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Arts incubator planned for Cherokee Street

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 15, 2011 - The Luminary Center for the Arts is launching a capital campaign for a Cherokee Street project designed to support artists in St. Louis and around the globe.

Owners of The Luminary, a gallery, studio and exhibition space, operating in a leased South St. Louis City building since 2007, want to buy the former Globe Variety Store at 2700 Cherokee St. They plan to transform the 22,500 square foot, three-story space, one block west of the iconic Globe Drug Store, into a permanent arts incubator.

Directors James and Brea McAnally need to raise about $200,000. That amount would cover a down payment on the approximately $400,000 building and the cost of conversion.

The nonprofit center, which has exhibited from the collections of MoMA and the Guggenheim in its current Reber Place location, needs to have the money by March 31.

"We have an exclusive option on property until then so it can't be rented or sold," James McAnally said.

Plans for the Cherokee Street location include room for exhibitions and music concerts, a museum store, and space for artists in residence to live and work in fully functional studios including woodworking, fabricating and metalworking areas. Those resources would also be available to emerging St. Louis artists.

Space and equipment for artists in residence are critical to The Luminary's goals. Since its inception, the arts center has received applications from artists in 15 countries on five continents for its residency program but has had to reject all but about 10 percent of them, according to McAnally.

"There's not really housing for an international residence program anywhere in the region," McAnally said. "We're modeling it after the Bemis Center in Omaha, which has onsite housing with equipped studios."

Project Compared To The Loop's Tivoli

Jeff Vines, who owns STL Style St. Louis-themed clothing in the 3100 block of Cherokee Street and is on The Luminary's advisory board, called the project a forward-thinking move.

"James and Brea really have their pulse on what's happening around the country. They're bringing that to St. Louis and bringing St. Louis art to the rest of the country," Vines said.

Vines looks forward to a new artistic infusion in the fast-developing Cherokee Street area.

"They could really be an anchor in a way that the Tivoli is to The Loop," Vines said. "This could take Cherokee Street to the next level and really help establish it as the cultural mecca that it is."

From the area's newer restaurants and art galleries to the older Antique Row businesses, there's an important sense of shared fortune in the district, Vines said.

"What's good for the 2700 block is good for us," Vines said.

The Luminary hopes to open its Cherokee Street arts incubator in September 2012. It plans to operate in its South City location until completion of the new space.

For the next few months, the McAnallys will continue working with businesses, foundations and individuals to raise the money for the Cherokee Street building. Already they have in hand about a quarter of what they needs and have another quarter in handshakes and verbal agreements.

"We're really confident that we'll be able to do this," McAnally said.

Information about donating has just been added to The Luminary's website.

"I hope they can pull it off," Vines said. "I think it's a great move for them."

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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