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Tag Archives: Soul of the City

31 Mar 2020

Caffeinated Curation is back, COVID-19 edition.

This time, we’re highlighting the fourth volume of “Soul of the City,” published biannually by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation, paired with Blueprint Coffee‘s San Lorenzo instant coffee.

This duo is the epitome of working-from-home. Not only is this instant coffee the perfect pick-me-up while social distancing, but also its sweet and earthy qualities reflect the driving mission of the magazine; that St. Louis’ artists, communities, and cultural experiences represent the heart and soul of our city.

Support local business. Order Blueprint Coffee online here.

Keep your hands clean. Read a digital version of Soul of the City, Vol. 4 here.

01 Feb 2020
By Alexis Rivierre

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation is pleased to announce our 2020 Gallery Exhibitions featuring 14 artists who answered our call for the theme of Knowledge. Many of the artists utilize varied applications of language while considering the historical, intuitive, and practical applications of knowledge in our culture. Working in collage, photography. painting, printmaking, and sculpture in addition to multidisciplinary pursuits, these exhibitions provide an expansive answer to the question, “What is knowledge?” 

Selections for The Gallery at The Kranzberg

  • Deborah Katon (2/7-3/13)- Staged as artifacts presented in a museum, What I Know, comprised of Katon’s fabricated artifacts juxtapose fact with fiction investigate the pursuit of knowledge in an age riddled with “fake news.” 
  • *Postponed until 2021* Deborah Douglas (3/20-4/24) – Investigating domesticity and interpersonal relationships through the lens of popular and visual culture Douglas utilizes text, found and personally invented images to present her exhibition Some Things I Know, Some Things I Only Believe. 
  • Jessica Witte and Chris Holtz (5/29-7/10) – Searching for logic amongst the everyday experiences of caregiving, Jessica Witte and Christine Holtz in a joint exhibition will examine the struggles and cathartic nature of parenthood. 
  • Lola Ogbara (7/17-8/7) – Ogbara’s Pleasure is All Mine challenges stigmas associated with the Black femme experience, exploring myths vs. reality, embodied within her metal and clay forms. 
  • Megan Kenyon (8/14-9/4)- Kenyon’s Consider displays oil paintings with collage elements that invite the audience to contemplate the multifaceted truth’s existing within one’s personal knowledge especially when opposing cultural views exist. 
  • Marina Peng (10/9-11/13) – Focusing on self-awareness and knowledge of one’s impact on society, Peng’s site-specific installation will feature a series of unconventional portraits built from conversational interviews.
  • Margaret Keller (11/20-12/31) Keller’s multidisciplinary exhibition engages with the revealing nature of surveillance, in particular, the surveillance practices of the U.S. government. 

Selections for High Low

  • Caroline Philippone (1/14-2/28) – Highlighting the youth impacted by the sociopolitical climate induced by the U.S. 2016 presidential election, Philippone’s documentary photography in American Dream gives voice to documented and undocumented teen immigrants. 
  • Jane Birdsall-Lander (3/5 -4/10) – “The Dictionary Poem Project is the starting point for an experience, a journey into the center of language, design and the human condition,” Birdsall- Lander notes in respects to archival prints displayed in her upcoming exhibition.
  • Linda Vredeveld (4/17-5/22)- Vredeveld’s collages will question the perceptions and expectations of the storyteller, the keeper of knowledge, particularly as it pertains to fairytales and cultural standards. 
  • Stan Strembicki (5/29-7/3)- Photographing destroyed books in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Strembicki’s The Lost Library draws parallels to decay of knowledge, history, and culture amidst the storm and the effects of the hurricane on both the city of New Orleans and the flooded libraries.
  • Hayveyah McGowan (7/10-8/14) -Reclaiming autonomy at the intersection of societal expectations of race and gender, McGowan presents energetic typographic illustrations, vellum ink prints, and paintings in “A Need to Simply.” 
  • Joan Levinson (10/2-11/14) – For Levinson, words both carry meaning and hold weight as visual objects; she presents her take on concrete poetry where the linguistic, visual and material considerations are equally elevated in her oil paintings. 
  • Sarah Bernhardt (11/20-12/31) – Bernhardt presents, Manna, literally translated as “what is it?” Her documentary photography exists at the intersection of wonder and knowledge considering the intuitive knowledge that comes from observing and appreciating one’s surroundings. 

