Nancy Kranzberg | St. Louis Public Radio

Nancy Kranzberg

St. Louis is filled with many fine museums both large and small. Of course the St. Louis Art Museum located atop art hill in beautiful Forest Park leads the pack and the Kemper Art Museum is close by at Washington University. Saint Louis University has several museums on its campus and MOCRA (the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art) is a true gem nestled in the campus. There's the St. Louis Blues Museum, The Eugene Field Museum, The Campbell House Museum and the list goes on for pages more. 

Commentary: St. Louis is a strong literary city

Jan 5, 2018

Last week I had a morning filled with culture. I first went to the Eugene Field Museum in downtown St. Louis. In March 2007 the Eugene Field House was designated as a National Historic Landmark by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. 

Eugene Field was best known for his children's poetry and humorous essays. I think of the light-hearted "Wynken, Blyken, and Nod." The museum has a wonderful library filled with Field's works and has special exhibitions and a wonderful collection of antique toys.  

If an art museum exhibition had the name of artist Monet, Picasso or Raphael in it, that would probably be enough to draw a crowd, but that's not usually the case. Unique titles are a huge draw for attendance at museum exhibitions.

 I give the award for best titles for visual art exhibitions to Art Saint Louis, a local art institution in downtown Saint Louis whose mission is to enrich lives through creative activity of our region's contemporary visual artists.

When I googled the word "opera," Wikipedia says, "Opera is a key part of Western Classical Music tradition. It started in Italy at the end of the 16th century and soon spread through the rest of Europe." The article goes on to discuss the history of opera up to the present time, but our own Timothy O'Leary, General Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Chairman of Opera America, has words to describe opera best.

We see and hear art at our many art venues around town and most, both large and small institutions and venues, have exciting education programs. I'll just highlight a few of them.

Theater in St. Louis is not only alive and well, it's getting stronger than ever. There are over 25 professional theater groups and oodles of community theater groups, some of which have been around forever. Our region has the well-known larger groups such as The Muny, The Rep, The Black Rep and Fox Associates which produces Broadway plays that win Tony Awards and gives us the power to get the best Broadway shows right here in St. Louis.

It's nice to visit an art museum to view beautiful and exciting art exhibitions or to see and hear music, dance or poetry from a stage, but the walls and stages are not always essential to feel and hear the excitement of a work of art. Take for example Desert X in Palm Springs, California.  

In general, many women have broken the glass ceiling and occupy very prestigious positions not only in our city, but throughout the country and the world. We finally have a female mayor in St. Louis.

Women are finally being given their due in the arts as well. Just looking at the visual arts, the museums I have frequented recently have featured women.

In March I attended the True/False Documentary Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. The festival takes place yearly at the end of February or beginning of March. What a unique and festive atmosphere with each film featuring music before the film and contemporary pieces of sculpture all over town. The festival was founded in 2004 by Paul Sturtz and David Wilson and draws thousands of people from all over the country.

Commentary: Hats have a long history as art

May 5, 2017

Hats off to the St. Louis Art Museum for presenting "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade." When I think of Degas, I think of young dancers, but this exhibition is the first one to explore Degas' fascination with the subject of millinery. The museum calendar booklet described the exhibition as focusing on the intersection between the artist's avant-garde work and a remarkable golden age in the history of millinery in Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Grand Center is truly the center for the arts in St. Louis.

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.