COCA | St. Louis Public Radio


Felicia Shaw is the executive director of the Regional Arts Commission.
File Photo | Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:27 p.m., with comments from Mont Levy, chairman of the Regional Arts Commission — Felicia Shaw, executive director of the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis, resigned today.

The organization announced Shaw’s departure Monday and named Celia Hosler as interim executive director. Hosler, former chief operating officer of COCA, will start immediately.

Shaw could not be reached for comment. RAC officials gave no reason for her departure.

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.

RhonniRose Mantilla, wearing a red dress, rehearses Thursday night for an upcoming community production of West Side Story in July.
Monica Mileur | COCA

A few weeks ago, St. Louis provided a flashpoint in a national conversation about theater casting and cultural heritage.

A group of visiting theater artists booed a Muny performance with a white actor playing an Asian role, before walking out. They also objected to Caucasian actors playing Puerto Ricans in a segment from “West Side Story.”

This weekend, COCA is performing “West Side Story” at the Edison Theatre at Washington University. Half the characters in the story are Puerto Rican. But with a few exceptions, they’ve historically been played on stage and in film by white actors.  That bothers some of the young people in the COCA production.

A mock-up of the St. Louis Map Room, a collaborative projec that will open in March, allowing citizens to reconsider the maps and routes of their daily lives through the lens of data.
Courtesy COCA

Take any given day of the week: What route do you take to work? How do you get to the grocery store? What secret, traffic-free pathways do you take to get to school?

Do you remember how you decided which way to go? What to avoid? Have you thought about what subtle factors influenced those decisions?

This artist's rendering shows a renovated studio space at COCA.
Provided | COCA

Hammering and drilling will soon join the chorus of tap dancing and singing at the COCA arts center in University City.

The institution will launch an expansion and renovation in early 2018. It includes a 450-seat theater, more than 8,000 square feet of studio space, a community area and a 200-car parking garage. COCA expects to complete the work in late 2019.

Actor Dan Kelly aims his gun, as a cop in "You Try It" by Neil LaBute, part of the "Every 28 Hours" theater collaboration. Actors Joel Beard, Noble Montgomery and Theresa Masters look on.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Every day, in St. Louis or elsewhere, a black person shudders in fear after seeing a police officer approaching. Every day, a cop makes a lightning-quick decision that could mean life or death.

A. J. Rosenberg was the lead artist on "Peace Wish Dove," 2014. Off-duty police officers and a number of others helped paint the 7-by-4-foot piece at an office on West Florissant Avenue.
Outside In: Paint for Peace

An art exhibition made of plywood, paint and community spirit opens this weekend in St. Louis.

The work emerged from the 2014 unrest sparked by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown. Nights of protest and police action gave way to days of boarding up buildings.

After a grand jury declined to charge Wilson in Brown’s death, the protests moved in to St. Louis on South Grand Boulevard. Business owners affixed plywood to their plate-glass windows to cover the damage and protect against more.

To artists and others, the plywood became a canvas. Painting alone, and in collaboration, they transformed the knotty wood into works of art. Beginning Saturday, a collection of the pieces will be displayed at several venues in a show called “Outside In: Paint for Peace.”

COCA's summer musical, "Memphis," is set in a 1950s Memphis underground rock n' roll bar.
Center of Creative Arts

For Duane Foster, the Center of Creative Arts’ (COCA) production of “Memphis” has several parallels to this time two years ago, when the non-profit arts organization produced the musical “Ragtime.”

For one, both musicals delve deeply into race relations and issues of diversity in the United States during previous time periods.

From top left, Freida Wheaton, Kelly Pollock, Ilene Berman, Cecilia Nadal
Photos provided

Updated with link to winners' bios and photos.

The revived Saint Louis Visionary Awards is recognizing seven individuals in its 2015 list of women who are making a difference in the arts.

The performing and visual arts can bring history to life. During Black History Month, St. Louis is bursting with opportunities to celebrate and learn through movement, music, drama, film, painting and sculpture. (See list, below.)

Renowned Dancers Leave New York To Join COCA

Jan 16, 2015
Kirven, right, and Antonio Douthit-Boyd
Andrew Eccles

Antonio Douthit-Boyd “stumbled upon dance” in St. Louis. Kirven Douthit-Boyd was “forced into it, really” in Boston. The pair, now principal dancers with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, is moving to St. Louis to become the Center of Creative Arts’ artistic directors of dance.

Antonio Douthit-Boyd
Jacob Blickenstaff Photography

For dancer Antonio Douthit-Boyd, the time has come to return the favor.

At 16, the beat of a drum lured him off the street and into a Washington Avenue dance class, where he was soon taken in as a disadvantaged prodigy. It changed his life.

Now, he and his dancer husband, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, are coming home to instruct and nurture a new generation.

“I hope that Kirven and I can do for other students what they did for me,” Antonio Douthit-Boyd said.

St. Louis Data Project Reaches Half-Way Point

Oct 22, 2014
Jer Thorp
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio Intern | File photo

Data artist Jer Thorp completed the research-based stage of his $75,000 project to examine and creatively present St. Louis’ data. The New York based artist’s research consists of city visits and extensive demographic and mapping research coupled with an unexpected emphasis on experiencing the physical environment of St. Louis.

Ellyxandria Ferguson

Updated Friday, April 25, 2014 to include audio from Cityscape.

Growing up in north St. Louis, Antonio Douthit dreamed of dancing with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The story of his rise from homeless kid to COCA prodigy to Ailey dancer is legend in the St. Louis arts world.