Volunteer jurists each contributed their unique viewpoints while working to establish shared criteria for the evaluation of the artwork submitted. Selections were based on the merit of concept in respects to the Knowlege theme and originality in design, in addition to the application of materials and demonstrated technical skill. The Kranzberg Arts Foundation would like to thank the jurors who contributed their time, expertise and experience in a variety of roles in the visual arts towards the selection of artists. Our esteemed jurors this year were Michael Behle (artist/ educator), Shabez Jamal (interdisciplinary artist), Saj Issa (multidisciplinary artist), Sukanya Mani (interdisciplinary artist), Buzz Spector (artist/ critic), and Ilene Berman (sculptor). 

01 Feb 2020
man playing trumpet
By Nancy Kranzberg

I was inspired by two art exhibitions at The Sheldon Art Galleries in Grand Center Arts District. The first was titled “Amazing Horns: Bridging Continents, Bridging Time.” The works were instruments from The Hartenberger Collection of Musical Instruments now owned by The Sheldon. Dr. Aurelia Hartenberger has been researching and collecting musical instruments and artifacts amassing more than 3,000 items. Ninety-four horns from the collection were on display in this exhibition.

Wikipedia describes horns as any of a family of musical instruments made of a tube, usually made of metal and often curved in various ways, with one narrow end which the musician blows, and a wide end from which the sound emerges. In jazz and popular-music contexts, the word may be used loosely to refer to any wind instrument, and a section of brass or woodwind instruments, or a mixture of the two, is called a horn section.

As the name indicates, people originally used to blow on the actual horns of animals before starting to emulate them in metal or other materials. The original usage survives in the shofar (Hebrew), a ram’s horn, which plays an important role in the Jewish religious rituals. The genus of animal-horn instruments to which the shofar belongs is called Keren in Hebrew, Qarnu in Akkadian, and Keras in Greek.

The Wikipedia article on horns describes every horn imaginable from finger horns, marching horns, and saxhorns to horns used all around the globe.

Then I remembered another exhibition at The Sheldon Art Galleries, “The City of Gabriels: The History of Jazz in St. Louis, 1895-1973,” and the wonderful book written about it by Dennis Owsley, jazz scholar, St. Louis Public Radio jazz host and photographer.

Gabriel, of course, refers to the biblical character who blew his horn to announce the judgment day. The trumpet had more references in Owsley’s book than any other instrument.

The definition of a trumpet says it is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments (such as the piccolo trumpet) with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC. They began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art, music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music.

Adam Corre wrote an article titled “10 Of The Most Famous Trumpet Players of All Time,” and of course Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and our own Miles Davis were all on the list. But we forget just how famous St. Louis is for its trumpet players in general. The late Clark Terry in the forward to Owsley’s “City of Gabriel’s” says, “I am not certain of the exact reasons why my hometown of St. Louis has had such a great jazz trumpet tradition. It could have been the Midwestern atmosphere or the other great musical traditions of the city, but I know that the origins of that tradition come straight from the great Mississippi River.”

Owsley says, “Trumpet players have shaped the sound and direction of St. Louis from the beginning. The sound of a St. Louis trumpet player is unmistakable, whether the trumpeter is Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, Miles Davis, Clark Terry, Floyd LeFlore or Lester Bowie. The unique sound is described as a clear, singing tone, with many bent notes reminiscent of the human voice.”

There are many more notable horn players that have and continue to blow their horns in our city, but I’d like to end this commentary by paying tribute to David Hines (1942-1991) whose life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. By 1963, Hines was touring on trumpet with Albert King, T. Bone Walker, and Little Milton and in 1968, Hines was the jazz soloist with Woody Herman and held the same position with Ray Charles in 1970. Hines also played in theatre orchestra throughout the St. Louis area. He was the leader in halting discriminatory practices in the hiring of musicians for theater work by requiring auditions to be held behind curtains. He taught in various school situations and led the University City Jazz Band in the late 1980s. Hines toured Europe with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy in the winter of 1986.

We can all toot our horns for St. Louis’ rich history of music where it shines in all its guises.

01 Feb 2020
By Jen Roberts

It began with a simple but brilliant premise. 

“The idea was that artists were well-equipped to run the artistic part of their careers but needed expert advice when it came to legal and accounting matters,” says Sue Greenberg, executive director of Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts (VLAA), founded in 1982 by the city’s Arts and Humanities Commission and Saint Louis University School of Law.

VLAA and similar organizations throughout the country were modeled after Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York City, the first program of its kind. St. Louis is one of three national organizations that decided to include accountants in the program. “I cannot imagine not having the accountants,” says Greenberg. “About a third of what we do is on the accounting side. It just makes sense if you’re trying to help people think about their businesses — that’s a key part.”

