Arts | St. Louis Public Radio


Quarantine Radio Theater troupe members record their parts individually at home, and send them to Brant McChance, who mixes together the final product. The radio plays are available as podcasts or on YouTube. [6/11/20]
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Professional theater artists have been out of work since state and local officials restricted large gatherings to keep the new coronavirus from spreading. The ongoing shutdown of performance spaces also stings for folks who view theater as a hobby. 

Community theater enthusiasts use theater to socialize with friends and stretch their creative muscles. In a period of quarantine, the absence of this outlet can sting. 

A group of about a dozen people who were active in community theater before the coronavirus pandemic has found a way to keep their camaraderie going. 

As the newly formed troupe Quarantine Radio Theater, the amateur theater enthusiasts dust off the scripts to radio plays of the 1930s and '40s and produce new versions, complete with dramatic music and foley effects.

The Muny box office sells tickets for its 100th season, which has drawn criticism for its production of "Jerome Robbins' Broadway." June 30, 2018
Brian Heffernan | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

The Muny is canceling its 2020 season because of the coronavirus. 

Its leaders concluded that the theater could not safely offer performances while observing social distancing practices that are meant to slow the spread of the virus. By skipping the season, the theater in Forest Park will incur a $4 million budget deficit. 

Large venues with coronavirus safety protocols approved by the city’s Department of Health are permitted to reopen as of today.

Managing Director Kwofe Coleman said the organization will avoid layoffs for its year-round staff of 35 people, but it won’t employ the 800 to 900 seasonal employees it typically takes on during the summer. These workers range from actors to crew members to venue staff.

Online streaming is not a simple solution for theater makers devoted to the community formed by people gathered for an event in the same place. Metro Theater Company is experimenting with ways to make it work.  [5/27/20]
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

When coronavirus-related restrictions went into effect in St. Louis and St. Louis County in March, they took a sledgehammer to Metro Theater Company’s immediate plans. 

With school districts closed, the company called off its planned residencies in three school buildings. Company leaders pushed its May gala to next fall. Its usual fall tour of schools seemed imperilled. And coronavirus complications make it hard to sell tickets to an October show at the Grandel Theatre. 

Troupe members turned to the internet as a way to keep connecting with audiences. But they say their artform is based on building community among people gathered in the same space at the same time. 

Many aren’t sure if that sense of community will translate to a computer screen. But they’re giving it a shot. 

Brian McKinley, left, and Drummond Crenshaw rehearse a scene from 'Spell #7' at the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre at Washington University.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Leaders at fewer than half the arts organizations in the St. Louis area say they are confident their organizations will survive the impact of COVID-19. 

That uncertainty is revealed in a survey by the national advocacy group Americans for the Arts. 

Only 38 of 79 arts organization leaders in St. Louis and in St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties who responded reported that they will likely survive the economic disruptions of the pandemic. Nationwide, 58% of arts organizations who responded to the survey expressed confidence.

St. Louis-area arts organizations lost more than $2.5 million during the coronavirus crisis, according to the survey’s calculations.

Figaro, right, keeps the schemes moving crisply along. 5.23.15
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Opera Theatre of St. Louis announced the largest donation in its history today.

A $45 million bequest by philanthropist and board member Phyllis Brissenden will boost the opera’s endowment to $80 million. Opera officials describe the gift as one of the largest ever made to an American opera company. Its largest single donation previously was a gift of $2 million.

Only one building is currently standing on the 5.2 acre Olive St. site.  [8/26/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

A $30 million housing development backed by philanthropist and arts patron Emily Rauh Pulitzer is poised to remake a virtually empty block on Olive Street in the Grand Center area of St. Louis.

When finished, the development will include 27 single-family homes and a building with 35 apartments, mixed between one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Developers plan to begin construction on four model homes, each designed by a different architect, in the fall. 

Creative Reaction Lab was one of the first winners of the stARTup Creative Competition 2/17/19
Arts and Education Council

Calling all arts entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region: the third-annual stARTup Creative Competition is underway. A $20,000 prize is at stake.

The Arts and Education Council devised the contest to give a boost to new ventures.

Either one winner will receive $20,000, or two will split it. The prize also includes work space in Arts and Education Council’s arts incubator at the Centene Center for the Arts in Grand Center, including internet access and other logistical support.

COCA's arts integration programs meld the arts with various academic subjects.  11/21/18

More St. Louis-area students will soon use the arts to help make sense of science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

COCA launched a school residency program devised to combine the arts with the STEM subjects as a pilot program in 2013. This school year the arts center is running 44 such residencies, spread across eight public schools. A $100,000 grant from Boeing will help COCA expand to 60 residencies in nine schools, reaching 1,500 total students.

