Art in St. Louis

St. Louis skyline
A view of St. Louis (taken from my roof!)

I wanted to give Art21 readers a sense of the arts landscape in St. Louis, but it’s a tall order to try to encapsulate a whole scene into a single blog post. So I thought I would break this down into three very differently styled posts. I’m hoping that collectively they’ll give you a glimpse (albeit, tiny) into the arts scene of our city.

First up: One of our strengths is the diversity of institutions—from large and encyclopedic to small and artist-run. However, to showcase this diversity, I didn’t want to give you the typical PR-style “this is our mission statement” type of information. So I emailed my colleagues at some of the non-profit arts spaces around town and requested that they find someone you wouldn’t typically ask (i.e. no curators or directors) to answer the following question:

“What’s something that people wouldn’t know about your institution, but you think is interesting or unique?”

Here are the responses:

Saint Louis Art Museum
“The Saint Louis Art Museum’s world-class collection is not only housed within the Museum in Forest Park—you can find works of art from the collection on display all over Missouri.” – Stephanie Recht, Visitor and Member Services Supervisor

Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

“There are skylights along the ceiling on the South wall of our office. At certain times of the day the light comes in and creates a rainbow stripe on the floor in front of the copier. Sometimes the light hits in such a way that the stripe on floor becomes just a single very brilliant color which changes continuously to every color in the spectrum. On one occasion, the individual colors in the rainbow split and there was a brilliant red stripe on the floor, a bright green stripe on one wall and a bright blue stripe on a third wall. I only saw this happen once. It was amazing. P.S. It’s over on the wall by the elevator right now!!” -Mary Walters, Director of Finance and Administration

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum:
Most people wouldn’t know about this because it’s new, but the Kemper Art Museum, on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, has a new radio program on the campus radio station (KWUR 90.3). We bring on people who connect with the Kemper, or the larger St. Louis arts scene, to talk in a kind of “roundtable” format with students and the show’s host. We’ve also turned the show into a podcast so that anyone can download past shows anytime. –Michael Murawski, Coordinator of Education and Public Programs

Museum of Contemporary Religious Art
From Saint Louis University student workers:

“One of the fulfilling things about working at MOCRA is the sense of inspiration you feel when you witness someone rethink their critiques of some of our more unconventional art and begin to be moved by its deeper spiritual commentaries on faith, death, and suffering, and other big questions.”

“The fact that the building used to be a chapel adds to the character of the museum. It adds to the spiritual feeling while not being overbearing.” –Lizzie

“When people hear about religious art, I’m sure they think about something similar to church pieces like stained glass windows and a cross. They are in shock when they see the spiritual journey that the artist goes through before coming up with the final touches. I really don’t know of another place where a bird and a chair could mean something as powerful as the interaction of God and life.” –Paul

“The uniqueness of MOCRA lies in the fact that the institution strives to express religious beliefs and spirituality through a variety of creative and thoughtful ways. The artists convey their emotion through abstraction, movement, and expressionism (among other means), and while all the works are different, they each effectively capture what the artists are trying to display. MOCRA is a haven for vivid accounts of finding spirituality in everyday life around us, helping visitors to discover the deeper meaning of faith.” –Alex

The Sheldon Art Galleries:

“I think most people do not know that the Sheldon Art Galleries are housed in an old parking garage.” – Nicole Leone, Operations Coordinator

“We are one of the few non-profit galleries in Grand Center that regularly features local artists.” – Caron House, Development Assistant

“The soundtrack for the Robert DeNiro movie “The Good Shepherd” was recorded at The Sheldon.” – Sue Wise, Finance Assistant

“Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway both spoke at The Sheldon when it was the Ethical Society.” – Julie Tucker, Finance Director

Laumeier Sculpture Park
When we think about looking at art we don’t typically think about looking at people looking at art. But for me, the people I see at Laumeier are a big part of the equation. Here, other people and nature are the only two visual contexts in which we view art. The absence of walls doesn’t seem to compute in people’s minds, nor the absence of temperature-controlled space, but if they’ve ever been to a traditional museum that absence is in the back of their mind. Watching people’s surprise at seeing this art in this place routinely reminds me of what is interesting and unique about Laumeier.” – Julia Norton, Administrative Coordinator

One thing I’ve always found interesting about Laumeier is that as far as we know, Laumeier is the only accredited art museum in the country where visitors can bring your dog. There are rumors that dogs exposed to contemporary art live longer and fuller lives. Whether that’s true or not we’re proud to offer a little culture to our canine friends.
– Mike Venso, Director of Communications

Up tomorrow:
Grand Center calls itself the “Arts and Entertainment District” of St. Louis and houses the Pulitzer, the Contemporary, the Sheldon, and multiple commercial galleries and performance venues. On steadier footing now, the neighborhood has seen it’s share of highs and lows. I interviewed Stan, who lives across the street from the Pulitzer and Contemporary, to find out if these two institutions had any impact on the neighborhood.

And Wednesday:
A look at the current state of the arts through the eyes of two newer kids on the block: Boots Contemporary Art Space and White Flag Projects.


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