I recently saw a picture of Joe Edwards of the U. City Loop fame shaking the hand of Ntozake Shange after her star had been installed in the University City Walk of Fame.
Shange is of course best known for her choreopoem,"For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide,When the Rainbow is Enuf."
I started thinking of the multitude of artists in all artistic fields who have come out of our culturally rich region and made it on a national level. Many are deceased, many are still working, and many are up and coming and will probably go all the way to the top.
Most cities can boast of the fame by many of their citizens in the arts, but I truly believe St. Louis is one of the leaders of the pack. In my opinion this has a lot to do with our up to date and inspiring art education programs.
In literature we have produced two national poet laureates, Mona Van Duyn and Howard Nemerov, both of Washington University. T.S. Eliot once lived here as did Eugene Field. William Gass, writer, also a retired professor from Washington University has won the American Book Award and we can't forget Maya Angelou who wrote, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
Two young poets, Jessica Baran and Jennifer Kronovet came to Washington University to study and have been published and won awards on the national level.
According to Sally Van Doren, another nationally known poet from our city, the St. Louis Poetry Center has excellent classes for people of all ages and abilities.
Dancers of the past include Katherine Dunham who was also a choreographer and company director as well as an educator and social activist and of course Josephine Baker who was also world renowned as an actress and dancer.
COCA, the Center of Creative Arts, has produced incredible dancers who have made it to the "big times" such as Antonio Douthit who dances with the Alvin Ailey Troupe and Rodney Hamilton who is with Ballet Hispanico in New York. Madco, a world class professional dance corps, is in residence at the Touhill on the campus of U.M.S.L, which also has wonderful educational opportunities.
In the musical arena, we've all heard of the late great jazz musician Miles Davis, and the king of Rock and Roll Chuck Berry, who is still performing, and of course we have our famous rapper from University City, Nelly.
Peter Martin and Jeremy Davenport, jazz musicians, also hail from University City and let’s not forget David Sanborn. Jazz St. Louis has wonderful educational programs under the tutelage of Phil Dunlap.
Opera star Christine Brewer got her start at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and went on to become a Diva on the international scene. Opera Theatre provides training not only for singers, but for set making, costuming and more.
In the theater and the movies let's remember movie star and pin up girl Betty Grable of yesteryear and Marsha Mason who came out of Webster University and went on to be nominated four times for best actress by the Academy Awards. And there was art collector, Vincent Price, famous for some of the most chilling horror films and now we have John Hamm out of John Burroughs who is the star of the television series Mad Men and of course actor John Goodman who has managed to jump from his comedic roles of television and the movies to much more dramatic roles.
Mary Wickes of movie fame always praised Washington University for her fine education .
In the visual art world Ernest Trova and Siegfried Reinhardt made it all the way to the top and now young conceptual artist, Tom Friedman is in exhibitions all over the world as is Joan Hall of paper making fame. Van McElwee is also very well known nationally for his video and multimedia works.
Now obviously these were artists who popped into my mind, but there is a plethora of other artists in all the art disciplines who have been lauded on the national and even worldwide level that come out of my favorite city.