Reflection: A Form of Illumination | St. Louis Public Radio

Reflection: A Form of Illumination

Oct 8, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 8, 2012 - The FORM Design Show has evolved from a fundraiser to the anchor of the St. Louis Design Week and a community builder, drawing applications from artists all over the country and providing a place for them to display, network and learn from each other. It also is a springboard for an interesting upcoming event. But more about that later.

At the end of September, the normally empty ground floor of the Ely Walker Lofts building provided a soaring platform for the Luminary Center for the Arts’ 3rd annual FORM Design Show.

Brea and James McAnally, co-founders of the Luminary, are very intentional about the diversity of work and artists when making their selections of FORM participants. An echo of their Luminary exhibits where it’s common to see world-renown artists displayed next to complete unknowns, they feel this approach fosters an environment of inspiration instead of competition. The McAnallys also see FORM as an opportunity to draw the general public into the point at which concept becomes craftsmanship while giving artists the chance to explain their choices and processes.

An exchange of ideas and crossover between the communities is the energizing force that powers the Luminary and seems to be a major contributor to their success. For five years, the Luminary, currently housed in a former convent on South Kingshighway, has offered gallery space, internships, resources and residencies to emerging local artists and played host to traveling exhibits and the popular Elevator Music series.

With success came growth and the desire to move from being a freestanding haven for artists to actually being present in a community. For Brea and James, the Luminary was always destined for the Cherokee neighborhood: condensed, vibrant and diverse. Pursuing this dream through various fundraisers and a successful campaign on Kickstarter, the McAnallys now have a lease-purchase agreement for a space on Cherokee and renovations begin this month, with a view to have the space completed over the next two years.  

True to what seems to be the couple’s constant forward motion, they will begin to use what space they can almost immediately and are planning exhibits, including an inaugural display of their own work on Oct. 19. Once the rehab is complete, the Luminary will feature apartments for traveling artists, more room for conceptual and performance art and a wider door for community programs, fulfilling its mission statement to become “an incubator for new ideas and the arts.” One of their most exciting plans is to hand the keys over to visiting curators, the first NURTUREart in New York, as a way to open a dialogue with other art communities and to continually re-energize the Luminary.

So how did this year’s FORM tie into the growth of the Luminary and St. Louis art. A community dinner in support of the Luminary’s move, rehab and outfitting is planned for Nov 9. Diners will enjoy a cozy family-style meal with dishes and drinks provided by local restaurants and breweries – atop a table constructed by FORM designers, volunteers and attendees – a true community effort. The attendees will also have the opportunity to leave with the artist-designed (and donated) chair that they sat on for the evening.

As a shining and gracious role model to the St Louis arts community, the Luminary couldn’t have chosen a better name for itself.

For more information on the Community Dinner or how to contact the Luminary, visit: