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

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.

Provided by Lifting Up Lila event

Hundreds of St. Louisans have pledged to rally around Lila Perry, a transgender student at Jefferson County’s Hillsboro High School.

A gathering called “Lifting up Lila” was set for 5 p.m. Sept. 4, in Hillsboro City Park. Supporters want to have their say after a group of students walked out in protest Monday when Perry said she planned to use the girls’ bathrooms and locker room. On Thursday night, a group of parents asked the school board to create a policy about who can use what restrooms.

ArtWorks apprentice Tyson Johnson taking apart a bike to later make coat racks and coat hangers
Nancy Fowler / St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3:31 p.m., Jan. 26 with photo in slideshow of finished sculpture - St. Louis teenagers are using pliers and hammers as well as paintbrushes and pens to make money by making art.

They’re creating coat racks from bicycle parts, sculptures from sticks and canvases from rain barrels. It’s all through a program called St. Louis ArtWorks, now celebrating its 20th year and a new home on Delmar Boulevard.

Outgoing PROMO executive director A.J. Bockelman
Provided by PROMO

The executive director of Missouri’s statewide organization for LGBT equality is leaving his post at the end of October. But it's possible he might later continue his work in a different arena: Jefferson City.

A.J. Bockleman has been executive director of PROMO since 2007. He announced today he’s stepping down after eight years of what often felt like an uphill, non-stop fight for LGBT rights.

Fred Onovwerosuoke
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

As Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans 10 years ago, St. Louis composer Fred Onovwerosuoke hurried to the attic with cardboard boxes.

But it turned out, upstairs would be the worst place to store them. Shortly after he and his wife and two small sons drove away from their temporary New Orleans home, Katrina tore away the roof, exposing reams of musicals manuscripts to the pounding rain.

From the June 2015 Pride Parade
Sayer Johnson

They’re last in the LGBT acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and they were nearly last in this year’s St. Louis Pride Parade. Now the local transgender community is taking the lead.

They’re making themselves known and making plans to open a community center. It's an effort spearheaded by an organization called the Metro Trans Umbrella Group, or MTUG.

One of Beverly Sporleder's line drawings in the University City Public Library exhibtion.
Nancy Fowler

With school starting, many local kids are looking back on long summer days of watching movies or playing video games. But the Sporleder children spent their summer getting ready for a family art show at the University City Public Library.

Eight family members including three of Beverly Sporleder’s grandchildren are in the exhibition, open through Aug. 30.

Actor Ben Nordstrom
Durrie Bouscaren

He’s a two-time Kevin Kline Award-winner, and a well-known star of the Muny’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" and numerous Stages St. Louis shows including “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.” Plus, he has years of New York and regional experience.

But actor Ben Nordstrom doesn’t hesitate to play second fiddle. Or third. Or a mere chorus guy named “Mike” in the The Muny’s current production of “Oklahoma,” which is also his home state.

A scene from "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," presented by the Black Rep in 2014
Provided by the Black Rep

The events of Ferguson have resulted in an explosion of arts activism in St. Louis. Painters, performers and arts movers and shakers have created a tremendous body of work around racism and other barriers to social justice.

But activism is nothing new to the Black Rep.

Felicia Shaw, new executive director of St. Louis' Regional Arts Commission, said she had a sense that this community would now "be open to change" after the events of Ferguson.
Nancy Fowler

When new Regional Arts Commission (RAC) executive director Felicia Shaw realized her job at a San Diego foundation might be eliminated, she wondered what that might mean for her life.

“I was thinking about what new direction I wanted to go in,” Shaw said. “And then, Ferguson happened.”

Embarrassment, sadness, anger and guilt

Last August, when Shaw listened to the news coming from her hometown of St. Louis, she went through a gamut of emotions: embarrassment, sadness, anger and guilt. What she heard loud and clear were the very same issues that drove her to move San Diego — more than three decades earlier.

This painting of an officer and an artist wearing a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" shirt, by Solomon Thurman, shows the thin line between police and protesters, according to gallerist Freida Wheaton.
Solomon Thurman

In a single moment and with a half-dozen gunshots, St. Louis was shaken to the core on Aug. 9.

The shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police office Darren Wilson unleashed continuous waves of local and national protest that significantly shifted the St. Louis arts scene. Since then, musicians, dancers, and visual, performing and literary artists have sung and performed, and written and painted the issues revealed by the tragedy.

Clockwise from top left, Damon Davis, Freida Wheaton, Michael Castro, Brian Owens, Lee Patton Chiles, De Nichols
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

For the past year, a tragic and powerful muse has fed the energy and work of St. Louis-area artists.

The shooting death of Michael Brown and the unpeeling of issues that followed have inspired a bounty of work with a social-justice mission. As we near the Aug. 9 anniversary of Brown’s death, we talked with a number of arts professionals about their work in the wake of the turmoil:

Sara Sapp as Child B, Sarah McKenney as Child A and Steven Castelli as Clown in Theatre Nuevo's "This Is Not Funny"
Theatre Nuevo

A clown, a poet, two children and two newscasters walk … onto a stage.

