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.

Email her: NFowler@STLPublicRadio.org

Follow her on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

"Visualize Pi Perspective" is a 2015 Brooklyn mural by Ellie Balk, painted with the help of local students. Pi is represented as a color coded bar graph drawn in one-point perspective. See finished mural in story, below.
Ellie Balk

A trio of local multimedia artists is set to achieve greater prominence.

The arts organization Critical Mass for the Visual Arts announced today that its annual Creative Stimulus awards will go to three women whose work will be shown next year in a mainstream institution.

The 2016 awardees are:

Em Piro founded St. Lou Fringe in 2011.
Em Piro

From a modern-day operatic tribute to “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg” to a woman interacting with a toy chicken, St. Lou Fringe offers entertainment that can’t be found on any other local stage.

But can the Fringe still fly without its original founder? Em Piro is leaving the organization after its fifth festival, which opens Friday.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Piro about her collaborative approach, how the festival has grown in step with St. Louis’ arts community and the future of Fringe.

Meghan Baker and Michael James Reed play the husband and wife in "Love's Labor."
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation will take on new role this weekend — as the stage for an original play.

The Pulitzer and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis are teaming up to present a play called “Love’s Labor.”  The production weaves together words from the Bard and  modern-day language in a story about a couple on the brink of divorce.

Keyboardist and singer Ashley Underwood, on the right in red, was only 9 when he saw the Beatles in St. Louis. Pam Strasser, a third-grade teacher, was 14.
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio. Ticket stubs provided by Steve Adams and Barbara Ward

In 1966, the civil rights movement was in full swing, protesters marched against the escalating war in Vietnam, and the Beatles were revolutionizing the U.S. music scene.

But for good Catholic girls like Pam Strasser, it was still a time of relative innocence. She and her friends used their babysitting money to buy their tickets when the Beatles came to St. Louis.

Members of Black Pride march in the Pride St. Louis parade in June.
Pride St. Louis

A group of people in St. Louis face a one-two punch of adversity every day.

As members of the LGBT population, they can legally be denied housing or fired on a whim. As African-Americans, they’re already more likely to be homeless or unemployed.

A small, local LGBT organization called Black Pride  embraces all these challenges. But as members prepare for their annual celebration this weekend in The Grove area, members still have to justify the group’s very existence.

Detail of Katherine Dunham in Choros, undated
Missouri History Museum | Provided

Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, before Freedom Riders headed to segregated bus stations, before Martin Luther King Jr. led his first march, there was Katherine Dunham.

The dancer and choreographer stood up to discrimination as far back as 1944. She railed against a system in which hotels wouldn’t book her and theaters wouldn’t let her black and white fans sit together, according to Washington University professor Joanna Dee Das. Das has written a book about the legendary artist and activist who lived in East St. Louis off and on starting in the mid'60s. The book, “Katherine Dunham:  Dance and the African Diaspora,” is set for release early next year.

Kenrich Henderson gazes at a portrait of her daughter Jamyla Bolden. The painting is a gift from St. Louis artist Jane Martin and an organization called Faces Not Forgotten that produces portraits of children killed by gun violence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Henderson was lying on the bed with her daughter Jamyla Bolden, doing homework, when bullets burst through the window of their Ferguson home. The gunshots killed the 9-year-old and wounded her mother.

Nearly a year later, the pain is still agonizing. But local artists are trying to help keep the good memories alive for Jamyla’s loved ones. They're also helping dozens of other families around the country.

Steve Woolf has worked in Cleveland, Cincinnati and New York as well as St. Louis. He's among the first to receive Webster University’s Declaration of Merit.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

A local family has given the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis a sizeable 50th anniversary gift: $1 million.

The endowment from the Augustin family will support The Rep’s Steven Woolf in his artistic director position.

Treasure Shields Redmond and her book, “Chop: A Collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer"
Kim Love / Shields Redmond headshot

As a child in Meridian, Miss., Treasure Shields Redmond donned special shoes nearly every Sunday — a black patent leather pair that skipped after her mother as they walked to the Baptist church.

By high school, she’d traded her Mary Janes for Nikes, and hymns like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” for Public Enemy's “Party for Your Right to Fight.”

The daughter of East St. Louis Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond is now a poet and performing artist, and an English professor at Southwestern Illinois College.  In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Shields Redmond about using language and song as tools for social justice and illuminating women’s lives.

A scene from "Menudo Pops," a spoofy  commercial for popsicles created from a traditional Mexican dish that's made from the stomachs of animals.
Mike Snodderley

This month, St. Louisans can experience something they’ve likely never seen or heard before: 90 minutes of local theater focused on Latino themes and characters.

