Bob's Open Road

BOB CASSILLY

Founder
City Museum

“I've always wanted to build a fantasy world…I figured, ‘Well, what have I got to lose? I'm going to go forward and shake my fist at all this stuff and do what I want to do.’”

INTERESTS:

Art Entrepreneurship

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Hobbies & Pastimes Individualism Risk Self-Reflection Pressure Exploration Failure Societal Pressures

TAGS:

apprentice, childhood, creativity, depression, draft, fantasy world, freedom, getting around the rules, imagination, insanity, job, jobs, narcolepsy, productivity, sculpting, sculpture, trading, void, war, woodcarving

BIOGRAPHY:

Most of us just go to Disneyland when we want to escape into a world of fantasy. But not Bob Cassilly. This classically-trained sculptor and eternal dreamer never let adulthood get in the way of his childlike imagination. So he bought a worn-down 600,000 square-foot former shoe factory for almost nothing, and turned it into one-of-a-kind space where he could bring his playful visions to life. Called City Museum in St. Louis, it's a place constructed entirely out of found materials from the city. Here, kids and adults alike are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild amidst an eclectic mixture of tree houses, salvaged bridges, old chimneys, abandoned airplanes, and beyond—all arranged into a sort of surreal theme park gone weird and wonderful. Bob was in the middle of building his next quirky paradise called Cementland when he died in a tractor accident in 2012 at age 61. His plan for the space? “It will be a place where we can do things that are normally illegal,” Bob gleefully said of the playground carved out of an abandoned cement quarry, which would feature cement castles, water slides running through giant metal bins, and visitors throwing rocks off a giant smokestack. Ultimately, Bob died exactly the way he lived: constructing his wonders. During his life, he never made a regular salary; he tried running a restaurant, but couldn't take it—all he wanted to do was build his dreams. And the whimsical works he left behind remind us to do the same.

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