Autumn sweeps over the Gateway City like a lone rider, burnishing the leaves a copper red and shouldering the stultifying heat of summer out of our streets. In her wake comes new color, cooler weather and the gut-deep feeling that if you're going to make something, you'd better make it quick, before winter drops her frigid bulk upon you.
Not so coincidentally, autumn also brings Artica, and it too trails new color, coolness and the niggling urge to make something before it's too late. The fourth installment of the annual outdoor art festival is a smaller version than in years past, but only in size. In spirit Artica remains as grand as ever, urging everyone to come back to the river and imagine a city that is geographically much like St. Louis but aesthetically more akin to Xanadu, Shangri-La or your childhood tree fort.
The rules for admission to Artica are simple: Build a small boat, and give it away. Make the boat as fantastic as you can (as long as it's made from biodegradable materials), and bring your vessel to any one of the four Artica Points of Departure (the main one is at the corner of Lewis and O'Fallon streets, just north of the President Casino; visit www.artica.org for more locations and maps) by 12:30 p.m. Saturday, October 15. Wear a costume if you like, perhaps something that says "adventure." Meet with other like-minded souls. Then march to the banks of the river, whisper a dream into the hull of your boat, and set it free upon the waters. That's it: You're now a citizen of the new city, Artica.
As a resident of Artica, the world is yours to enjoy. You're free to dance, sing, make a piece of art and leave it behind as your legacy, or simply wander and meet your new neighbors. Bring food and share. Join the civic works project, the construction of a massive labyrinth. Why a labyrinth? Because sometimes you have to get lost before you can find yourself. When darkness falls, the traditional Burning of Our Lady of Artica, the city's patron spirit, signals the beginning of the beginning. Afterward, the Celestial Theatre (pictured) performs The Dragon Fire Show. More things burn, more people dance.
Sometime during the night, Artica will fade out of existence. Winter will come sooner rather than later. But spring is just around the corner, and Artica is right behind.