For over 50 years the phrase “Let’s meet under the Dove” meant assembling on the parking lot at West County Shopping Center under its celebrated dove sign. For generations of St. Louisans, it was the meeting place – the one where you gathered to hang out and shop with friends, catch a bus to Six Flags or a ride to or from college, or even just to enjoy each other’s company.
West County Center’s iconic dove has been a lighting rod calling friends to gather for over 50 years.
When the mall was closed in January 2001 to allow for a major remodeling, the dove was removed from its perch overlooking Interstate 270 – but not for long. By mid-September 2002, the dove was back. Today, it is still inspiring people to gather safely, stroll and shop the mall. However, this month, “meeting at the dove” means a great deal more – especially to the local arts community.
“We’re in uncertain times,” said Sean Phillips, West County Center marketing director and one of the creative forces behind a new, month-long art exhibit at the Center.
“So many events have been canceled, especially in the arts community, we knew we had to do something to try to support artists,” Phillips said. “To replace the art fairs that have been canceled while trying to bring some entertainment back into the community.”
Phillips and his team worked with the St. Louis Artists Guild to develop an event inspired by West County’s dove. The result is the Dove Love Art Walk.
“The dove is the sign of hope, peace and love. Because West County’s dove has been a part of the St. Louis Community for over 50 years, it served as our inspiration to bring artists together to interpret their message of peace, love and hope through their work. We provided the display space and each artist with the canvas they needed to create a piece for the show,” Phillips said.
A total of 11 artists were commissioned to create large-format works, which are on display now through Sept. 30 throughout West County’s lower level between anchor stores Nordstrom and JCPenny.
Among the artists displayed is Sherry Salant, who has been coming to the mall since she was 12 years old. Salant used her mall memories to create a colorful painting depicting doves flying free.
“When I was 12 years old this wonderful mall opened. For a preteen, this represented freedom,” Salant said. “What represents freedom more than a dove flying in the night sky. Whenever we were near the mall on Manchester or Highway 270 you could see that beacon of the dove shining in the distance. How welcoming it was and is to me to this day. I still smile whenever I see that dove in the distance, which is one of the reasons I was thrilled to paint for this project. This dove, symbolizing hope and love, has been an important part of my life.”
More than memories and symposium, Salant has a bigger reason for taking part in Dove Love. She wanted to give back and help raise money for the local art community.
“It’s a difficult time for those of us that are artists,” Salant explained. “Our art shows have been cancelled, put on hold or put online. Our incomes have suffered greatly. I want to do whatever I can to support those artists that need help.”
Visitors, shoppers and art lovers are encouraged to stroll the Dove Love Art Walk and vote via text for their favorite works. The top three artists with the most votes will receive West County gift cards. After the Dove Love Art Walk closes the paintings will be donated to the St. Louis Artists Guild and be auctioned during its November virtual fundraiser. Funds raised will be split 50/50 between the Dove Love artists and the Artist Guild.