Nancy Kranzberg | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Kranzberg

How many of us have gone sledding down Art Hill in Forest Park or biked or walked along its many paths. We all love the park and use it, but many miss one of the city's true gems looming high on the hill, the St. Louis Art Museum.

When speaking to Brent Benjamin, the director of the museum, he reminded me that the St. Louis Art Museum is not only one of the country's top premier encyclopedic art museums, but is one of a handful of museums of its kind that is free and open to the public. This, of course, is due to the generosity of the tax payers.

Whether we are singing, dancing or drawing or whether we are watching a play or listening to a concert or reading a book or reciting a poem--the arts can heal and be transformative in one way or another.

Last summer, the Duane Reed Gallery of Art featured works presented by folks involved with the Arts as Healing Foundation. The exhibition was entitled "The Circle of Life."

When thinking of going to a museum to view art masterpieces and other high quality visual works of art, one might think of the St. Louis Art Museum or even the Missouri History Museum.

We often forget the free and open to the public university museums of art. There are two or even three of these museums not to be missed.

Nancy Kranzberg
Nancy Kranzberg

While visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum in California, I wandered into the magnificent Ostergaard Glass Galleries and feasted my eyes on some glorious works of art. A very informative documentary  titled,"Pilchuck: A Dance With Fire" was playing outside the galleries. The film told of how Pilchuck was founded by the iconic figure Dale Chihuly and a few art friends in the counterculture days of the early 70s. Pilchuck Glass School pushed the boundaries from its very beginnings.

Commentary: Quilting can be an art, not just a craft

Nov 4, 2016

This past spring I attended the Mid America Arts Alliances bi-annual meeting in Lincoln Nebraska. The agenda said that we were to have dinner one evening at "The Quilt House-The International Quilt Study Center and Museum. I was less than overwhelmed about spending the evening in a quilt museum and boy was I wrong!

Founded in 1997 with the donation of the Robert and Ardis James Collection of nearly one thousand quilts, the IQSCM welcomes thousands of visitors each year from every state and from more than thirty countries around the world.

Shoes and footwear have a long history varying from culture to culture and have been designed not only for comfort but often have an artistic flair with added elements such as buckles, bows and beads such as those used in Native American moccasins. Most of us have heard the infamous expression about St. Louis--First in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League. St. Louis has a rich history in the production of shoes. Companies such as Brown Shoe, now Caleres, and International Shoe Company helped our city to grow and put us on the map.

I recently saw an inspiring documentary film title “Carvalho’s Journey” here in St. Louis at the Jewish Film Festival.

In 1853, travelling with explorer John Fremont’s Fifth Westward Expedition, Carvalho became one of the first photographers to document the sweeping vistas and treacherous terrain of the far American West.

Carvalho, a Sephardic Jew, was a painter and had no experience in this rugged outdoor life.  He probably would not have survived without the help of 14 Delaware and Wyandot guides and several topographers.

Commentary: Fashion has value as art

Aug 5, 2016

Even if you are not one to know much about high fashion--haute couture, you most likely have heard of Coco Channel, Oscar de la Renta or Pierre Cardin.

The St. Louis History Museum has a fabulous exhibition entitled, "Little Black Dress: From Mourning to Night.” The exhibition includes dresses by all three of these designers and much more.

Cliff Froehlich, Executive Director of Cinema St. Louis, says in regards to documentary films, "Although some people continue to equate the word "documentary" with "boring," probably as a result of suffering through the dreary educational films once shown in schools, nonfiction films are among the most vibrant, entertaining and illuminating work now being produced.

Commentary: It is time to rethink the concept of beauty

Jun 3, 2016

I recently saw an inspiring show at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. The name of the play was "Another Word for Beauty" and is a stirring new music-filled work by Academy Award nominee Jose Rivera and Grammy winner Hector Buitrago. Each year the female inmates at a Bogota, Columbia prison compete in a beauty pageant intended by their jailers to motivate and rehabilitate them. While the pageant's parade of gorgeous gowns, exotic headdresses and rhythmic dances provides a distraction from daily suffering, its real impact on each woman is more than skin deep.

After seeing a couple of dazzling special exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I walked over to the galleries of musical instruments. The galleries’ collection of these instruments include approximately 5000 examples from six continents and the Pacific Islands and are from 300 B.C. to the present. The galleries illustrate the development of musical instruments from all cultures and eras. The text panels said that the instruments may be understood in a number of ways: as art objects, as ethnographic record, and as documents of the history of music performance.

When I think of still life paintings, I think of Dutch 16th century works which have a beautiful display of flowers presented very formally in a lovely vase.

A walk into the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert called The Galen makes us all realize that still life works included in an exhibition entitled "Still Life: Capturing the Moment" cover the gamut. In this small gem of a show are works in virtually all media.

Future home of .ZACK
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation is developing the new multi-media arts space called .ZACK (pronounced Zack). Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s Director of Operations Chris Hansen said the project will help develop the broader St. Louis theater scene.

“There needs to be a synergy in this new theater district that we’re developing here in Grand Center” he said. “It becomes a place where the performing arts world not only works but they start to build community and fellowship.”

Commentary: Light plays an important role in art

Mar 25, 2016

The title of an exhibition of Tala Madani's work at the Contemporary Art Museum in St Louis (CAM) is "First Light.” Many of the paintings feature the presence of illumination, for example, from the beam of a car headlight or a flashlight; Madani's subjects interrogate both themselves and each other in search of larger truths. This notion of projection connects her work not only to cinema and its presentation of images through light, but also to art history and the tradition of chiaroscuro, or the contrast of light and dark.

