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All posts by Kranzberg Arts Foundation

01 Feb 2020
By Melissa Meinzer

At its best, theatre can provide a great deal: It entertains us, it moves us, it sustains us, it reflects us back to ourselves. But for some St. Louis school kids, it can literally save their lives.

Metro Theater Company’s “Say Something, Do Something!” program uses drama to help equip students to face difficult circumstances, from bullying to gun violence. The interactive skits encourage them to consider how to defuse tense moments or intervene when they see interactions going south.

“It’s a theatrical experience, but it’s a theatrical experience with a very specific goal,” says Metro Theater managing director Joe Gfaller. The hope is that, having walked through difficult scenarios in safe circumstances, participants might have access to the strategies later, if necessary.

Metro Theater is directed at young audiences and their families, creating access to theatre as well as the growth and development that it fosters. The company produces plays at The Grandel and takes theatre into schools. Last year, it visited  31 schools across the region.

Launched in Fall 2011, the “Say Something, Do Something!” experience involves a relatively small group of kids — usually about 60 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders — and a small troupe of Metro actors, as well as a teaching artist who serves as a facilitator. The scripts and entire experience are the result of intense preparation by Metro’s production team. Before they ever take the stage at a school, they’ve conducted interviews with teachers and social workers in the schools and learned all they can about the specific conflicts that kids might be facing. They’ve also researched language, because lingo and vocabulary are ever-changing, and the scenes need to seem feasible.

“We want the language and conflict situation to feel true to life,” says Metro Theater education director Karen Weberman. “It’s what they’re actually going through. Our education is on the ground every week, in classrooms across the city and county.”

She stresses the need for deep listening to the teachers, administrators, and other school staff who know the kids best. “We don’t want this to be, ‘Here’s this program we think you need,’” she says.

Metro’s methodology for the program is backed by serious scholarship. Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice evaluated the program, and Weberman and SLU researchers presented the data last year at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

The sessions begin with a deep dive into the study of body language. Actors will freeze into a tableau, which the students can pick apart, examining characters’ motivations and feelings in a specific moment. It’s good training for what comes next — the scripted conflict. The scene is only about five minutes long, Weberman says, and while the conflict itself may vary from season to season or, to some extent, from school to school, one thing is constant: There’s a clear and obvious imbalance of power.

“When the scene comes to the highest point of conflict, the facilitator calls a freeze,” says Weberman. “The students dig into the body language of the characters. We hold up an actual thought bubble, like you might see in a cartoon.”

The students fill the bubbles with what a character — aggressor, victim, or bystander — might be thinking. Then the actors break out of the tableau but not their character, and the students take on the role of investigative reporter.

“They’re put in the hot seat, and the students get to interview them,” Weberman says. The students aren’t shy about grilling the characters, she adds. “They really go after the actor who’s playing the bully character. They want to know, ‘Why are you the way you are? Were you bullied?’”

“They want to understand the bad guy as much as they want to help the good guy,” says Gfaller.

After the interrogations, students come up with strategies for better outcomes. The actors run the scene again, and kids can tag actors out and step into the scene themselves to try the strategies.

“We like to say, ‘It’s like rehearsal for real life,’” says Weberman. “It really is all about empathy, stepping into the shoes of another.”

Previous seasons have addressed physical violence and sexual harassment — disheartening realities, Weberman says, for sixth graders. Some of the programming for the upcoming season will continue to look at violence. 

During the forthcoming year, Metro Theater will also work with the Diversity Awareness Partnership, whose “Give Respect Get Respect” campaign pairs older students with local corporate executives in a mentorship program. Metro’s programming for that initiative will address gender identity issues.

01 Feb 2020
Yo Yo of Circus Flora

After nearly 35 years in St. Louis, Circus Flora has a home.

By Jen Roberts

Step right up and prepare to be whisked away to a magical world where people fly through the air, pigs dance, and one brave soul runs and jumps rope on a spinning wheel.

Artistic director Jack Marsh has been part of the wonder since nearly the beginning when his mother worked as a performer and a director. He was 2-years-old when the show debuted in 1986 at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Marsh never intended for it to be his life’s work, but he was drawn back after law school and several years as a corporate attorney. “Just the magic of it,” he says, “the love for it.”

The one-ring circus was named after an elephant that circus founder David Balding rescued after ivory poachers killed her mother in Botswana. (Flora was an integral part of the circus until the early 2000s, when she retired to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.) Balding’s idea: to meld modern theatre with a traditional European circus. “It was Balding’s dream to marry his twin loves of theatre and the traditional one-ring circus,” says Marsh.

It’s a circus with a storyline. “Circus typically has very specific images associated with it,” says Marsh. “Some of them are wonderful, like the magic of going as a kid and being transported into this place with beautiful people who are doing these incredible things. That is part of that imagery that we love and embrace.”