VLAA’s board and a law student ran the organization for its first few years. Then the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) saw the nonprofit’s potential and provided office space and funding, so VLAA could hire its first employee. Today, more than 300 volunteer accountants and lawyers provide counsel to artists and administrators in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. Through the organization’s referral service, clients contact VLAA with a specific question and then are paired with a volunteer who has relevant experience. The questions they receive vary from bookkeeping and taxes to copyrights and trademarks. VLAA also offers assistance about how to set up an LLC and a nonprofit. “In the last 10 days, we’ve had three immigration cases,” Greenberg said in early December. “That’s an indication that what we’re asked to do is sometimes all over the place.”

Educational programming makes up the second part of VLAA’s work, and sessions have included QuickBooks training for nonprofits, how to sign up for health insurance, relevant accounting and legal topics, and a college outreach program called Upstart. There’s a 10-session series for individual artists that includes such topics as copyright, contracts, and taxes. Resources are also available online. “Part of our thinking behind providing information online was that if a filmmaker has a question or was looking for some sort of information, they might find our site when they didn’t know we existed,” says Greenberg.

VLAA has more than 200 new referrals each year. They don’t capture the continued relationships between clients and volunteers but have heard about “people who have been matched with a volunteer and keep going back to them, sometimes for 10 or 15 years, when they have a question,” says Greenberg. 

In November, VLAA moved from its longtime home with RAC on Delmar Boulevard to High Low, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation’s new literary arts venue on Washington Avenue in Grand Center.

The move seemed like a natural fit. “Kranzberg Arts Foundation has dedicated the building to freedom of expression through spoken and written word, and we’ve always been very committed to freedom of expression issues throughout our history,” says Greenberg.

In addition to VLAA, the second-floor offices at High Low houses River Styx, UrbArts, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, Poetry Center, St. Louis poet laureate Jane Ellen Ibur, Shirley Bradley LeFlore Foundation, and a forthcoming writers-in-residence program. Though VLAA just recently moved, Greenberg says, “there’s already synergy with the people on the floor.” 

VLAA hopes this synergy and proximity to other arts organizations will help expand support. “We are looking forward to the writers-in-residence program and think there’s a place for us to support what those writers are doing. I’ve also met with some of the Foundation’s music artists-in-residence,” says Greenberg. “It’s just opening up more possibilities for us to collaborate.”

Greenberg also hopes to find ways to support the St. Louis Art Place Initiative, an effort to renovate vacant houses near Cherokee Street and make them available for low-income artists. “It’s a really great concept,” says Greenberg. “There is a place for us to help them get their finances together.”

High Low also offers event space, which VLAA is using for educational programs and its library. 

Artists and arts organizations often thank VLAA for its free services, Greenberg says, though the volunteers also frequently express their gratitude to be part of the nonprofit’s mission. “The volunteers are constantly thanking us for the opportunity,” Greenberg says. “It’s a really happy place here.”

For more information visit www.vlaa.org.

01 Feb 2020
By Melissa Meinzer

As any plugged-in music fan will tell you, the music scene here is rockin’ and rollin’ — no help needed. On any night, you can find local, regional, and national acts in everything from gritty little rooms to stadiums. Now, a trio of new or reworked events aim to shine a light on the city’s lively musical happenings, leveraging connections within the community and bringing the music to a wider audience.

About a year and a half ago, planning began on what would become the Saint Louis Music Initiative. Featuring the revamped Music at the Intersection festival and St. Louis Music Week, both debuting in September 2020, and 2021’s Midwest Music Summit, the initiative can be thought of as connective tissue for the city’s thriving and ascendant music economy.

“Our city has a roster of artists that are on the rise,” says Sean Smothers, director of strategic partnerships for the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. “The number of folks I was starting to see kind of come into their own was just phenomenal. You saw Tonina [Saputo] getting name-checked by the president!” he says, referring to Barack Obama’s year-end tweet about his favorite music of 2018. The city’s contributions to the global conversations on jazz, the blues, Americana, and hip-hop are legendary.

Smothers reflected on his admiration for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a marquee event that grew from just a few hundred people in Louis Armstrong Park to an international destination. Festival founder George Wein hit upon a stroke of genius in developing the backbone of that festival. “Wein made an overt effort to make sure culture was embedded in the festival in the right way,” says Smothers. “Really, the success of that festival came from not being able to really separate the New Orleans part from the music and heritage part.”

That baked-in culture piece, alongside recognition of the city’s deep well of talent, informed the formation of Saint Louis Music Week, the reimagined Music at the Intersection, and (in 2021) the Midwest Music Summit. St. Louis is known for a tradition of exchange and collaboration, even more so than a specific genre.

“It’s tough to really put your arms around and draw out a single St. Louis sound,” Smothers says. “It’s everybody’s sound. We happen to be right at the geographic center of all these music hubs. We’ve had all these great people pass through our city and leave a piece and take a piece. We’ve also had artists from other places land here to share a new take. That intersection is worth celebrating by lifting up what we have and growing infrastructure for our music economy.”

