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Ancient and Modern Musical Instruments Inspire New Exhibition at STL

Posted on November 19, 2018 in Art

A new exhibition at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) links two different forms of art to communicate culture, artistry, and the human experience. The Mud to Music exhibition displays musical instruments composed of clay and porcelain from the Sheldon Art Galleries’ Hartenberger World Music Collection.

As air travel increases and different cultures and communities interact, there is a growing interest in world music. These instruments, used in all parts of the world for thousands of years, tell the story of dynamic human experiences throughout history. Instruments on display are from a wide variety of regions, including Mexico, China and France, and range in date from 100 B.C.E. through the 1980s. The instruments also vary in type and include a clay rattle from western Mexico dating to 200 B.C.E., a 19th century porcelain horn from China, and a 20th century clay ocarina, in the shape of an elephant, from Israel.

“The transformation of clay or mud into musical instruments is truly remarkable, just as the making of music is an amazing art form heard around the world,” says Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger, curator of the Mud to Music exhibition. Not only do these instruments blend music and clay, some also contain elements of religious beliefs, revealing an even deeper connection to the craftsman who made them, the culture they came from, and the beliefs they held.

Mud to Music is now on display through May 5, 2019 in the Lambert Gallery near the C Concourse exit in Terminal 1 and is part of the Lambert Art & Culture Program’s temporary exhibitions program. The program is supported by the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis.

The Sheldon Art Galleries were chosen to exhibit in the Lambert Art & Culture Program through the Airport’s seven-member Airport Art Advisory Committee. Current members are Lisa Cakmak, Associate Curator of Ancient Art at Saint Louis Art Museum; Ellen Gale, Executive Director Clayton Chamber of Commerce; Shelley Hagan, Wells Fargo Curator Corporate Art; Leslie Markle, Curator of Public Art, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum; Kiku Obata, Founding Principal of Kiku Obata & Co.; Roseann Weiss, consultant with ART+; and design artist and illustrator Carlos Zamora. 

The mission of the Lambert Art and Culture Program is to create a visually outstanding impression of St. Louis Lambert International Airport, generate community pride, and ensure that art at the airport continues to complement and build upon the airport’s rich visual legacy. The program aims to highlight the St. Louis region’s unique art and culture, while also showcasing national and international works, focusing on both visual and performing arts. Currently, there are 29 works of art (temporary, permanent or on-loan) on exhibit at the Airport. For more information, visit