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May 15, 2007 9:09 AM CDT

Grand Center Public Arts Project

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Apprentices of Bricklayers' Local Union #1 were the key to constructing the Grand Center Public Arts Plaza.
Apprentices of Bricklayers' Local Union #1 were the key to constructing the Grand Center Public Arts Plaza.

In addition to Habitat for Humanity project, the Masonry Institute of St. Louis received a call for help concerning a project to benefit the Midtown arts community. Ten students from the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University had designed an arts plaza to be constructed next to Powell Hall and they needed help in getting it built.

The project plans were brought to the Masonry Institute where they were reviewed by the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, led by co-chairmen Don Brown of Bricklayers' Union Local No. 1 of Missouri and Rick Swanson, Swanson Masonry. Once the committee signed off, the plans were passed on to Mark Kruetzman, head of the Bricklayers' Apprentice School. While apprentices from the iron and cement workers would be involved, the bricklayer apprentices would handle the job of assembling the masonry: two parallel 60' CMU walls tied together by a small enclosed structure for future art exhibits.

"We sent a number of classes over, representing a considerable amount of man hours," said Kruetzman. "At any one time we had as many as 20 men working for roughly five days." Steve Jahnsen, apprentice school instructor, was usually on-site to supervise.

The Plaza will host outdoor exhibitions, live performances, video and an assortment of new media work by local and nationally known artists.
The Plaza will host outdoor exhibitions, live performances, video and an assortment of new media work by local and nationally known artists.

While apprentices that normally work on the commercial side of the business are well acquainted with block, those who build houses aren't as familiar with the material. Building the plaza gave them a valuable lesson in the intricacies of a block project. In addition, Kruetzman said the overall experience helped contribute to their growth as individuals. "Working on this kind of altruistic project aids in their development. With their combination of classroom and real world training on projects like this, they're going to evolve into the valuable bricklayers and tuckpointers who will be at the heart of the industry in the future." The Washington U. students found the project equally eye opening. "I didn't realize it was as involved as it was," said graduate student Mitchell Bloomquist, who was involved in the complexities of the planning and construction process.

While the labor was donated by the Apprentice School and the apprentices' sponsoring contractors, Kirchner Block & Brick, Simpson Materials Co., and Raineri Building Material donated materials. In addition, Heitkamp Masonry furnished the use of a grout pump.

The Grand Center Plaza and Habitat for Humanity projects are just two of the most recent examples of the local masonry industry's ongoing commitment to the local community. Contractors and suppliers alike live and work in the area. As so many have stated, they're proud to play a role in projects like these that will ultimately improve the area's quality of life.


About the Author

Darrell McMillian is the Technical Director at the Masonry Institute of St. Louis.

 

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