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Let It Rain! UCHS Students Celebrate Poetry Through Public Art

Raining poetry students with stencil

Here's something to perk up a rainy day!

The next time you visit University City High School and it's raining, look down on the sidewalk near the front entrance, and you'll find a bit of poetry to brighten your day.

April was National Poetry Month, and several UCHS students celebrated by taking part in a University City public art project called Raining Poetry. The project was sponsored by the city's Municipal Commission on Arts & Letters. Participants were asked to shower beautiful poetry on local citizens, while also recognizing the area's rich literary heritage. The activity involved spraypainting lines of poetry for display at sites around University City, including the high school. Four poets with Missouri roots were represented: Langston Hughes, Howard Nemerov, Mona Van Duyn and Maya Angelou.

UCHS studio arts students under the direction of teacher Marnie Claunch and visual artist Adelia Parker-Castro used stencils and special paint, visible only when it rains, to reproduce lines of famous poetry. The project created a visually stunning welcome to those who enter or walk by the high school in the rain - and inspiration from poet Angelou: "Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear, I rise."

"What a great way to be in the moment," said Parker-Castro, who helped the students with the project. "After we did the installation, I photographed the work in the rain and was able to observe the various responses. People were surprised and delighted to see the poetry displayed in such a unique way." 

poet laureate The students were inspired to take part in the project following a classroom visit with Jane Ellen Ibur, the newly installed Poet Laureate of St. Louis, who helped the students write their own poetry.

"The project has been a wonderful experience for my students," Claunch said. " Jane Ibur shared her reasons for writing, and how poetry has helped her through difficult times. After reading some of her poems, the students were inspired. She helped guide them through the writing of their own poems, which were amazingly thoughtful and meaningful." 

In addition to the high school, the poetry is on display a the market in the Loop (6655 Delmar), Centennial Commons recreation center (7210 Olive) and the University City Public Library (6701 Delmar). To learn more about the Raining Poetry Project check out the Arts & Letters Commission.