But not all circus imagery is so favorable. “There are not-so-positive images, like mistreated animals or tawdy aesthetics and a not thought-out artistic product. We steer clear of those,” says Marsh. “I think we lean into the fact that we are this very nostalgic art form, but we try to find ways where it can appeal to a modern audience.”

Circus Flora is modern, but it still has that traditional appeal that you enjoyed as a child. Inside The Big Top is a sawdust-filled ring that’s reimagined throughout the show. There are acrobats and high-wire artists, “the images you might come to expect,” says Marsh, “but then we wrap it in a fun and goofy atmosphere.”

It’s a show that appeals to everyone. “I think it’s secretly the best friend night out or date night. It’s not a show aimed at 5-year-olds; it’s just as fun for adults,” says Marsh. “That’s the beauty of it: You get all these people from different ages and backgrounds, and they’re going to have the same fun time for the same reason. It’s an amazing popular entertainment that not a lot of art forms can accomplish.”

And the show is local. Typically, the word “circus” conjures memories of traveling shows that arrive in town with lions and elephants and exciting performers. The big tent is set up and taken down nearly as quickly, as the show heads to its next city. Circus Flora is working hard to combat this transient image. “It’s been a while since we’ve played anywhere else, and we have year-round programming,” says Marsh. “We see ourselves as a vital part of the St. Louis fabric.”

For years, Circus Flora used to “squat on the Powell Hall parking lot every summer,” recalls Marsh, adding that the temporary location wasn’t as conducive to establishing the circus as a St. Louis arts institution. The schedule also had to coincide with the symphony’s, and the circus packed up everything after the show concluded each year. 

Then, in 2018 the Kranzberg Arts Foundation stepped in. The nonprofit provided a permanent venue, simply called The Big Top, at 3401 Washington Ave. After years of setting up on the parking lot beside Powell Hall, Circus Flora now has its own space, and the tent remains up for much of the year. Even when it’s not set up during the winter months, the four posts remain and a permanent neon-lit sign points in the direction of The Big Top. As Marsh says, “Our best billboard is our big red tent.”

Marsh hopes this permanent location will enable Circus Flora to help grow Grand Center Arts District while allowing the circus to be “full members of the community,” he says. “We like to stress the St. Louis-ness of what we do and how important the community is to us.”

Clowns on Call is one way that Circus Flora extends the show throughout the year and beyond The Big Top. Through this cornerstone community outreach program, clowns entertain children at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. “It’s healing through laughter,” says Marsh. “The families are going through what I am sure is the toughest experience in their life, and it’s really wonderful to be able to transport them and bring a little bit of the magic to them.”

Circus Flora also provides tickets to underserved communities, so all kids can be part of the experience. “The community-oriented mission is really important to us,” says Marsh.

Marsh admits there are a lot of “unmagical things” that go into planning and executing a show including physical labor, paperwork, and budgeting. But even after all these years, he still gets that “warm, excited feeling in his chest” when he sees the audience’s reaction to a performance. “Being able to trace that moment back through a mountain of hard work from so many talented people is amazing,” says Marsh.

Each year, Circus Flora presents a new theme. This year’s production taking place June 4th through 28th is “The Trial of the Century,” which is best described as a “boisterous courtroom crossed with a circus,” says Marsh, which is sure to bring him back to his days as a lawyer. It’s also sure to tie in elements of St. Louis. After all, Circus Flora is St. Louis’ circus — and it’s not going anywhere.

01 Feb 2020
By Grand Center, Inc.

There’s no better time than at the start of the year to try something new. Lucky for you, there are a ton of ways to get “hands on” in Grand Center Arts District – whether it be through an experience, a workshop, or the discovery of a new musical act. s. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

Arts

With each exhibition, Pulitzer Arts Foundation hosts a variety of workshops and wellness activities to engage their art-savvy audience in a fresh, new way. Throughout 2020, you are invited to explore ranges of motion and mindfulness (classes include tai chi, yoga, and meditation), workshops and conversations (like paper cutting, tours conducted in Spanish , and conversations with renowned artists and curators), and even unique collaborations with fellow arts organizations like St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Art Museum. 

The Contemporary Art Museum’s Spring exhibition series opened in January and with it comes a new event roster that includes several hands-on workshops and activities. Two upcoming events to consider are RE: Soul and Drawing from Observation. For RE: Soul, CAM’s 2020 DJ-in-Residence James Biko traces the history of soul music and contemporary sampling in an interactive spinning session inspired by the work of artist Liz Johnson Artur. For April’s Drawing from Observation, guests are invited to draw their own works inspired by the museum’s exhibitions. After a special tour, CAM provides all art supplies for you and invites you to create freely. 