Who hasn't enjoyed a comic strip in the newspaper or a comic book or a cartoon in the New Yorker at one time or another? 

What a treat it was to enter the Ojai Valley Museum in Ojai, California and see an exhibition titled "Sergio's Cartoon Collection.” 

Drive through any city in the world and you will find war memorials dedicated to battles or individual war heroes. Many of the sculptures are made by famous artists. War and the military have been themes in art through the ages.

According to Jessica Baran, nationally published poet, art critic and adjunct professor at Washington University as well as director of Fort Gondo on Cherokee Street, "St. Louis' literary community is unique in that its quality is matched equally by its accessibility. An astonishing number of exceptional writers live and work here, which is not a readily known fact by the broader national public. Everyone from established writers like Mary Jo Bang, Carl Phillips and William Gass to emerging ones like Nathaniel Farrell, Eric Lundgren, Stephanie Schlaifer  and beyond.

Jeffrey Trzeciak, Dean of the Washington University Olin Library System, loves the contemporary music scene in St. Louis. He says the diversity of the music culture in our city makes it possible to see and hear great bands every night of the week.

Commentary: The art form of dance thrives in St. Louis

Oct 2, 2015

The art form of dance is thriving in its many guises throughout our city.

Dance St. Louis, led by Michael Uthoff, presents the best dance companies from around the world at both The Touhill and The Fox.

During Uthoff's ten year tenure, the organization not only focuses on the art form, but has through time, energy, and money been committed to preparing St. Louis's youth interested in dance with comprehensive educational programs.

Aine O'Connor, St. Louis Public Radio

Next week, New Line Theatre will celebrate its 25th anniversary by opening the regional premiere of “Heathers” in its brand-new digs: The Marcelle Theater, a new 150-seat black box theatre space in Grand Center built by Ken and Nancy Kranzberg.

It’s a move back to a black box for Artistic Director Scott Miller, which he says he has been hoping to do for years. In addition to changing up the set design, a challenge Scenic and Lighting Designer Rob Lippert is eager to meet, the move also heralds a change in show lineup: The theatre company will now do four shows per season.

We often see the logo for MAC, The Missouri Arts Council, RAC, The Regional Arts Commission, and A&E, The Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, and sometimes M-AAA, The Mid-America Arts Alliance. The first three are somewhat familiar, but often the last is a mystery.

Congratulations to Sarah Hermes Griesbach and Amy Reidel, the co-founders and editors of "All the Art:” the visual art quarterly of St. Louis. The magazine highlights not only the tried and true arts institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum and Laumeier Sculpture Park, but highlights the many and varied art galleries and smaller institutions in our metropolitan area that display high quality visual art.

Commentary: The arts have the power to heal

Jul 2, 2015

As we approach that fateful day in August when the Ferguson tragedy took place, I am again reminded of the power of the arts.

On a recent trip to Japan, our guide told us of the Maeda Clan, rulers in the city of Kanazawa in the16th century, and how they turned from the sword to using the arts and culture to reunite and heal Japan after 150 years of civil war.

Back home some of the reactions to the Ferguson situation expressed through the arts were incredibly moving and powerful. Some art projects were actually begun before August 9.

The Sheldon Art Galleries recently featured the incredibly beautiful and well-crafted marionettes of the Bob Kramer Marionnette Studio. I remember way back when, about 35 years ago, having a birthday party for my daughter in the studio which is still in the same location on Laclede.

St Louis has many exciting art galas and parties. One of my favorites will take place on May 16. It is the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis's, better known as CAM, Dada Ball and Bash.

The attendees wear crazily surreal outfits and makeup, but just what is Dada?

As usual, I ran around town asking some of the most scholarly folks in the art world to help me with the definition of this obscure and short-lived art movement.  

I was in California at the Palm Springs Art Museum's branch in Palm Desert and saw an exhibition entitled, "A Grand Adventure: American Art of the West.

The exhibition included works by our own native son, Charles Russell, works by Remington, the Taos School of New Mexico, Albert Bierstadt and the list goes on.

When I think of St. Louis, I like to say that we're the last eastern city and how culturally rich we are and WE ARE, but after all we are the Gateway to the West. Our Arch is there to prove it. Of course, it is a magnificent piece in and of itself.

Art for those with challenges

Mar 20, 2015

We've heard of wheelchair basketball, tennis and ice hockey played by those with legs that don't function and we've heard of the Special Olympics.

In the arts there are wonderful organizations who help those with physical and mental disabilities to be a part of the St. Louis art scene.

The Riverfront Times had a terrific article entitled "Thespians On Wheels: Joan Lipkin's Disability Project is on a Roll" written by Aimee Levitt. Levitt says, "There are many ways to fight for social change: marching, shouting, stripping. Joan Lipkin has tried them all."

About eight years ago, I visited Marfa, Texas, a West Texas city known as a cultural center for contemporary artists and artisans. In 1971, minimalist artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from New York City. He bought two large airplane hangars and some smaller buildings and began to permanently install his art and the story goes on. Later he acquired with the help of the Dia Art Foundation in New York, the decommissioned Fort D.A. Russell, and began transforming the fort's buildings into art space in which he invited other contemporary artists to show their works.

Commentary: Women Have Made Their Mark In The Arts

Jan 2, 2015

The subject of Women in the Arts has been brought to my attention once again.

Dr. Barbara Harbach, Curators' Professor of Music at UMSL, an internationally known composer and organist has now directed her third Women in the Arts Conference. Women in the Arts is a celebration of women creators present and past, a partnership of institutions and arts organizations from the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Leave it to the Berkshire summer arts festivals to open my eyes even wider to the arts. While there this past summer, I was turned on to physical theater in more ways than one.