Nancy Fowler

Arts and Culture Reporter

Nancy Fowler is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, with a particular delight in the stories of people working in that intersection.

She received a regional Emmy Award for news writing at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, and the Pride St. Louis' Felton T. Day Award for service to St. Louis' LGBT community. Her numerous fellowships include USC Annenberg’s NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater, and the Wake Forest University Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

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Follow her on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

The backwards Maplewood installation by Brooklyn artist Janet Zweig is illuminated at night. "I fell in love with the city," Zweig said.
Cathy Carver

Rick Jackoway recently moved back to St. Louis after 26 years away. When he drove under a sign on the MetroLink overpass on Manchester Road he thought, “Well, you don’t see that every day!”

So he asked our new Curious Louis:

Why is the word Maplewood spelled backward on the sign going over Manchester Road, just east of Laclede St. Road? Always wondered.

Photographer Jess Dugan
Roddy MacInnes

Local artist Jess Dugan is joining the ranks of game-changers in fields ranging from education to disaster preparedness.

The St. Louis photographer will accept a Champion of Change Award at the White House Monday afternoon. The Obama administration launched the Champion of Change program in 2011 to pay tribute to people who are making a difference in their communities.

Dozens brought shovels and rakes to an Oct. 18 tree-planting event. The sign reads, "They tried to bury us. They didn't know we were seeds."
Transgender Memorial Garden organization

A symbol of new life will officially launch in St. Louis on a day set aside for commemorating violent deaths. Organizers and the public will dedicate the new Transgender Memorial Garden on Friday, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Ballet class at St. Louis' Juvenile Detention Center, Daniel Blount aka Orange Crush and guard tower at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific
Nancy Fowler and Willis Ryder Arnold / St. Louis Public Radio

For 22 years, a St. Louis organization has helped prisoners and youthful detainees project words like "thee" and "thou" and practice pliés and arabesques.

Prison Performing Arts instructors work with inmates on projects like performing Shakespeare, perfecting ballet routines and creating hip-hop poetry. It's an effort whose success is told more by anecdotes than analysis.

Sabina England, Priscilla Block and Denise Thimes
Photos of England and Thimes from their websites; Block from UMSL

A popular vocalist, a well-known activist and an up-and-coming filmmaker and playwright are among six women honored with a 2016 St. Louis Visionary Award.

The awards, which began in 2003, returned last year after a one-year hiatus and reorganization.

Elizabeth Herring leads the girls in St. Louis' Juvenile Dention Center through the five ballet positions.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

What does a dancer and former debutante born in 1926 have in common with teenagers at St. Louis’ juvenile detention center?

A lot, as it turns out, according to Elizabeth “Bunny” Herring.

Herring, 89, sees striking similarities between herself and the young women in the ballet classes she teaches inside the locked facility, as part of the Prison Performing Arts (PPA) program.

Students from the Science Center's YES program examine the slave hold at the Griot Museum of Black History. Notice the rat near the baby on the upper right-hand side.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Fifteen-year-old Chassidy Buckner thought she had already learned all about slavery from school and her mother. But at the Griot Museum of Black History, the lesson became personal.

"Because it is my ancestors,” Buckner said.

Looking at the life-sized figures chained together in the hold beneath a slave ship is different than seeing pictures in a book.

"I didn’t know it was that cramped and with, like, blood everywhere," Buckner said.

Antionette Carroll in a Faces of the Movement portrait
Antionette Carroll

St. Louis designer Antionette Carroll doesn’t know what might resolve thorny and multi-faceted problems like racism, stereotypical thinking and gentrification. But she thinks design professionals — and others like you and me — might have bits and pieces of solutions within ourselves.

Naked Chess by Jennifer Shahade references a 1963 photograph of artist/chess player Marcel Duchamp playing against a nude woman.
Jennifer Shahade and Daniel Meirom

Women may not rule the world of chess but they do dominate an upcoming art exhibit around the game.

The World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End opens “Ladies’ Knight: The Female Perspective on Chess” Thursday evening. It includes the work of 12 female artists. Some pieces are regulation chess-board size. One is eight feet square with 13-inch-high pieces. Others are video installations.

An exhibition at the Griot Museum of Black History shows a mutiny on the deck of a slave ship.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

A new $5 million donation will help the Missouri History Museum collect and exhibit St. Louis’ African-American history. But not everyone trusts a large, mainstream institution to tell these stories.