Music

For those who have made a New Year’s resolution to learn a new musical skill, KDHX’s Folk School classes are now in session. Folk School offers small group classes for adults and teens of all experience levels, from complete beginner through advanced. Class options include Banjo Introduction, Classic Country Ensemble, Guitar, Music Theory, and more. 

At the Arts & Education Council, resident Open Studio Network takes jazz education seriously, year-round. Designed to connect all levels of musicianship to a network of jazz artists across the globe, Open Studio is your digital connection to courses and flexible membership options. Browse your options by instrument, sign-up, and take courses from Grammy-winning masters of their craft – all in a few clicks.

Theatre

The Fabulous Fox’s Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is committed to bringing theatre to the forefront of creativity from an early age. This year, in addition to their Master Class programs for teens, FPACF has announced a new summer program: Next Stop Broadway. The program consists of classes, workshops, and rehearsals focused on classic Broadway shows. Participants will be taught songs and choreography from two hit shows and also create presentations based on shows in the 2020-21 Fabulous Fox Theatre season. 

Design

Creative Reaction Lab focuses on equity-centered community design and provides education, resources, and opportunities for Black and Latinx youth. Each year, programs include options for both youth and institutions to ensure that means and location do not hinder anyone from receiving the opportunities they deserve. The Equity by Design Immersive Series connects the Equity-Centered Community Design to inclusive and equitable outcomes. Creative Reaction Lab facilitators guide participants through highly interactive activities, dialogue, planning, and reflection regarding power, identity, social equity, and community design.

01 Aug 2019
High Low Literary Arts Cafe in Grand Center, St. Louis
By Jen Roberts

A long list of accomplished writers, poets, and playwrights have called St. Louis home: Maya Angelou, William S. Burroughs, Kate Chopin, T.S. Eliot, A.E. Hotchner, Jonathan Franzen, Curtis Sittenfeld, Justin Phillip Reed … Never before, though, has St. Louis’ literary community had a dedicated creative space to gather under the same roof — until now. 

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation recently transformed a formerly vacant building in Midtown into a hub for the literary arts scene: High Low. Located at 3301 Washington Avenue, the two-story space houses dedicated space for local writers, a library, a 200-seat performance space to host author readings and other literary events and a gallery features rotating exhibits. Locally-owned Blueprint Coffee also operates a café inside the space featuring food from James Beard-Nominated Chef Rob Connoley and Squatter’s Cafe. There are also plans for a writers-in-residence program.

People from outside the area are often surprised when they learn how lively the literary community in St. Louis actually is, but I think part of that may be that we aren’t currently home to one large hub that draws national attention,” says Shanie Latham, managing editor of River Styx, St. Louis’ oldest literary magazine, which is moving its own offices to the space. Due to the Covid19, more and more people trending to work at home, some home office ergonomic furniture is very popular, like standing desk, ergonomic chair etc.

For more than 40 years, the award-winning publication has been publishing fiction, essays, poetry, art, and interviews. The organization also hosts writing workshops for adults and offers several youth programs, including a partnership with Grand Center Arts Academy to publish a digital journal created by high school students. The longtime River Styx Reading Series, which is currently held at Rooster on South Grand, plans to relocate to High Low.

“When the opportunity came to join the art center, we decided what better way to get involved with other groups, as well as the community,” says River Styx board president Pat Magee. “From my perspective, this is a really good step in the right direction.”

“There are a lot of ways that the space will help us,” adds Latham. “Pragmatically, it’s low-cost and good facilities. Creatively, just being with other organizations — you can’t plan ahead of time to know how it will help. Just having organic opportunities to chat with organizations and see what they are doing and if you have projects in common.” 

It’s a notion that UrbArts founder MK Stallings appreciates as well. “Creating a brick and mortar and taking these disparate efforts and putting them under the same roof creates energy and opportunity,” says Stallings, whose nonprofit will also reside in the space. The grassroots nonprofit was created in 2001 to “create platforms and platform creatives for youth and community development.” It supports poets, writers, actors, musicians, and visual artists who often contribute to the “social arts,” which respond and reflect the community from which it is being produced. During a poetry open-mic night, for example, a gentleman who worked at a juvenile detention center approached Stallings about starting a poetry workshop for the kids at the center. The result: a nonprofit that pays teaching artists to engage with the community.

“I see High Low supporting the work that we do because there is a clear alignment for civic service that we need to engage around arts, particularly literary arts in the city,” says Stallings. 

One other way he sees the center supporting the arts: It will be home to St. Louis’ Poet Laureate — a significant distinction. “This person will be a cultural ambassador,” says Stallings. “All of a sudden, you create a center of gravity for the literary arts scene.” The city’s first poet laureate, Dr. Michael Castro, helped launch the Brick City Poetry Festival, which brings together St. Louisans from various backgrounds to present literary art forms.

