Gephardt News St. Louis Fellowship Program Student News

Immersion trips for Fellows offer in-depth experiences in STL neighborhoods

The St. Louis Fellows toured the Counterpublic civic art exhibition on July 8, part of one of several immersion trips this summer as the Fellows learn about the St. Louis region and its neighborhoods.

As a part of their commitment to serve St. Louis effectively and responsibly, Gephardt Institute’s 2023 St. Louis Fellows listen and learn from local St. Louisans through Engage STL Days, where they visit local neighborhoods and hear from community members. The institute’s 33 fellows had the opportunity to interact with two cultural hubs in St. Louis, alongside Gephardt staff Sarah Nash and Sam Babb.  

On June 17, the Fellows toured Cahokia Mounds, a Native American historic site facing St. Louis from across the Mississippi River. After, the Fellows journeyed to East St. Louis to meet residents at East Side Heart & Home Family Center.  

“It was important to me that we ground ourselves in the indigenous history of the St. Louis region where the Fellows would be working and living this summer,” Nash said about the tour.  

On July 8, they visited the historic and exuberant Cherokee Street followed by a tour of Counterpublic—a civic exhibition that highlights and celebrates the integration of art into the folds of St. Louis life. 

“This year, in particular, Counterpublic’s vision was to be a beacon of creative thinking and community engagement—an inclusive art platform that expands social, political, and civic horizons. The interconnectedness of Counterpublic’s mission with the goals of the St. Louis Fellows program was just too great to not organize a tour with the St. Louis Fellows,” Nash said, about the group’s trip to Counterpublic. 

While experiencing Counterpublic’s immersive exhibit, the group found themselves awestruck by local artist Damon Davis’s “Pillars of the Valley” installation. 

“Davis’s installation commemorates the once thriving Mill Creek Valley neighborhood in such a powerful, thoughtful way, and I enjoyed watching the Fellows make connections between history, art, and civic engagement,” Nash said. 

Gillian Strauss ‘25 works with the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, and had the chance to work with both the East Side Heart and Home Family Center and Cherokee Community Improvement district through her internship. 

“It has been an incredible opportunity to learn more about the ways non-profits meet community members where they are and act as stakeholders to create lasting impacts,” Strauss said about both trips. 

 Last week on July 22, a group of Fellows toured the South Grand Neighborhood, while a second group toured North St. Louis City. At the next Engage STL trip on Aug. 8, the groups will swap and tour the neighborhoods they didn’t experience on July 22. In small groups over the course of the day, they will take a walking tour of the neighborhoods and learn about Black history at the Griot Museum.