St. Louis Artists Share Bright Moments Of 2020
Many St. Louisans have leaned on the arts to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic. They went to museum and gallery exhibitions. They viewed plays and concerts online. They paused to look at local artists’ work on billboards and in storefronts.
Artists and performers scrambled to find ways to keep making and sharing their work. They also turned to the work of their peers.
We asked some of them to name locally produced things that inspired them or have helped get them through the pandemic. Here are some of their answers.
'Lobby Hero,' Stray Dog Theatre
“It sounded crazy, what those guys were doing over there, that they were building these four cubes for the actors to stand in. And then I watched it, and it was so good. It was such a fantastic production. They had four outstanding actors. They didn’t need props, they didn’t need to interact. The cubes were not even distracting, you forgot they were there … It wasn’t normal. They didn’t even try to simulate normal. It was like, this is how theater looks in 2020.”
—Colin Healy, artistic director of Fly North Theatricals
Terry Adkins’ exhibition 'Resounding,' Pulitzer Arts Foundation
“Particularly with the visual arts, there have been extraordinary opportunities for access and incredible silver linings. But I would say one of the most extraordinary things has been going to the Pulitzer and my husband and I quite literally having it to ourselves. When you make your reservation to go in, you are it.
"It is a magical experience, and one that is special under any circumstances. But boy, what a shot in the arm during this time. Not just to be able to see the show uninterrupted and alone, but to be able to be in the building and have like a bespoke experience of that building is very, very special.”
—Lisa Melandri, executive director of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
Artist Cbabi Bayoc
“I respect his work so much, just because he highlights, you know, Black children and Black families and Black fathers. And it's just so important. Black art, in general, is important. And the fact that he continuously just uplifts our voices — representation is so important. So I’m glad that’s just always in how he works. He’s consistent with that."
—Tiana Bojorquez, known as visual artist Bojo
Painted Black STL
"It was cool to see that organization continue [in December], to highlight black artists and black voices because, honestly, that’s what this movement is. Art has always been a part of any major revolution or movement in history. We have a voice somehow, some way."
—Tiana Bojorquez, known as visual artist Bojo
'Coconut Cake' and 'Front Porch Society,' by the Black Rep
“It was really nice to see theater, at least virtually. I had my reservations about whether I would enjoy a Zoom performance of a play. But it was actually really cool. I really enjoyed it. It was an easy story to follow and I laughed, and felt for the characters and I was rooting for certain characters.”
—Brian McKinley, actor and executive assistant at the Black Rep
Various musicians’ web streams
“Everybody just started posting these live videos of them just playing for the sake of it, just jamming in they room or jamming with the band, or people who did album release parties via livestream. And it put a fire under my butt because it was just like, ‘Tara, what are you afraid of?’
“I think watching other people post their own intimate videos of themselves playing and just saying what’s on the heart, being vulnerable with people — that inspired me to go and do the same thing, because we had no other way of performing or getting our music out to people.
“People want to see your face. People want to see you in person. So it brought back the intimacy of performances again for me.”
—Singer-songwriter Katarra Parson
Arts United STL fundraising concert
“It was one of those things where in the midst of all the chaos — and it was chaos — everybody said yes. And seeing that everyone else had gotten through that to create and contribute and just say that’s all we’ve got now, as artists, as people, as professionals — it was very, very moving to me.
“You can’t give up the spark and you can’t lose the creative act, because our community needs it. And it needs it from us in whatever form we can offer right now. It’s essential as a civic idea, I believe. It’s definitely part of who we are as a community, as citizens, as the life of St. Louis.
“So you had no room to just say, I’m out until we have a vaccine. Everyone has had to figure something out and they’ve done it with courage and with whatever resources they have or don’t have. And they keep that spark there.”
—Mike Isaacson, artistic director and executive producer of the Muny