Already, the region boasts world-class MFA programs, award-winning literary journals, and small presses. “Not to mention fabulous libraries and independent bookstores that offer diverse programming,” says Latham. “I think the fact that our city hosts all this programming through numerous smaller organizations is a good thing — it helps to promote diversity of voices, genres, aesthetics, and so forth in a way that might be harder for a single organization to do. But what we lose out on is the sort of national recognition that a larger organization can garner through a preponderance of programs with consistent branding.” 

“Having this space makes it easier for groups to foster opportunities for collaboration,” says Stallings. “You create a way of taking these lofty helium-filled dreams and you tie them down, and you make it as real and as concrete as possible. I think that’s what the Kranzberg Arts Foundation is facilitating: They’re making it possible for the literary arts to be found.”

01 Aug 2019
The Cabaret Project St. Louis at Sophie's Artist Lounge

From concerts to conferences to open-mic nights, the St. Louis scene is thriving.

By Phillip Zacher

Since it started during the turn of the 20th century in France, the art of cabaret has delighted audiences around the world. Typically performed in smaller venues, the sense of intimacy helps differentiate cabaret from musical theatre or a jazz concert. “Cabaret is an intimate style of performance where the singer has a direct relationship to the audience and a personal relationship to their material”, says Tim Schall, the executive director of The Cabaret Project of St. Louis

In St. Louis, cabaret is flourishing. “There’s no comparison,” says Schall. “It’s incredibly vibrant.” And that’s in large part thanks to The Cabaret Project, which was founded in 2010 with a mission to support, develop, and sustain the art of cabaret and song performance in St. Louis. This September, The Cabaret Project kicks off its third season of the Cabaret Series, co-produced with Jazz St. Louis. Running through May 2020, the series brings six nationally and internationally recognized cabaret performers to St. Louis such as Tony winners Lindsay Mendez, Rachel Bay Jones, and Paulo Szot.

Beyond presenting concerts, The Cabaret Project focuses on educating and developing local and national artists and audiences through programs including The Cabaret Open Mic, Sign Center Stage, a five-day training program for high schoolers, and The St. Louis Cabaret Conference.

The Cabaret Open Mic, hosted every third Tuesday at Sophie’s Artist Lounge, offers singers a chance to perform for an open, receptive audience. Hosted by Chuck Lavazzi, with Carol Schmidt on piano, the event invites any and all to bring sheet music and their voice. “It’s a chance for experienced singers to try new material,” says Lavazzi. “And it’s a way for people without experience to get in front of an audience for the first time.”

For performers more serious about developing their skills, there’s the St. Louis Cabaret Conference. Currently, in its 13th season, it’s “the largest and oldest training program in song performance for adults in the nation,” according to Schall. The Cabaret Project has taken the lead in organizing the conference, which attracts and trains performers from across the nation. “We have singers coming from all over the country,” says Schall. “They get training, develop a network, and get connected locally and nationally.”

The conference has made a wide-reaching impact on the local scene. In fact, it’s where Robert Breig, who founded Mariposa Artists in 2009, got his start in cabaret. “I’ll credit Tim Schall,” he says. “I took the St. Louis conference, and I got hooked.” Today, Mariposa Artists helps artists of all experience levels produce shows, but the organization thrives on helping performers with their first shows. It speaks to the group’s roots. “I just kind of landed on the producing side,” says Breig. “I had people tell me they didn’t know where to start, and I said, ‘Hey, we can do this.’”

That attitude is what prompted an exchange program that helps artists perform their first show in a new city. Last June, Mariposa Artists presented A Taste of New York at The Kranzberg. The show featured four accomplished New York performers who had never performed in St. Louis. At the end of September, St. Louis performers will have a chance to perform in New York for the first time.

Locally, one exciting performance from Mariposa Artists is a collaboration with singer and St. Louis native Katie McGrath on Immigrant Songs, November 9 at .ZACK. Created in response to the recent spike in hate crimes, the show is the first in a series of concerts that will focus on the stories and songs of American arrival and, according to Breig, will “support the visibility and importance of immigrants to our country.”

As Mariposa Artists approaches its 10th year, the group is excited about the future of cabaret in St. Louis. “I think our community is thriving and expanding,” says Breig, “as we link arms with other performers and cities.”

01 Aug 2019
St. Louis Blues guitarist at The Dark Room
By Nancy Kranzberg

Now that the St. Louis Blues hockey team has claimed the Stanley Cup and Blues fever has finally died down, we can concentrate on the musical genre called the blues which has had a presence in our fair city for ages.

The blues experience and culture began down South in the late 19th century and gradually moved up to St. Louis and Kansas City and Chicago throughout the years. Blues and Jazz musicians left the South in a mass exodus up Highway 61 so named “the blues highway” in the early 1900s.

