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

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.

Melissa Gerth and Arnela Bogdanic in rehearsal at Grbic Banquet Hall, where "Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life" plays April 15-16 before moving to Fontbonne University.
Traci Clapper

The generation gap is said to be narrowing as more millennials move back in with, and seek advice from, their parents. But in St. Louis, the chasm may be growing for one group of young adults.

Two decades ago, Bosnian genocide survivors arrived in St. Louis penniless and ravaged by war. In one generation, they’ve built businesses, bought homes and raised children who are succeeding at high school and college — and assimilation. A new Mustard Seed play, “Bosnian/American: The Dance for Life,” explores the lives of these young adults, weaving their story around a traditional Bosnian tale about a young sheep and a menacing wolf.

Howard Barry poses for a portrait at his home studio.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis painter Howard Barry is among the many creative people making work around the events of Ferguson.

But Barry’s story has an unusual twist. It starts with his own tragedy, 24 years ago.

Kim Furlow and Emily Baker during a rehearsal of "A Comfortable Fit," part of the "Briefs" festival of LGBT plays
Briefs festival

St. Louis’ annual “Briefs” festival of LGBT plays is toasting its success this weekend.

During the event’s five years, audiences have grown and the festival has moved into a larger space. The number of  submissions has increased, and more esteemed playwrights and actors are participating. This year’s playwrights include Kansas native James Still, who was nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize and three times for an Emmy Award.

This group of 40 students from Arthur Smith Middle Magnet School in Alexandria, La., stopped by the Griot Museum of Black History last week on a spring break trip.
The Griot Museum of Black History

Things are looking up for St. Louis’ struggling Griot Museum of Black History.

Last fall, Griot founder Lois Conley could barely pay the bills. Plunging attendance meant the museum was only open three days a week. But so far this year, the number of visitors has at least doubled. Conley doesn’t have a hard figure because she hasn’t had time to add up the numbers.

“We’ve just been too busy,” she said. “We were open every day in February and had visitors every day."

"Pretty Girl," "Pilgrim" and "Storyteller" are all photographs in the “Legends of the 36 Unknown” exhibition by Todd Weinstein.
Todd Weinstein

A photographer’s search for meaning is the seed of an exhibition opening Sunday on the campus of the St. Louis Jewish Community Center.

“Legends of the 36 Unknown” is a display of 36 photographs suggesting faces and figures in rocks, railroad ties and crumbling bricks.

A still from William Morris' "Immediacy of Distance" shows, left to right, his grandmother Goldie Butler, cousin Dana Fox and aunt Lizzie Fox.
William Morris

A new experimental documentary provides a snapshot of what it was like to grow up in north St. Louis in the 1970s.

The project began when artist William Morris discovered in the basement of his family home 30 rolls of Super 8 movies, shot by his mother, Annie Morris. He paired them with original and existing music as well as audio interviews of her talking about growing up in a Mississippi sharecropping family in the 1930s and 40s.

Samples of work form (left to right) John Hendrix, Fox Smith, Vidhya Nagarajan
Provided by the artists

Illustrators are storytellers who synthesize thousands of words into just a few images, or even a single frame. We recently invited three prominent local illustrators to tell stories about drawing for a living, in the first live recording of our Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast.

Each of these 2015 shows won two or more St. Louis Theater Circle Awards.
Stages St. Louis, St. Louis Actors' Studio, Opera Theatre St. Louis

The Repertory Theater of St. Louis and Stages St. Louis were the top winners among two dozen companies in Monday night’s fourth Theater Circle Awards. Each of the troupes had five wins. Four of Stages’ awards were for the musical “Anything Goes.”

Artists First executive director Sheila Suderwalla helps Vietnam veteran Mike David with a charcoal project.
Artists First

Mike David came home from Vietnam in the early 1970s with two Purple Hearts and a feeling of doom after spending a year in combat on a squad known as a “killer team.”

“All six of us were in constant fear for our lives, every moment of the day,” he said.

It took David a decade to start dealing with his PTSD with the help of friends and meditation. He wishes he’d had more creative opportunities to heal, like a new program offered by a Maplewood organization called Artists First.

International Institute of St. Louis president and CEO Anna Crosslin, today, and with her parents in Tokyo in 1952.
Anna Crosslin

The head of the International Institute of St. Louis says she is looking forward to taking her passion for equity to a statewide level.

Anna Crosslin is one of Gov. Jay Nixon's two nominees to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The Commission investigates complaints about discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on factors like race, gender, and national origin.

PrideFest-goers in 2014 celebrated a second festival in downtown St. Louis, after many years of holidng it in Tower Grove Park.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

“Solidarity” is the theme for this year’s PrideFest celebration at Soldiers' Memorial downtown.

Members of Pride St. Louis chose the theme to unite the LGBT community at a critical time, according to Pride St. Louis’ director of inclusion and diversity Leon Braxton.

Some St. Louisans enjoy a full breakfast; others get by on coffee alone. Then there's everything in between, from rum cake to Gogurts.
Susannah Lohr / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is known for toasted Ravioli and Ted Drewes. But what do we eat for the most important meal of the day?

We at St. Louis Public Radio have become sorta-experts on what St. Louisans wake up to. That’s because when we interview people (including each other), we often begin with the question, “What did you have for breakfast?” to check our microphone levels.

Fox Smith is one of eight storytellers who will talk about women's bodies at an event called "Picturing Women." In this photo, she's participating in a cosplay event, which involves dressing up, usually like an anime or video-game character.
Fox Smith

Images of the perfect female form are all around us, on social media, in movies and in advertisements for products from liquor to luxury cars. It’s hard not to feel inferior no matter what kind of body you have.

Fox Smith of Shrewsbury has complicated feelings about her appearance.