The whole initiative is in three parts, Smothers explains. St. Louis Music Week, September 4–13, is focused on marketing — illuminating what’s already going on across the city’s vibrant collection of venues. Think of it a bit like Restaurant Week, with artists and venues signing up for no-cost promotion and fans following on social media.

Music at the Intersection, September 11–13, is a place-making event with eight stages hosting more than 60 bands, including local, regional, and national acts. The Intersection name isn’t new; its previous iteration ended about three years ago with a series of shows with local artists in Grand Center Arts District. This new, three-day concept adds the opportunity for music lovers to navigate their own cross-genre music experience.

With one ticket, festival-goers can access shows at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, The Big Top, The Sheldon, The Grandel, Jazz St. Louis, The Stage at KDHX, The Dark Room, Strauss Park, and more. The outdoor venues are also free. (Stay tuned for the artist announcement; at press time, the roster wasn’t yet made public.)

The Midwest Music Summit aims to join artists with publishers, producers, studios, national representation, and each other. Fostering these connections through panels, workshops, exhibitions, and classes will lead to opportunities and relationships. Behind the scenes, partners in the initiative are undertaking a three-year partnership with Sound Diplomacy, an international organization specializing in understanding a city’s unique music economy. This collaborative work will help St. Louis gain a clear picture of the role the music industry plays in our city (economic output, job creation, tourism interest) as well as ways to grow and protect it. The data and insights from the work undertaken by Sound Diplomacy will be made available to the public upon completion.

The effort is uniquely inclusive and grassroots. “We have 100-plus volunteers on seven committees who are helping to inform every aspect of this initiative,” says Smothers. “We don’t consider this initiative as belonging to Kranzberg Arts Foundation. We are helping continue the conversation, but we see this as belonging to the music community and to our city.  We see ourselves as the organization that’s helped ‘build the box.’ But a multitude of organizations are coming forward to put their unique stamp on it.”

That includes bookers from venues across town who are informing the programming for all three events, and marketing directors from a variety of organizations and firms that are pitching in, too. “Instead of viewing this as something that would be competitive, they’re viewing it as something that will lift the tide for all boats,” Smothers says. “It’s a true collaboration.”

For serious music geeks and casual fans alike, the events offer a glimpse at a thrumming ecosystem — one they either live in or don’t know enough about. Either way, the trio of events offers a new lens for considering music in the city and a chance to see work that might otherwise escape their notice.

“We’re really cultivating an experience here,” Smothers says. “This is a choose-your-own-adventure music opportunity. There’s no one genre of music we’re focusing on. Any genre you want to pick, St. Louis has had a significant impact.” 

01 Feb 2020

South Africa meets St. Louis for two performances that speak volumes about the universal human experience through movement.

By Caitlin Lally

Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes to performance dates and times.

Performing in sold-out shows more than 8,500 miles away, resident company Karlovsky & Company Dance had the opportunity to recently partner with Cape Town’s New World Dance Theatre (NWDT) on a project that transcends cultural differences, emphasizing the power of dialogue in building trust. 

After a year of conversations with the South African dance company, five members of Karlovsky & Company Dance boarded a plane for a two-week residency with NWDT in August 2019.

Taking with them two original works and creating a piece alongside the South African dancers, Dawn Karlovsky, founder and artistic director of the St. Louis company, said audiences expressed deep gratitude following the two companies’ collaborative performances. 

“They were amazed,” Karlovsky said. “We had a group of young students of theirs (NWDT) who stayed afterwards to meet all of us. Many expressed,“‘We have never seen movement like this before.’” Karlovsky recalled one student’s reaction. “They were moved to tears by the honesty and sincerity of the movement.”

With hopes that St. Louis audiences feel similarly, Karlovsky & Company Dance is eager to welcome the dancers to our corner of the world for two weeks when four members of NWDT perform with them on The Grandel Theatre’s stage in June.

The performance, aptly named “Conversations” because of the dialogue that went into forming the collaboration, is a statement on how people learn to understand one another and build trust, despite coming from different backgrounds. 

“Both companies are very much inspired by real-life situations,” Karlovsky said. “My work highlights choreography that illuminates human experience … I think that was one of the things that really drew their attention to us — that it felt real, that it felt human, that it felt like a universal experience can be shared through the kind of work we do.”

The dual-company performance “Conversations” will take place at 7:30pm Thursday, June 18, and Friday, June 19. The concert will consist of original contemporary choreography by both Karlovsky & Company Dance and NWDT, along with a shared piece that the two started building together while in Cape Town.

For more information, contact Dawn Karlovsky at [email protected]

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.

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