In the old days when the hockey players made an entrance on to the ice rink, the organist would pound out the famous “St. Louis Blues” which is a popular American song composed by W.C. Handy in the Blues style and published in 1914. It was one of the first blues songs to succeed as a pop song and actually is a standard performed by jazz musicians. Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith, and even The Boston Pops Orchestra are among the artists that recorded it. Actually, there are known to be over 1,400 recordings of the “St. Louis Blues.”

I’ve often wondered why jazz and blues are discussed in the same vein and checked it out on “Diffen,” the largest collection of unbiased comparisons in the world. The comparison starts saying, “An inside joke in the jazz and blues circles goes, ‘A blues guitarist plays three chords in front of thousands of people, and a jazz guitarist plays thousands of chords in front of three people.” Culturally both jazz and blues had their origins in the South. Blues stylistic origins are from African-American folk music and work songs and spirituals and jazz is a mix of African and European music traditions. The comparisons go on and on, but there seem to be more similarities than differences.

St. Louis was home to Chuck Berry, who although he had a mixture of styles was certainly mostly influenced by the blues and his friend, Johnny Johnson who played the blues on the piano. Of course, Berry’s style and flamboyancy had an impact on the world of music, but we did have other local greats such as Henry Townsend and Roosevelt Sykes who were stalwarts in prestigious circles.

And now we can hear blues every Tuesday night at The Dark Room brought to us by the St. Louis Blues Society, a thirty-year-old club which promotes and supports the blues and provides educational programming in schools and deals with such issues as race in music, advocation for artists, and preservation of the St. Louis Blue’s Legacy. There are over 60 artists involved in the Society.

Let’s not forget the National Blues Museum located in downtown St. Louis which has visitors from around the world, has many public programs, and presents national exhibitions along with the permanent exhibitions. Live music is also presented four times a week in the Lumiere Place Legends Room. The museum takes pride in its commitment to cultural equity.

And Chris Hansen, Executive Director of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, said that in 2020 a new blues space will open in Grand Center which will house the St. Louis Blues Society, have an artist-in-residence program, and more.

All the head honchos of the Blues organizations are thrilled and working together to bring The Blues in its many varieties to St. Louisans and others.

01 Aug 2019
group of 10 musicians sitting and standing

The new class of Music Artists in Residence build on St. Louis’ musical heritage

By Jeannette Cooperman

“To keep creating,” Miles Davis once said, “you have to be about change.” The legendary jazz musician would likely approve, then, of the sophomore class of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s Music Artists-in-Residence program. Over the course of 18 months, the residency provides these 10 St. Louis musicians with essential resources, including performance opportunities, access to recording sessions, rehearsal space, marketing support, and industry connections. Besides catching these musicians at local music venues, such as The Dark Room, you’ll be able to hear them on a compilation album slated for release next year. With their impressive chops, these energetic jazz musicians are building on a rich musical legacy.

Scooter Brown, Jr. holding saxophone

Scooter Brown, Jr.

A resident of East St. Louis, Brown grew up hearing the music of Miles Davis and Russell Gunn, and he’s learned from the likes of Wynton Marsalis and Terrence Blanchard. Today, you might recognize him as the alto sax player in local party band Dirty Muggs. Or perhaps you know him as the program director for Jazz St. Louis’ Jazz Academy. Then there’s his creative collective, Ingenuity, which recently released his debut album, Growth. “We’re what I like to call ‘life music,’” he says. “I love adding my own twist to make the audience feel better when they leave.”

Headshot of Brianna "Be.Be." Brown

Brianna “Be.Be” Brown

The soulful singer is studying jazz vocal performance at Webster University, though her lessons began at an early age, with singing and piano lessons. At Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, she added acting to her resume. Brown has traditionally performed R&B, though she’s recently broadened her repertoire, incorporating more jazz. Her band, Be.Be and the NeoSouls, also performs a fusion of the two genres. She appreciates the latitude that the Kranzberg Arts Foundation grants in encouraging her to blend musical influences: “They really focus on me and my music.”

Headshot of Janet Evra

Janet Evra

A native of Gloucester, England, Evra recently moved to St. Louis, where she’s quickly made a name for her unique mix of Latin jazz, samba, and bossa nova. Last year, she released her debut album, Ask Her to Dance, and she regularly performs at The Dark Room and Evangeline’s, as well as The Sheldon, the Old Rock House, and the National Blues Museum. Now, as one of the music artists in residence, she’s looking forward to even more performances. “Kranzberg does so much for the arts and music,” she says.

Mark Harris II

Mark Harris II

Harris’ musical style is hard to pin down, as evidenced by his single “Goin’ Up” from his new CD, Interstellar. The keyboardist describes his music as “a whole bunch of elements”—jazz-infused with pop and R&B. His inspirations include the likes of Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider and contemporary jazz/R&B/funk musician Brian Culbertson. He’s a solo artist, but he performs with a range of bands on occasion. After recently graduating from Lincoln University with a degree in Sacred Music, Harris is “looking forward to connecting with different artists in the area and learning more about the inside of the music business.”