What Pictures Do St. Louis Data Paint? We're About To Find Out

Mar 27, 2014
Jer Thorp
Stephanie Zimmerman | St. Louis Public Radio Intern | File photo

In 2009, Jer Thorp noticed that quite a few people were tweeting the words “Good Morning.”

Provided by Afriky Lolo

St. Louisans can explore the area's broad past including black history through larger-than-life puppets, Gee’s Bend, Ala., quilters and exhibits by members of the Alliance of Black Art Galleries.

The recently formed Alliance of Black Art Galleries will debut its first collaborative exhibit in February in connection with St. Louis’ 250th birthday celebration.

COCA Presents 'Turn Of The Screw'

Oct 25, 2013
(Courtesy COCA)

The Center of Creative Arts in St. Louis is presenting psychological thriller "Turn of the Screw" this weekend, just in time to set the mood for Halloween.

The two-person cast is performing Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Henry James' 1898  gothic novella about a governess in England who takes a new position in Essex and begins to hear ghosts and see apparitions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 22, 2013 - Like many artists, dancer Antonio Douthit hears a different drummer. But the drumbeat that changed his life at 16 wasn’t in his head. It wafted from a window on Washington Avenue.

Douthit followed the beat into a community center, where he found aTrek Dance Collective’s artistic director Angela Culbertson. She invited him to come back, and worked with him for a few months. Seeing his promise, Culbertson introduced to the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), which offered him a scholarship.

Review: COCA show investigates local geography

Apr 11, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 11, 2013 - Meredith Foster is a local artist whose subject is local ecosystems. Her Mississippi Delta exploration bounces from wall to wall to floor in the Millstone Gallery at the Center of Creative Arts.

Review: Quilts at COCA aren't for keeping warm

Jan 2, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 2, 2013 - Like the Sheldon Concert Hall, the Center for Creative Arts, offers a dedicated space to the visual arts that is well worth visiting, even without attending a dance, theatrical or musical production. Edna Patterson-Petty’s quilt exhibit, Generating the Future, in the Millstone Gallery at COCA, hangs for another two weeks.

These are not quilts as traditionally conceived, made with repeating patterns to cover a bed. The single panel multimedia art works are more akin to a work on canvas. They are meant for display, not for practical use.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 17, 2012 - Kevin Carroll may be in his early 50s but he doesn’t look like a man pushing middle age.

“I like to tell people I’ve got a little bit of that Benjamin Button gene in me,” said the Philadelphia native with a chuckle.

Review: Bulawsky captures memories

Sep 2, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 2, 2011 - The prints in Lisa Bulawsky's "Four Chapters in the Present We Were" are as fragile, elusive and poetic as the memories they record. They were generated in response to interviews with older Americans, asked to recall their experiences of four historical events: World War II, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Apollo 11 moon landing and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Review: 'A is for ...' earns high mark

Jun 27, 2011

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2011 - There's been a lot of talk about the latest pint-size Pollock, a 4-year-old girl who can paint just like the swaggering expressionist brutes of the mid-20th century. The perennial fascination with the child art prodigy reveals more about popular conceptions (or misconceptions) about art, than it does about the actual creativity of children. That is an entirely different, and vastly more interesting topic.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 24, 2011 - For "Everybody's Autobiography" at the Center of Creative Arts' Millstone Gallery, curator Jessica Baran has paired works by Robert Gober and Kerry James Marshall, two of the most trenchantly observant artists working today.

COCA celebrates Riven's tenure, looks ahead

Sep 23, 2010

This article first apeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 23, 2010 - When Stephanie Riven agreed, in 1986, to go to work for a new arts venture in University City, she hardly imagined she'd end up running the Center of Creative Arts as we know it today. Her acquaintance, Richard Baron of real estate development firm McCormack Baron Salazar, told her he'd bought a building and wanted to establish an arts incubator, supporting emerging talent; and Riven was game to give it a try - "a collaboration among friends," as she describes it.

Take Five: Kelly Lamb Pollock, newly tapped head of COCA

Jun 24, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2010 - Since its founding in 1986, the Center of Creative Arts - COCA - has had just one executive director. After 23 years at the helm of the organization, Stephanie Riven will be stepping down on June 30 to take a position with the New York consulting firm David Bury Associates.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 9, 2010 - "Interface" at the Center of Creative Art's Millstone Gallery features beautiful art by some of St. Louis' best artists. But the star of the show is Pele Prints, an unassuming printmaking studio in South County that specializes in collaborative work with artists in all media.

For "Interface," six artists produced pieces that make use of Pele's impressive equipment and the guidance of master printer Amanda Verbeck, who runs the studio.

Theater for youngsters more than child's play

Feb 16, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 16, 2010 - Playing well with others is a goal most parents have for their children. But there's also a lot of value in children watching others play -- on the stage, that is. In St. Louis, local theater companies are teaching kids about honesty, compassion, literacy and other qualities. The best part is that the kids just think they're having fun.

Artistic journey from The Muny to The Fox

Jul 27, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 27, 2009 - For the first time since he was 5 years old, Brandon Bieber isn’t performing this summer at The Muny. But it’s for a good reason.

The 25-year-old St. Louis musical dancer earned a spot in the cast of the traveling Broadway show Mary Poppins. And his streak of summer performances here will continue – the Disney production is coming to The Fox from August 13-30.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 10, 2008 - Six bodies lay deadweight under fluorescent lights in the Bensinger Studio at COCA on Wednesday evening. The glow of the light bounces from grain color carpet squares to whitish walls and back onto the figures on the floor. Dusk is falling outside. Untempered by the gentle sunlight, the glow inside seems to intensify. The bodies sink deeper into the floor.

"You can't do anything onstage unless you're relaxed and focused," says Brooke Edwards. And the bodies exhale.