While the History Museum thrives through such contributions and with Zoo-Museum District funding, the Griot Museum of Black History struggles to even pay its utility bills. In the weeks ahead, we’ll have a detailed report of this languishing establishment.

UMSL theater professor Jacqueline Thompson, second from left, with local actors Tiffany Knighton, Kenyatta Tatum and Reginald Pierre in a 2015 social-justice workshop
'Every 28 Hours' project

The city of Ferguson will be a muse for a gathering of playwrights from across the country. Two dozen theater artists will tour the area Wednesday to get ideas for 90 one-minute plays about police shootings of African Americans across the country.

The theater project is called “Every 28 Hours.” It references a widely quoted but also disputed statistic for how often a black person is killed by police in the United States.

Visual artist and musician Stan Chisholm
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Having a conversation with Stan Chisholm is like looking through a kaleidoscope.

He seems somber and provocative. Then suddenly there’s a turn; oh wait, there’s a glimmer of humor. Another turn, and he’s somewhere in between.

St. Louis Dancers Step-Up co-founder Keith Williams works with performers for Dance Speaks Volume I.
Sara Burke

For more than a year, St. Louis dance professionals have worked to create a performance responding to the death of Michael Brown.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the public can see the result of their efforts at Centene Center for the Arts, 3547 Olive St., in Grand Center. “Dance Speaks Volume I" is presented by St. Louis Dancers Step-Up, in cooperation with the Grand Center Arts Academy Theatre Department.

Kelly Lee and her mother Barbara Hill examine a sculpture inspired by the artist's homeless sister inside the garage studio of JE Baker
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Barbara Hill of Fenton will do almost anything to support her four daughters. A decade ago while visiting one daughter in the African Republic of Mali, Hill shut her eyes as her car's driver backed down a narrow mountain road to let another vehicle pass.

So simply riding a forward-moving bus to four St. Louis artists’ studios this past Sunday was a breeze. And an eye-opener, as it turned out.

Organizer Leon Braxton at the site of the Transgender Memorial Park.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

A sliver of land in St. Louis’ Grove neighborhood is getting a makeover to become what may the country’s first Transgender Memorial Park.

It’s a cooperative effort between the city and community members. Leon Braxton got the idea when he heard about the city’s “Plant4Peace” project, a program that gives out free trees for local gathering spaces.

“I thought about this would be a great opportunity for something in the LGBT community,” Braxton said.

Jonathan Mueller | Flickr

There’s a lot of talk about “privilege” these days: “white privilege,” “heterosexual privilege" or “male privilege.”

It’s not uncommon to have some kind of privilege and not even know it. Many of us in St. Louis and elsewhere don’t know how to define it. But some people learn about male privilege in an unexpected way. They know what life is like for men and for women because they've lived both.

Larissa White, Sicily Mathenia and Cameisha Cotton as the Heathers in New Line Theatre's "Heathers"
Jill Ritter Lindberg / Provided by New Line Theatre

When Scott Miller founded St. Louis’ New Line Theatre in 1991, his mission was to present edgy musicals. Problem was, hardly any were available.

“So in the early years, we did some shows that I wrote and we did some re-imagined shows, like ‘Camelot’ with a really small cast, that kind of thing,” Miller said.

Twenty-five years later, it’s a very different story.

Provided by the Contemporary Art Museum

What if you held a pub crawl but replaced the alcohol with art?

You’d have the Contemporary Art Museum’s Open Studios Tour. Or at least one of the many ways you can experience the Oct. 3-4 event, according to CAM director Lisa Melandri.

A scene from R-S Theatrics' "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play," showing at the Ivory Theatre through Sept. 20
Michael Young / Proivded by R-S Theatrics

In a post-apocalyptic world, what do you have in common with the other survivors? Finding food? Making fire?

Doh! It’s your love of “The Simpsons” show, of course. Specifically, a 1993 episode called “Cape Feare,” according to a drama called “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” by St. Louis’ R-S Theatrics. It’s a Russian Doll of a play, a spoof within a spoof, showing through Sept. 20 at the Ivory Theatre.

Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

For Portfolio Gallery and Education Center founder Robert Powell, it’s now or never.

At the age of 70, Powell’s long-time dream of a dedicated African-American arts organization is no closer to reality. But his daily reality just got a little closer to making it happen.