”

Kate McIntyre, managing editor of The Missouri Review, said the purpose of the contest is to promote The Missouri Review and bring awareness to famous pieces of poetry. Having art displayed in places people don’t ordinarily see it can also be a nice surprise.

“The normal reflex isn’t to go run out in the street in the rain,” Coffman said. “People need to know that they are there to go look for them.”

Several other cities have taken part in projects like this. McIntyre said the magazine was inspired by a similar project in Boston, and the staff liked the idea.

“We have been trained to spread work of The Missouri Review around Columbia,” McIntyre said. “It seemed like a natural fit for downtown; there is so much public art already.”

The Missouri Review had to receive permission from Columbia City Council, which allowed them two months to get the project done. Interns from The Missouri Review helped pick the poems, create the stencils and cut them out. This is something The Missouri Review hopes to continue with something similar in the future, but closer to summer because of the extensive workload.

Not only are these poems appearing downtown, but a parklet, featuring decorated wooden seating to promote social gathering, has been installed.

Through Oct. 11, the seating will be located outside of Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream between Ninth and Cherry Street. This is organized by Columbia Parks and Recreation, which allowed The Missouri Review to put in a free library featuring literature along with copies of The Missouri Review.

“This is our fourth year having the parklet in Columbia,” said Janet Godon, outreach coordinator for Parks and Recreation. “We move it around about every three weeks.”

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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