Mvstermind poses for a portrait at his north St. Louis County studio. Oct. 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’re looking for Mvstermind, you can probably find him in his studio in north St. Louis County. It’s where he hunkers down with different sounds and beats as he works to refine his brand of hip-hop.

The studio, in his parents’ basement, is where he works on all his projects, including “Mali Moolah,” the track that drew national attention in 2016. The newest is an in-progress EP, set drop in early 2019.

Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Illinois, is one recipient of a set of grants targeting arts organizations in rural areas. 8/16
Arts and Education Council

Nine arts groups in Missouri and Illinois will share $45,000 in grants announced Wednesday by Arts and Education Council, a nonprofit agency funded by private donations.

The money is split between two programs, each funded by Monsanto Fund. One offers general, organizational support to established arts organizations in rural areas; the other funds smaller groups planning new programs or events.

Daria Finley took her sudden onset of blindness as an opportunity to get into acting.  8/16/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis native Daria Finley was focused on her career, working in the information technology department of the Department of Defense, when one day she woke up blind. She'd been diagnosed with glaucoma the year before, but her sudden onset of blindness was a shock for her and her doctors.

Finley used this life-changing experience as an opportunity to pursue things she had only daydreamed about doing before. They include modeling, acting in a short film and writing and performing a one-woman play about her experiences.

Felicia Shaw, new executive director of St. Louis' Regional Arts Commission, said she had a sense that this community would now "be open to change" after the events of Ferguson.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The Regional Arts Commission will award $3.8 million in grants to 125 arts organizations in St. Louis, the organization announced Wednesday.

But a shift in the commission’s priorities means many established groups are now shut out. The commission, which receives a portion of the city’s occupancy tax on visitors to hotels and motels, will not fund 40 arts organizations that received RAC grants in 2017.

Organizers expect 20,000 visitors across the festival's three days.  5/25/18
St. Louis African Arts Festival

The 27th annual St. Louis African Arts Festival takes up residence at the World’s Fair Pavilion at Forest Park from Saturday through Monday. 

The festival aims to educate people in St. Louis about the wide ranges of cultures among African nations and the African diaspora.

A committee of budget-controlling Missouri Senators recommends continuing to fund the arts at current levels through the ongoing use of a tax on out-of-state performers. 

On Tuesday, the Ways and Means committee advanced Senate Bill 773 by a 6 to 1 vote. This legislation extends a 2 percent tax on non-resident professional athletes and entertainers for another 10 years. 

National Blues Museum Director Dion Brown
The National Blues Museum

The National Blues Museum in St. Louis will soon be looking for a new executive director.

Dion Brown, who has led the museum for two years, is leaving to become president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. He departs in mid-February.

In this April 12 photo, arts advocate and law professor Adrienne Davis looks upon a piece by artist Lorna Simpson in her home collection.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Adrienne Davis teaches law but she regularly cross-examines the status quo in a completely different field: the arts.

The Washington University law professor will receive an Arts Advocacy award from the Women of Achievement of St. Louis in a May 16 event at the Ritz-Carlton. The honor applauds her service on various boards including that of the St. Louis Art Museum and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

But it also extols her efforts to infuse more racial diversity into the artistic pipeline, from art-makers to gallery attendants to curators to institutional leaders. In our latest Cut & Paste arts and culture podcast, we talk with Davis about her advocacy and why it matters.

Michael Middleton
Courtesy University of Missouri Columbia

This weekend will be the last for a performance of “My Country: A Devised Work,” a play presented by the UMSL's Theatre and Cinema Arts department, which was inspired by Sam Beadle’s poem “My Country.”

Singaporean filmmaker Mabel Gan has brought a version of the International Children's Film Festival she started in Singapore to St. Louis.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a new film festival in town, this time focused on films made by and for children. It is called the Big Eyes, Big Minds St. Louis International Children’s Film Festival and it is spearheaded by Singaporean filmmaker and festival director Mabel Gan.

“When I think of kids, I think of big eyes, big minds because they have bigger eyes and there is so much potential for their minds to grow,” Gan told St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter on Monday’s program.

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company

PNC Bank will distribute $1 million over the next four years to help fund arts groups in the St. Louis region.

The grants, part of PNC's Arts Alive funding initiative, have a larger focus than just keeping organizations afloat in the short term.  They aim to inspire lasting programs that reinvigorate arts organizations.