Kaleb Kirby

Kaleb Kirby

The St. Louis native and graduate of Berklee College of Music puts his own spin on jazz, which he explains is a “derivative of hip-hop and pop.” Besides performing with the Kaleb Kirby Quintet (including Adam Maness, Teddy Brookins, Kendrick Smith, and Kwanae Johnson), he DJs and works at Jazz St. Louis. “I write every card on sheet music, and it’s all original,” he says.

Brady Lewis plays trumpet at The Dark Room

Brady Lewis

Though just 25 years old, the trumpeter’s played for more than a decade, performing in jazz combos while attending high school in East St. Louis and college at Northern Illinois University. Today, he fronts the BLStet, often performing at The Dark Room. He’s excited to embrace other experiences through the residency. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity possible,” he says.

Headshot of Ryan Marquez

Ryan Marquez

Art has long consumed Marquez’s life, from choir to dance to piano to visual arts and painting. “I have been on this hustle my whole life,” he says. “Music picked me. I didn’t pick music.” He describes his music as “routes of soul, hip-hop, funk, pop, and areas reflective of my inspirations—for example, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.” A master of the Key bass, Marquez performs with two bands, pop/soul/funk group Fresh Heir and jazz/funk group The People’s Key. The Kansas City native graduated from Webster University and decided to stick around because he “loved the city so much and got really connected with the community,” he says. “I am excited to have the ability to showcase my original ideas and to collaborate with other artists in the community.”

Katarra Parson sitting on curb outside in Grand Center

Katarra Parson

Music runs in the family for Parson, whose family is full of musicians and artists. She traces back the launch of her career to an evening in 2015 when she performed at open mic collective Lyrical Therapy. “That’s where it all began,” she says, adding that she then “kept getting gigs and more shows.” A vocalist, pianist, and production composer, Parson is looking forward to embracing the opportunities that the residency affords: “Now, with this program, I get to show more of St. Louis my talents.”

Andrew Stephen kneels on keyed instrument

Andrew Stephen

The owner of Eightfold Studios, Stephen not only has recorded a wide range of musical styles—hip-hop, R&B, EDM, rock, jazz—but is himself a versatile producer, pianist, and composer. He studied jazz piano at Webster University and spent a term at Austria’s Vienna Conservatory with acclaimed pianist Danny Grissett. Today, he fronts nu-jazz hop quartet Texturz and recently created an innovative album series, Sample Kulture, rolling out smooth tracks that draw from an array of genres.

Ben Wheeler stands against brick wall

Ben Wheeler

Following in the footsteps of his father and brother, who played upright bass, Wheeler studied jazz bass at Webster University, where he now teaches jazz and music history. In the late ’90s, he played in the swing cover band Swing Cat Swing, and he’s performed with such St. Louis jazz legends as Dave Stone and the late Willie Akins. These days, he performs with Dave Venn, Tango Underground, and the LustreLights, though he’s looking to branch out as a bandleader and composer with his new project Solid Ghost.

01 Aug 2019
close-up of textile pieces arranged on the floor of The Gallery at The Kranzberg

As four striking exhibits recently proved, visual art can be both deeply personal and challenge viewers’ perceptions.

By Melissa Meinzer

Even during the most challenging times, art has a way of speaking to our society, of reflecting a certain resilience of the human spirit. To embody that spirit, The Gallery at The Kranzberg is hosting a year-long, five-part series on chaos.

The gallery’s first exhibition of the year, The Riot Show, explored historical and contemporary Civil Rights struggles. The theme’s long been a focus for artist Michael Faris, whose collage-like images were paired with the poems of Unique Hughley, a spoken word artist from Kansas City.

three black frames hanging on a wall for "The Riot Show" at The Gallery at The Kranzberg
works from “The Riot Show” by Michael Faris and Unique Hughley at The Gallery at The Kranzberg

“My childhood in the 1960s was filled with images of Civil Rights workers being beaten by cops, bitten by dogs, and sprayed with pressure hoses,” says Faris, an assistant professor of art education at Northwest Missouri State University. “Then Ferguson happened, and it occurred to me that things might not have changed.”

Faris worked closely with Director of Galleries Diana Hansen and other employees to create a show that spoke to both the past and present.

“There are many curators who will not show my work,” he says. “Censorship is based on fear and chauvinism. Consider a world without The Kranzberg. Imagine a place with only oppressors and cowards. There are places like that, but we need to keep our space free.”