It’s not a joke (although it has jokes). It’s a play called “This Is Not Funny,” by a new company named Theatre Nuevo, opening tonight at the Chapel off Skinker near Forest Park. But the name’s a contradiction, said founder and director Anna Skidis.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-Defamation League leads a diversity awareness training for police cadets.
Nancy Fowler

A year of unrest and turmoil has yielded the beginnings of change in St. Louis — along with a whole lot of questions.

How do we untangle the deep, gnarly roots of racism? What is this thing called privilege? How do people of different races talk to each other about this stuff?

Local organizations that help people think through these issues report a significant increase in requests for diversity training since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

William Morris
Durrie Bouscaren

When William Morris was growing up in St. Louis in the 1970s, his mother was close behind with her Super 8 camera.

Showme
Wilis Ryder Arnold

OK, we get it: publishing a video starring the cats of St. Louis Public Radio employees is completely self-indulgent. But with the Contemporary Art Museum offering its Internet Cat Video Festival July 9-10, we figured we’d better pounce on the chance.

right to left, Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Alicia Graf-Mack, Jamar Roberts and Kirven Douthit-Boyd in Alvin Ailey performance
Andrew Eccles

St. Louisans will get to see three former Alvin Ailey dancers — who now live in the Gateway City — in a Dance St. Louis showcase next February.

The performance will feature St. Louis native Antonio Douthit-Boyd, his husband, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, and dancer Alicia Graf-Mack. Last January, the Douthit-Boyds announced they were leaving the prestigious Ailey company and moving to St. Louis to work at COCA. Graf-Mack had already made a new home in St. Louis.

Many children were in the crowd at City Hall Friday night.
Cindy Betz

A joyous throng filled the rotunda of St. Louis’s City Hall Friday night — on the eve of PrideFest — to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The court ruled Friday that all 50 states must allow these unions. They must also recognize such marriages performed in other states and countries.

Joan Lipkin
Willis Ryder Arnold

"Uppity" is a word with a history of keeping women and minorities "in their place." But when Joan Lipkin named her theater company in 1989, she showed marginalized people that their "place" was in the spotlight.

Since then, That Uppity Theatre has celebrated the LGBT population and people with various abilities and addressed issues including abortion and racism. The work has provoked thought, fostered acceptance and won numerous awards.

Kelly Hamilton, left, and William Copeland
Alex Heuer

What do transgender people have in common with each other? Often, the answer is, not all that much.

On Thursday, two days before PrideFest weekend, “St. Louis on the Air” listeners heard from two local transgender men who have very different stories to tell. The term “transgender man” refers to someone who was labeled female at birth but identifies as male.

Agnes Wilcox
Prison Performing Arts / Agnes Wilcox

The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis announced today that the founder of a transformative theater program, a jazz duo and an UMSL associate professor are on the list of its 2016 awardees.

Promotional photo for "House"
Joe Hanrahan

What’s it like to have a mother whose seven-foot-tongue slices your arm (eight stitches!) and a wife who greets your boss in thigh-high boots and consistently claims she's on the phone with "nobody?"

William Morris, Brett Williams and Meghan Grubb
Nancy Fowler

Three local artists received $1,500 each on Tuesday night to help fund projects that include home movies and ideas about the spaces where we live.

In an event at The Sheldon Art Galleries, the local Critical Mass for the Visual Arts organization named the recipients of its 2015 Creative Stimulus Awards. The money helps pay for the cost of ongoing work as well as funding new projects.

The 2015 winners are:

Ted Mathys
Durrie Bouscaren

St. Louis poet Ted Mathys has “Math” in his name -- and his background.

“I started out college as a math major. I’m really interested in precision and exactitude,” Mathys said.

Poetry eventually won out as an occupation, but give the word a prefix and math is a close second: a preoccupation. Numbers still figure prominently in his work, including his book to be released June 12, called “Null Set.” So does child’s play.

Fun Home website

Updated 6/8/2015:  On Sunday night, “Fun Home," which was produced by St. Louis-based Fox Theatricals, took home five Tony awards, including the Tony for best new musical. Nominated for 12 awards in Broadway’s biggest night of the year, the musical also took home awards for best actor in a musical for Michael Cerveris, best score, best book and best director for Sam Gold.

“Fun Home” is based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel.

It’s about a woman who grew up in the family funeral home business, whose father’s death takes her on an emotional but comic journey. The saga includes her own coming out as a lesbian only to find out her father wants to come out, too.

St. Louis' LGBT Center had been in negotiations to buy this building, the Grand Oak Hill Community Center, but an anonymous donor backed out of the deal.
Nancy Fowler

St. Louis will not be getting the LGBT Center building its board promised a year ago.

The Center moved out of its building in the Grove area in April 2014 and established an online-only presence. Last June board president Dara Strickland said they were looking to buy a building, thanks to an anonymous donor. That move was to take place in early 2015.

Aunt Mamie Lang, Sister of Uncle Jim Lang to the Otey’s Nellie & Brothers ,” ca.  1890, Photographer Unknown (Star Gallery, Kansas Ci ty), ca. 1890, albumen print  cabinet card 6 ½ x 4 ¼ inches, in period frame. Collection of Robert E. Green.
The Sheldon

Pictures don’t lie, the saying goes.  But according to collector Robert Green of St. Louis’ near north side, many historic photos and other renderings of African Americans fail to tell the truth, or at least the whole story.

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