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After years away from his art, Tom Brady returns to it, and to a part of himself

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 7, 2012 -She was in high school when he began to see it, that spark for things created from her own mind with her own hands. 

A decade ago, Tom Brady was 55, a successful financial adviser with 23 years in the business. For all that time, boxes sat in the basement of his Mehlville home that told of another life and another self.

That’s how it seemed, at least.

But when Dara Brady began bringing home pieces of her own art, her father felt moved to tell her about his other self, to pull open his boxes.

That life — the performances at avant-garde studios in New York, pieces where he buried himself in sand with just a painted black arm and white leg piercing out while he breathed through a straw, the moments of transformation he found in performance art — he mourned its absence almost every day. 

But when the reason he’d left that path stepped onto it herself, Brady saw that maybe it wasn’t another life or another self. 

He was 55, and he realized: “All I have to do is take one step forward and I will be on the path that I never left.”

Today, Brady is 65, considered a “young old” by demographers, public policy makers and gerontologists. It's a group that includes people 65 to 75, who often work longer and lead more active lives than their parents did at the same age. The categories reflect the different stages of aging and the needs and experiences of the people in those categories.

Now, like many other "young olds," Brady is redefining what aging really means. 


He found performance art young, while in college. Soon, he craved the experience, the juxtaposition of elements, that transformative moment during a performance where art wasn’t static, but dynamic.

Brady earned his bachelor’s in fine arts at Kansas University and his master’s at Rutgers University. He and his wife moved to New York, and the couple had a daughter and son. In 1980, they learned a third child was on the way.

“We were running out of financial gas,” he says. 

It wasn’t a choice, really — keep creating or support his family — just a reality. 

Brady and his family packed up their lives in New York and moved back to St. Louis, where he followed his father’s example and began working in finance. They built his business and raised their children. 

Then, Dara came home with her art.

Brady returned to his own in the basement, creating masks. He began performing, and since that beginning has shared his work at COCA, Laumeier Sculpture Park, in Forest Park, and at an art conference in Milan. He’s collaborated with ANNONYArts and now stages performances at his own studio, Satori.

For so long, Brady’s life in finance felt like a detour. But his youngest child’s spark showed him that it was really just a circle.


Black curtains stretch across a wall of windows, blocking out the morning light. Brady wears all black, too. His bright blue eyes move around the room as he describes his next piece.

Pieces of sheer fabric drape from wall to wall. There are platforms, ladders, and a story of transformation, inspiration and redemption that seems close to his own.

Today, the couple’s youngest daughter lives in Los Angeles. Like her father, she’s also an artist. Brady works, still, as a financial advisor with Equity Financial Services. And he works here. 

Now, instead of two lives and two selves, it seems like two parts of the same man.

Art is a piece of her husband, says Sandy Brady.

It took time for him to return to it, "but I think he’s always had this in him."

For years, age was one of the things that held him back from returning. Maybe he was too old, he thought. Maybe the time had passed.

It hadn’t. 

The work he produces now, at 65, reflects his life and his experiences. He couldn't have done that decades ago.

"Frankly, as a young person, I thought I had all the answers and I now realize, as an older person, I now realize that I’m just beginning to ask the right questions."

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