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Arts

University City family shares art with each other and now with us

With school starting, many local kids are looking back on long summer days of watching movies or playing video games. But the Sporleder children spent their summer getting ready for a family art show at the University City Public Library.

Eight family members including three of Beverly Sporleder’s grandchildren are in the exhibition, open through Aug. 30.

Two of the children belong to her son, actor Gregory Spoleder. You may have seen him recently in shows like “Sons of Anarchy” or “Criminal Minds.” But his own kids are more likely to be knitting or gluing an old hinge onto a board than glued to the TV, as dad and mom work on their own art projects, nearby.

“Creating together is a very powerful connective element in family life,” Gregory Sporleder said.

Three generations of Sporleders — Beverly, her grandson Bodhi and her son Gregory — talk about each other’s work in this video.

Original story:

Many families hand down things like tall tales or Aunt Cheryl’s mantle clock, but a local family has a different legacy.

The Sporleder clan of University City carries on a tradition of art. On Sunday, an exhibition of their drawings, paintings, collages, sculpture, video art and knitting opens at the University City Public Library. It's the first exhibition any of them has been part of, since Beverly Sporleder was in high school more than 50 years ago.

Some of Beverly Sporleder's line drawings of musicians are in the family art show.
Credit Nancy Fowler
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Some of Beverly Sporleder's line drawings of musicians are in the family art show.

As far as she can remember, it all began with a mother who sewed and a father who sawed and hammered away at various projects. Sporleder, also known as "Nana," recalled how her parents encouraged her to draw and paint. She was 10 when she began working in earnest.

“I remember when we got our TV in 1957, and there was an art show on Saturday morning," Sporleder said. "My folks went to Baders art supply and bought the kit and brought it home.”

‘Man, do you want to knit?’

The show knits together the work of eight Sporleders, including all three of Beverly Sporleder’s grown children. Most of them actually do knit, including 11-year-old Bodhi, who began learning to coax unruly fibers into scarves and socks when he was in kindergarten. His father, Gregory Sporleder, said his son’s friends didn’t always understand.

Gregory and Bodhi Sporleder at the family's art show in the University City Library
Credit Nancy Fowler
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Gregory and Bodhi Sporleder at the family's art show in the University City Library

“There’d be times where neighbor kids would come over and … my son, would be like, ‘Man, do you want to knit?’ and they’d be like, ‘What?’ And he’d be like, ‘Yeah, check this out,’ and he loved it,” Gregory Sporleder said.

Bodhi’s knitting instructor at his Waldorf school in California made sure the kids understood that knitting is for everyone.

“His teacher said sailors were the original knitters, so she painted this picture of these tough seamen, knitting,” he laughed.

Gregory Sporleder enjoys making sculpture. He works as an actor. You may have seen him this year in “Sons of Anarchy” or “Criminal Minds.” He and his family just moved back to St. Louis, so now all the Sporleders live here. Even when they were away, they carried on the tradition of making art, while limiting television. Even so, they kept up with the home team.

“We still watched the Cardinals games but we also we had times where we'd say, ‘What do you want to get out? Let’s make something,’” Gregory Sporleder said.

One of Bodhi Sporleder's sculptures is on display at the art exhibition that includes the work of eight family members.
Credit Nancy Fowler
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One of Bodhi Sporleder's sculptures is on display at the art exhibition that includes the work of eight family members.

On trips home, and now more frequently, the art-making takes place at Nana’s house.

“He loves going down in his grandma’s basement because she’ll let him pretty much glue anything together, bolt things together or use a lathe or drill,” he said.

Bodhi has recently learned to create video art. For him, making art as a family is an everyday activity, the way board games or a playing catch are for other kids.

“It’s fun," Bodhi said. "And I like to sell it sometimes."

So who buys his work?

“My dad, and random people,” Bodhi said.

In Gregory Sporleder’s house, the parents commission their kids’ art, and pay them for it. It lets them earn a little money since they don’t believe in paying children for chores.

Beverly "Nana" Sporleder enjoys seeing what she’s passed down to her children and grandchildren from those early days of learning to paint by watching a television show.

“It stuck, it definitely stuck,” she said.

More family art projects in St. Louis

The Sporleders aren’t the only local family to create work together. On Friday, Aug. 14 at 5 p.m., the father-daughter team of Robert and Liza Fishbone will began painting a mural on an outside wall of KDHX on Washington Avenue in Grand Center. The evening also includes a free concert.

The event is part of an effort called “66 Reasons to Love St. Louis.” It references Route 66 and highlights that same number of places in the local area. The mural will depict scenes and inspirations from those locations.

Eugenia Alexander and her grandmother Edna Patterson-Petty share a sweet moment. Their combined art show "Blended Spirits" opens Sept. 24 in the Crown Square area of North St. Louis.
Credit Nancy Fowler
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Eugenia Alexander and her grandmother Edna Patterson-Petty share a sweet moment. Their combined art show "Blended Spirits" opens Sept. 24 in the Crown Square area of North St. Louis.

Next month, a grandmother-granddaughter team of artists will open a combined exhibition in the 14th Street Mall area of Crown Square in north St. Louis. Edna Patterson-Petty is a fiber artist and art therapist from East St. Louis. Her granddaughter, Eugenia Alexander of St. Louis, is a painter. Their exhibition, called “Blended Spirits,” debuts Sept. 24.

Last January, Patterson-Petty told St. Louis Public Radio she was inspired by her mother, Eugenia’s great-grandmother, to begin working with fabric.

“She made quilts, but she made quilts to keep you warm,” Patterson-Petty said.

Edna Patterson-Petty's "Road to Redemption" was part of President Obama's 2009 inauguration.
Credit Edna Patterson-Petty
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Edna Patterson-Petty's "Road to Redemption" was part of President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Patterson-Petty’s quilts have hung in prestigious places. One was selected to be part of President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Her granddaughter often works around themes of social justice although Alexander doesn’t necessarily think of herself as an activist. But others do, including the person who bought her piece entitled “Justice” in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” art exhibition.

“I kind of was happy that she thought that, that it had some meaning to her, that she felt something powerful,” Alexander said.

Sporleder Family Art Exhibition

When: Opening exhibition 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16; runs through Aug. 30

Where: University City Public Library, 6701 Delmar Blvd., 63130

How much: Free

Information: University City Library website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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