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3 women who arrived in 2015 to run the arts are finding a home in St. Louis

Regional Arts Commission executive director Felicia Shaw, Pulitzer director Cara Starke and St. Louis Symphony president Marie-Hélène Bernard
Regional Arts Commission, Pulitzer Arts Foundaiton and St. Louis Symphony
Regional Arts Commission executive director Felicia Shaw, Pulitzer director Cara Starke and St. Louis Symphony president Marie-Hélène Bernard";

Three women who moved to St. Louis this year to head up major arts organizations are praising the area for assets ranging from architecture to sports teams. But all three agreed on one perk: the food.

Felicia Shaw of the Regional Arts Commission, Cara Starke of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and Marie-Hélène Bernard of the St. Louis Symphony have each been in town for just a few months.

Shaw, who came from San Diego, loves the City Museum. She took her family there over Thanksgiving, including her mother, three sons and three grandsons. But her biggest thrill about St. Louis is not so much the giant slides but the Southern and Midwestern cuisine.

“This whole thing they’re doing with fried chicken, and of course the barbeque — my goodness!” Shaw said. “So food, yeah, too much food.”

St. Louis native, Shaw's already enjoyed the traditional toasted ravioli but not St. Louis’ best-known dessert.

“I haven’t had Ted Drewes yet, and it’s on my list,” Shaw said.

One tiny step at a time

Pulitzer director Cara Starke has spent a lot of time traveling in connection with her new job but is getting to know St. Louis in short walking tours.
Pulitzer Arts Foundation

New Pulitzer Arts Foundation director Cara Starke also enjoys St. Louis restaurants, especially the brunches.

She’s been in town since Labor Day and has already been named one of the most powerful museum directors in the country by “W” magazine.  But Starke, who moved here from New York City, doesn’t wield all the power at home. The needs of her toddler daughter come first, so Starke’s explorations of the city are often limited to simple walks in their South City neighborhood.

“Because you have a very limited window when you live with a person who takes long naps,” Starke said.

But these slow meanderings have given the whole family a chance to appreciate St. Louis’ unique features.

“She’s noting all the window arch shapes and we’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, there are a remarkable number of arches,’ which is something that’s entered her vocabulary since we’ve arrived here, of course,” Starke said.

Marie-Hélène Bernard laughs with Fred Bird at an August Cardinals game in which she threw out the first pitch.
St. Louis Symphony

St. Louis Symphony president Marie-Hélène Bernard explores her Central West End neighborhood on foot with her 12-year-old Pug and two Shih Tzus. Bernard’s also enjoyed poking around bookstores and dining at local cafes during her six months in town. In August, she got a view of Busch Stadium that few will ever know, throwing out the first pitch in one August game.

“It was not a very strong pitch but it made it to the guy,” Bernard laughed.

A former partner was a “baseball freak,” who taught her the basics.  When Bernard needed to warm up for her big day at Busch Stadium, she called on Symphony vice-president Adam Crane.

“We practiced 10 minutes every week in the parking lot behind Powell Hall,” she said.

As a Montreal native who spent many years in Boston, Bernard once rooted for the Red Sox.

“But now I’m a Cardinals fan,” Bernard said. She’s looking forward to rooting for another local sports team.

“Now I want to go to a Blues game because I’m a big hockey fan but I haven’t been yet,” Bernard said. “I’m waiting for someone to invite me.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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