This spring, artists Saj Issa and Kiki Salem addressed another form of chaos with their exhibition Back Home in Our New Home (pictured above). Using traditional tapestries and ceramic dinnerware, the first-generation Palestinian-Americans explored the human cost of struggle in their homeland. “We didn’t withhold presenting any vulnerable details about our third-culture identity as Palestinian-Americans,” says Issa. “The Kranzberg was so kind and generous to allow us to be as provocative in our own creative ways.”

Issa was pleasantly surprised by the community’s warm response, including from a local doctor who dedicates his summers to improving medical facilities in the West Bank. “It was so wonderful for someone to take the time and effort to reach out to me,” she says.

photography backdrops
work from “Astigmatism” by Victoria Donaldson at The Dark Room

Artists often challenge viewers to see the world in a new light—literally. Take, for instance, two recent exhibits at The Dark Room, inside the historic Grandel Theatre.

Victoria Donaldson is the co-founder of Sonic Arts United, a nonprofit that addresses issues of gender and race inclusion through education, technology, and the arts. This spring, though, she displayed her own art in her first photography exhibit, a process that she describes as nerve-racking.

“A lot of my photography is very intimate portraits—and when I say intimate, I mean not just in the sense of closeness of the person or figure that’s in it. I mean the subject matter as well,” she says. The strikingly personal photographs included Donaldson’s friends and family, as well as her colleagues in the music industry and people she’s met while traveling.

Even the show’s name, Astigmatism, was personal. “Even though I’m a photographer, I have astigmatism,” she says. “Sometimes my shots come out clear or they don’t come out clear or they have something that isn’t quite right about them. Astigmatism is so common.”

https://alopainting.com/
works from “I am there” by Orlando Thompson at The Dark Room

“Photography is kind of a spiritual practice for me,” she adds. “This is what I see—this is literally my eye and my vision of who I am.”

For Orlando Thompson, photography is also deeply personal. His exhibit last December, “I am there,” incorporated large-scale prints of photographs from his travels. “Traveling is interesting to me because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s not something that always felt available to me,” he says. “In some ways, having black skin sort of bars you from these places—not physically, but in my mind I sort of bar myself from some places. There are all of these places that are shown in the images, and it’s like I’m not supposed to be there, but I’m clearly there.” Thompson’s 35-mm, half-frame cameras mean every photo is a diptych, with two images in every frame, creating haunting, wry, beautiful juxtapositions.

“You don’t always know what you’re going to get until you lay them down,” he says, “but there’s a story in all of them.”

01 Aug 2019
Couple on rooftop in Grand Center Arts District
By Grand Center, Inc.

When a new season approaches, we tend to lean on an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude that propels us into the coming months with a refreshed closet, attitude, and outlook. We believe that you should approach your social calendar in that same way. 

This fall, organizations, and businesses in Grand Center Arts District are pushing boundaries like never before–offering up exciting new leadership, programs, shows, and menus that are refreshed and ready to lead the charge into a new season and a new chapter in our District’s history. 

Both the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries are welcoming their newest appointments to their inaugural fall seasons: Stéphane Denève will officially begin his role as the new music director of SLSO this fall with an exciting new concert line-up, while The Sheldon’s new Executive Director Peter Palermo is ready to capture the attention of a younger audience with targeted programming. 

For foodies who are looking for a dining experience they can’t wait to tell their friends about, Bulrush is setting its sights on a truly fall-focused menu thanks to their commitment to foraging their ingredients from local farms. Or, if you’re looking for a date night that includes dinner and a show, The Dark Room’s new menu–and a new roster of musicians who perform live nightly–gives you a great excuse to hire a sitter and grab your dancing shoes. There’s also Turn, where you can chomp on delicious farm-to-table fare while enjoying a soundtrack full of everything from disco to rock n’ roll curated by Chef David Kirkland. 

But it may just be the shows that keep you coming back this fall. While The Fabulous Fox kicks off their season on a high note with Hello, Dolly, our locally-based theatre productions are pulling together impressive renditions of new and classic productions like “Shakespeare In Love,” and “The Blue Zone.” The Pulitzer Arts Foundation’s fall exhibitions open Sept. 6 and will feature Susan Phillipsz: Seven Tears which explores the potential of sound + a new commission for the water court; and Zarina: Atlas of her World which includes prints, sculptures, and collages. The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum will showcase the work of Stewart D Halperin, while the Contemporary Art Museum also opens their fall shows Sept. 6 with a variety of impressive works by Stephanie Syjuco, Bethany Collins, Jonathas de Andrade, and Derek Fordjour. 

And keep in mind, your very own fall events have a home here at one of over two dozen event venues–including four of the city’s most stunning rooftops. So whether you come to work, to learn, to play, or to eat, we promise you will always walk away with an experience you won’t soon forget. 

https://www.niawigs.com/

01 Aug 2019
Scene from "Salt, Root, and Roe" by Upstream Theater

The region’s small and midsize theatre and dance companies offer a wealth of options. You just need to know where to look.

By Alison Gold

“When people say, ‘Oh there’s nothing to do here in St. Louis on a Friday or Saturday night,’ I think they’re crazy,” says Joseph Novak,

After living in several places across the United States, the tech director believes St. Louis’ art scene is particularly vibrant — for those who pursue it. “I think people just aren’t looking outside their box.”

Part of the reason small and midsize arts organizations get overlooked, he believes, is that there is such a vast range of options across the region. “Because there are so many arts groups in St. Louis, I think some tend to go unseen,” he says. “A lot of people are just not aware of their works.”

Novak has worked on a wide range of shows across St. Louis, including Max & Louie Productions’ June production of Indecent, the true story of a Polish-Jewish playwright who, in 1906, pens a controversial script dealing with prostitution, homosexuality, and cultural assimilation. “I think it has a lot of social impact,” says Novak, who hopes to work on similar projects in the future. 

“I think the art scene is growing and blossoming here,” he says. “A lot of companies seem to be doing more shows, and the quality just keeps going up.”

Swimming Upstream

Upstream Theater Company is about to start its 15th season, making it one of St. Louis’ longest-running small professional theaters. In fact, Upstream is “the oldest resident company in the Kranzberg ecosystem,” says artistic director Philip Boehm. “We’ve been able to produce plays where St. Louis audiences are the first to see these international works in the United States. That wouldn’t have happened without the Kranzberg Arts Foundation.”

To date, the company has produced more than 40 plays from nearly 20 countries, the majority of which has been the United States premieres from around the globe: Australia, Argentina, Croatia, and more. The company’s goal is to “move you and move you to think.” 

This year, Upstream kicks off the season with The Agitators, the story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass’ 45-year friendship that helped shape American society. Lisa Tejero, a Broadway veteran who’s also done work at The Rep, will direct Mat Smart’s powerful play, Sept. 27-Oct. 13.

Upstream is also expanding beyond St. Louis. This October, it will bring Salt, Root, and Roe (pictured above) — the story of a set of aging identical twins who live by the sea in Wales — to Houston. The theater company produced the U.S. premiere this past spring right here in St. Louis.

“We want audiences to think about what they see,” says Boehm. “It seems to me that theater in the United States, in general, could benefit from more international work.”

Stepping Out

photography backdrop
Ashleyliane Dance Company/photo by Peter Wochniak

Dance has been a part of Ashley Tate’s life since she was a child. “I don’t really know myself without dance,” she says. “I’m a shy person, so it’s my way of being my most expressive self.” She started out with ballet, tap, and traditional dance. Eventually, she joined the St. Louis Rams’ cheerleading squad. 

Then, in 2007, she launched her own dance company, Ashleyliane Dance Company. “I wanted to continue giving adults a place to train and dance, including those who worked full-time,” she says, noting that the company rehearses at night. The company started out dancing at festivals and fairs—“anywhere that promoted the arts.” 

Now, it spans a professional dance company, an entry program, a summer junior program, and a full drop-in class schedule. Ashleyliane produces at least two main-stage concerts per year and hosts several other events, in addition to partnering with other organizations. “I want to inspire people to know it is hard, but you can make dance a full-time career,” she says. “We’re a small but mighty organization.”

In late October, Ashleyliane will perform Phantom of the Opera while playing up masquerade themes. Then, for Valentine’s Day next February, Ashleyliane will host a hair and fashion dance show focused on the theme of love, which diverges from the typical format of a dance recital in its imitation of a fashion show.

Tate says, “We wanted something interactive and fun for the audience.”

Freedom to Flourish

Big Muddy Dance Company at The Grandel Theatre
Big Muddy Dance Company at The Grandel Theatre

After working on productions across the country, Andrew Snyder can appreciate what makes St. Louis’ art scene so special. “Everyone is here to support everyone else,” says Snyder, the lighting designer, and stage manager at The Big Muddy Dance Company. “You don’t always get that in other cities. Someone is always there to help, no questions asked.” 

On Nov. 9-10, the Inaugural Big Muddy Dance Fest will showcase all the company has to offer. Participants can enjoy classes, workshops, auditions, panel discussions, vendors, and networking with other dancers.

A few days later, on Nov. 14-15, the company will stage a Christmas Carol production — with a contemporary twist. The show will be set against live music of an original arrangement of Tchaikovsky classics, with themes of love and redemption at the forefront.

Then, early next year, Big Muddy will perform Beat Ballads, featuring the music of British composer Joby Talbot, whose work has ranged from a BBC comedy to a ballet of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Moves & Grooves will follow in April and feature the sounds of Henry Saiz, an electronic music artist. The historic Grandel Theatre will play host to both shows.

As Snyder notes, Grand Center Arts District‘s artistic hub offers endless variety: “You can walk in and see anything.”

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