Since 2011, the Arts Alive program has distributed $2 million to established theater companies, museums and dance companies. Recipients include Dance St. Louis, Opera Theater of St. Louis and The Muny. 

Linda Kennedy and Alicia Like joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss "Miss Julie, Clarissa and John."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This week marks the opening of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company’s 40th anniversary season with the Midwest premiere of “Miss Julie, Clarissa & John,” a play by Mark Clayton Southers.

The Black Rep’s founder and producing director Ron Himes, actress Alicia Like and artistic associate Linda Kennedy joined St. Louis on the Air on Friday to discuss the production and the rest of the season. 

Arts and Education Council launches new crowd-funding platform

Aug 12, 2016
Provided by Phaedra Phestival. Photo by Wilson Webel.
Provided by Phaedra Phestival. Photo by Wilson Webel.

The Arts and Education Council has launched a new crowd-sourcing platform called stARTup-StL  aimed at uniting its existing donor base, new donors and arts projects in the metro area. 

Much like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the fundraising tool will help organizations and individuals raise money. But fees are far less than those charged by larger services. The council will only collect credit card fees for processing donations. All other funds will stay in the St. Louis region.

Two child hands pass red and green string through a fence
Provided | Intersect Arts Center

Sarah Bernhardt was seeing a lot of conflict in her south St. Louis neighborhood — moving between day-to-day destinations, and between the kids in her after-school arts program.

Wanting to help foster understanding between young people and their communities, Bernhardt started the Resolve Youth Art Camp for Violence Prevention. It begins Monday at the Intersect Arts Center, 3630 Ohio Ave., where she is the director.

Berhardt and her team of instructors will teach 8- to 14-year-olds how to use dance, photography, and hip-hop to avoid violence in their daily lives.

The backwards Maplewood installation by Brooklyn artist Janet Zweig is illuminated at night. "I fell in love with the city," Zweig said.
Cathy Carver

Rick Jackoway recently moved back to St. Louis after 26 years away. When he drove under a sign on the MetroLink overpass on Manchester Road he thought, “Well, you don’t see that every day!”

So he asked our new Curious Louis project:

Why is the word Maplewood spelled backward on the sign going over Manchester Road, just east of Laclede St. Road? Always wondered.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 14, 2013 - So much opportunity, so few jobs. St. Louis has a vibrant visual art scene, with freelancers and other reporters devoting part of their attention to art exhibitions but no dedicated critic.

The lack of an art critic was the subject of a roundtable about art criticism in St. Louis in which I participated Saturday at Fort Gondo compound for the arts on Cherokee Street.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 7, 2013 - Like the story of the blind men and the elephant, St. Louis can feel like a completely different city depending on which part you experience. According to the fable, the man who felt the elephant’s tail described the animal as a rope, the one who touched the leg likened it to a pillar and the one who stroked the ear compared it to a fan.

“You are all right,” the sighted king explains to the group.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 29, 2013 - Henry Shaw was only 19 when he purchased parcels of land in a swath of St. Louis prairie in 1840. The French called the natural, unpopulated habitat on the western edge of the city Prairie des Noyers, after one of the original settlers of St. Louis.

It was a rural landscape on the fringes of the urban, and Shaw’s ideal spot for a garden and the city’s first suburban developments, marked by Shaw’s country retreat.

Beacon blog: Connection is a human theme

Mar 22, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 22, 2013 - This week, the Beacon has been hosting open mics in four areas that have been getting help in identifying how arts can help them and that may get further aid through the Kresge Foundation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 12, 2012 - The data have been tabulated, the options debated and the results are in.

The steering committee of the Kresge St. Louis embedded arts grant has agreed on the four neighborhoods to receive help in discovering programs and funding that can be set up specifically for each area. The committee chose Old North St. Louis, Midtown, the Garden District and the Loop in part for their mix of existing arts organizations, high walkability and economic and racial diversity.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 19, 2012 - The holistic nature of the Kresge Arts St. Louis grant was not included in the original outline.

When the Kresge Foundation finalized the $100,000 planning grant, the research to choose which neighborhoods would received planning assistance was to be left to consultants, according to Diane Drollinger, director of community partnerships as the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 16, 2012 - Todd Swanstrom and Karl Guenther were given a seemingly paradoxical charge by the steering committee overseeing a Kresge Foundation grant: Find neighborhoods with the elements for a spontaneous explosion of the arts so  local organizations could help build those spontaneous arts.