Theatre Nuevo is staging a series of one-act plays in English, Spanish and a sprinkling of Spanglish, from the touching tale of a struggling family restaurant to a new take on “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The presentation is the brainchild of Anna Skidis Vargas, a local theater professional who wants to honor her heritage. Skidis Vargas, who's from Southern Illinois, has Mexican-American roots. She said the project gives all Latinos a chance for visibility.

Zack and Brie Smithey's railroad-shipping container home on Elm Street in St. Charles will be painted taupe and include glass windows across the front.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Charles City Council defeated a proposal Tuesday night that would have banned residents from building shipping-container houses in areas with only brick and siding homes.

But that's not the end of the controversy.

At the center of the flap is a home under construction on Elm Street. St. Charles residents Zack and Brie Smithey are building their 3,000-square-foot house out of eight railroad shipping containers.

Zack and Brie Smithey in front of the shipping-container home they're building in St. Charles. His sweat equity has helped keep the cost down to $125,000 including the land.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated with St. Charles City Council vote July 6, 2016, 12:51pm - An unusual house made of railroad-shipping containers is going up on Elm Street in St. Charles. But if city officials have their way, the nearly-finished place could be the last of its kind in the city’s traditional neighborhoods.

St. Charles residents Zack and Brie Smithey began working on their two-story home in May. Their house is being made from eight red containers, doubled stacked and four across. It sits on a sloping lot between a split-level and a ranch.

St. Louis Public Radio's new arts and culture editor also edits our science and medical reporters.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Do you ever wonder why St. Louis Public Radio covers a particular concert but not an art show opening on the same night? Or a certain play but not a simultaneous music festival?

Editors are instrumental in these kinds of decisions. And we’ve got a new editor for our arts and culture team, who’s come to town with some new ideas. David Cazares (pronounced CAH-sar-ehs ) comes to us from Minnesota Public Radio, where he served as a web editor and music writer with an emphasis on jazz.

Ashely Tate dances between two of her students in preparation for "Dance to Vote."
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Dancers are helping people get a leg up on voting this Saturday afternoon in University City.

An outdoor performance in front of Vintage Vinyl is designed to encourage passers-by to register and cast their ballots in the Aug. 2 Missouri primary. Three dance companies will alternate voting-related performances from 2-5 p.m.  Four spoken word artists will also participate.

This untitled piece by a local street artist known as Stun is expercted to go for between $400 and $600.
Link Auction Galleries

Street art is hanging out in high places this week in St. Louis. Not just around the top stories of abandoned buildings but in a space known for fine art: an auction house. 

Link Auction Galleries in the Central West End is offering the work of local creatives, along with pieces by nationally known street artists including Banksy and Mr. Brainwash. 

Stacey Crawford twirls flags with the color guard at a Band Together rehearsal.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis LGBT band will mark a milestone this Sunday, a happy commemoration at a time of mourning.

Brandon Reid takes part in a video project that aims to deliver messages of support and solidarity to the LGBT community in the wake of this past weekend's Orlando shooting.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For decades, many LGBT people could only talk freely about their lives, hold hands with a partner or feel completely safe in one kind of place: a gay bar. Some would say that's still true today.

But the horrific mass shooting at an Orlando club has stripped away the idea of safety.

Early Sunday morning, the shooter surprised a lively crowd with a spray of bullets that killed 49 people and injured 50. Across the nation, people in the LGBT community said it was a painful reminder that they can be targets of hate and violence.

A St. Louis social work student has launched a project to help people in St. Louis and Orlando begin to heal.

On the floor: Lindsay Gingrich (Meredith). Back, left to right: Sarajane Alverson (Trisha), Eileen Engel (Frances), Frankie Ferrari (Mindy), Shannon Nara (Georgeanne). The sashes were changed from pink to white in the final rendition of the costume.
Justin Been | Stray Dog Theatre

A Stray Dog Theatre play opening Thursday immerses us into a June tradition: the pressure cooker of a perfect wedding.

One of the characters isn’t a person  but a teal-blue bridesmaid’s dress with a wide white satin sash. Thus the name: “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” The wedding party is attired in matching perfection. And the bedroom in a Knoxville, Tenn. mansion where the play is set is also “just so,” with its ornate wall decorations, lace curtains and crown molding.

But soon, audiences discover that while the set and the wedding party look made-to-order, things are much messier underneath, according to Stray Dog founder and director Gary Bell.

Austin and Ryan Jacobs share the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tim Carter is with Ryan on the right. Carter plays the role of Oberan.
J. David Levy

“What fools these mortals be!” Puck famously utters in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

St. Louis audiences may be fooled in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production that lets the spritely Puck be two places at once.  The secret?  Puck is played by identical twins, Austin and Ryan Jacobs, transplants from Houston.

The brothers, who just graduated from Webster University, join us for our latest Cut & Past podcast to talk about sharing the role in the play and a childhood on the stage. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Friday in Forest Park.

Priscilla Miller, who has been coming to Artists First for about a year, colors in one of her drawings.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When it comes to supporting people with developmental disabilities through art-making, the activities are much more than just a pastime.

For some in St. Louis, being creative helps them buy food, or get a job. Those are goals – and outcomes – of a St. Louis-area organization called Artists First. But budget cuts are jeopardizing the nonprofit, forcing some hard decisions.

The Griot Museum of Black History at 2505 St Louis Ave.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Urban League of St. Louis and the Griot Museum of Black History are forming an alliance that the museum’s founder hopes will keep the museum going for generations.

Shaun Tamprateep of Fenton wants to explore St. Louis' cultural diversity. He studied Tourism and Hospitality in his father's home country of Thailand, and works as a driver for Metro Transit’s Call-A-Ride service.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Shaun Tamprateep grew up in Fenton, playing in the woods with a gang of neighborhood boys and sometimes landing at a friend’s house for dinner.

He noticed other families ate more hamburgers and fewer spicy dishes. But he didn’t pay much attention to the differences in his home — until he was almost a teenager.

"Is that Kafka?" cover and Kurt Beals
Kurt Beals | Provided

Even if the iconic German-language writer Franz Kafka doesn’t cross your mind on a regular basis, you may still hear the adjective “Kafkaesque” from time to time and think: gloomy, nonsensical.

But a St. Louis translator says Kafka was darn near a jolly, optimistic fellow.

Activists continue to demonstrate against city attorney Stephanie Karr as a police vehicle idles in front of them near Karr's home on Wesley Avenue Monday evening.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

People calling for the ouster of Ferguson city attorney Stephanie Karr chanted and carried signs in a protest that wound its way from the police department to Karr’s house Monday evening.

It was the very first day on the job for new police chief Delrish Moss. But it wasn't the first time Karr has been the subject of controversy.

Lindy Drew sits at a bus stop on North Grand Boulevard. with St. Louis resident Bryan Gordon after approaching him about her social media photo project, Humans of St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis photographer Lindy Drew spends her days talking to strangers.

If they’re up for it, Drew asks questions like, “What’s the nicest thing anyone has said to you lately?” before asking to take their picture. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen her project: Humans of St. Louis, also known as HOSTL (pronounced “hostile”).

Mazy and Amber Gilleylen in their Overland living room which is also the classroom where Gilleylen has home-schooled her daughter since last fall.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

There are plenty of smart, happy 10-year-olds in St. Louis. But there’s only one Mazy Gilleylen.

Mazy loves typical kid stuff, like  singing, drawing and taking care of her pets. But she was living with a secret, and that meant life wasn't always this good. Telling the truth — with her family’s support — made things better, and made her a film star.

Connor Wright seated on his trio of Stan Musial portraits at Ballpark Village. Wright used 5,980 Rubik's Cubes to make the piece.
Connor Wright | Provided

Baseball is a game of numbers: batting average , RBIs. ERA.

But Connor Wright had to come up with a different kind of number for a project honoring St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial: how many Rubik’s Cubes it would  take to create a 205-square-foot mural with a trio of images of the famous #6.

The documentary Major! features Major Griffin-Gracy, a long-time transgender activist.
Cinema St. Louis | Provided

When QFest debuted in 2008, its schedule of LGBT films was more about the “G” than any other letter. Few male or female characters were people of color.

But things are different now, according to Cinema St. Louis’ Chris Clark.

“The true minority of all, honestly, is white, gay men,” he said.

"MSDFLOWers" with glass cairn by Libby Reuter and photograph by Josh Bowen
Libby Reuter I Provided

A new collection of artwork debuting Friday — Earth Day — uses different mediums to remind us not to take St. Louis’ abundant water supply for granted.

The local Songs of Africa ensemble is one of many groups performing in "A Tribute to African Composers."
African Musical Arts | Provided

A weekend concert in St. Louis pays homage to composers whose names are often left off lists that include Mozart, Bach and Britten.

“A Tribute to African Composers: Music Bringing People Together” features names like Adolphus Hailstork, Uzee Brown  and Tania Leon,  among a host of others with African roots.

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