"Somewhere between loving and hating [my] body," Smith said.

These baseball caps (Cardinals, Pirates, two Orioles, KC Royals and Detroit Tigers) spell out "spookd" in a piece by artist Ryan Doyle.
Ryan Doyle

Make no mistake. As a white man, artist Ryan Doyle does not try to "explain" racism to anyone.

Doyle’s work is a way to explore his own experiences and the racist environment we all live in. Take his recent work using baseball caps. It features molds of the caps’ home team letters, spelling out "spookd."

Michael Uthoff, second from left, talks with students, along with Dance St. Louis’ Janet Brown. (Brown is in the middle on the right-hand side of the photo).
Dance St. Louis

Dance St. Louis is under new leadership as it winds down its 50th season, after executive and artistic director Michael Uthoff announced he's leaving after 10 years.

"I’m 72 and I figure I need some time to smell the roses," Uthoff said.

Ka'Milla McMiller is an organizer with the Missouri Gay Straight Alliance Network.
Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

What’s it like to live in fear, every day?  To know you’re a target just by being yourself? To understand that being attractive could kill you?

Ka’Milla McMiller of south St. Louis knows. As a young transgender woman of color, she can’t stop thinking about her safety, especially after what happened last year.

Left to right: "Meltdown" "Puzzled" and "Missing Piece" by Judith Shaw. "Cover-Up," embellished with Band-Aids and "Figured Out," which has no adornment, are two more pieces in the show.
Judith Shaw

For most of her life, Judith Shaw didn’t think she had a problem with food and she certainly didn’t consider herself artistic.

Then 10 years ago at the age of 53, the Clayton resident sought treatment for her anorexia. She responded to one therapeutic assignment by tracing her gaunt pound body and gluing words like “help” and “pain” to the outline. Later she traced her fuller figure and added things like puzzle pieces.

“I’m spilling my guts in pictures and words and shapes and forms,” Shaw said.

‘Many people have a hole’

A dinner party with Isaac (Jonathan C. Kaplan), Jory (Rachel Christopher), Emily (Leigh Williams) and Amir (John Pasha) in The Rep's "Disgraced" starts off on a friendly note but soon takes a different turn.
Peter Wochniak / ProPhotoSTL.com

This year’s most widely produced play in the country is on stage right now at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. 

“Disgraced” centers on an ambitious New York attorney grappling with his Islamic roots in a post-9/11 world. But the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama is really about everyone’s American experience, people of all faiths or no faith, according to playwright Ayad Akhtar.

The work in "Visualizing Life: Social Justice in Real Time" includes that of (left to right) Howard Barry, Annetta Bentil and Gundia Lock-Clay.
Freida Wheaton

What do you call a group of visual artists inspired by the death of Michael Brown and the social-justice movement it spawned? St. Louis curator Freida Wheaton calls them the “Sweet 16.”

It’s a nod to their numbers as well as a reference to their niche. On Feb. 26-27, you can see the work of these St. Louis artists at the Touhill, in conjunction with “New Dance Horizons IV.”

Jessica Witte will launch a seed-art project, similar to this August 2015 one in Belleville, along the St. Louis riverfront June 3-5.
Jessica Witte

St. Louisans will get to participate in a massive art project on the riverfront this summer, thanks to a new public art grant.

The local Critical Mass for the Arts announced the winner of its first-ever public works endeavor today. The group awarded multimedia artist Jessica Witte $10,000 for her “Seed the Change” idea.

Grand Center vice president Michelle Stevens and National Endowment for the Arts chairman Jane Chu in the Public Media Commons on Olive Street.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is on the right track, according to the head of the nation’s largest grant-making organization for the arts.

Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, visited St. Louis Monday as part of a tour of NEA grant recipients. Her stops included the Grand Center Arts District,  which has received two “Our Town” awards totaling $125,000 to help with plans to make the area more walkable and attractive.

The official "Puppy Bowl" portrait of Ellie aka Puddin' Pop. You can see her play fpr Team Ruff at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Stray Rescue

There’s a doggone good reason to watch TV on Super Bowl Sunday, even if you’re not a football fan — or still bitter about the Rams.

St. Louis may not have a home team anymore, but we do have a dog in this fight -- an actual dog, from Wentzville, who’ll take the field in the Animal Planet channel’s annual “Puppy Bowl” on Sunday afternoon.

This piece is from Basil Kincaid's "Reclamation 2," showing at The Luminary through Feb. 27.
Willis Ryder Arnold / St. Louis Public Radio

It's no stretch to think that Basil Kincaid’s efforts to unite people of African heritage require travel. But pre-paid phone cards, vinyl sheets and a strong adhesive are also part of the process.

A 1963 photo of the Congress of Racial Equality demonstrating at the Jefferson Bank & Trust Company over the issue of jobs.
Arcadia Publishing

The author of a new book called “African American St. Louis” hopes images of the past will help people better understand the issues of today.

Lead author and educator John Wright Sr. grew up in St. Louis in the 1940s and '50s. His book, written in collaboration with his sons John Wright Jr. and Curtis Wright Sr., contains 170 color and black-and-white photos from the 1960s through the present.

Wright said many of the pictures are unique images you won’t see in museums, libraries, newspapers or online.

David Robertson conducting at Powell Hall
Dan Dreyfus | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Symphony will return to New York’s Carnegie Hall in March 2017.

Music director David Robertson will lead the symphony and chorus in a performance of John Adams’ “Gospel According to the Other Mary.” The event pays tribute to Adams’ 70th birthday.

The performance will include an international vocal ensemble, showcasing singer Kelley O’Connor. The mezzo-soprano performed the 2013 world premiere of the title role of “Gospel”

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