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Tag Archives: St. Louis

29 Jun 2020

Pride Month as we know it spawned from the violent riots at Stonewall Inn, in New York City, in 1969. Black queer folks including Stormé DeLarverie and Marsha P. Johnson were instrumental in this demonstration for LGBTQ rights. 

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” This quote by artist Michah Bazant who included it on a portrait of Johnson resonates boldly today as we continue to work toward dismantling systematic oppression in all its forms.

We asked our Kranzberg Arts Foundation family, “What does Pride mean to you this year?” Here are some of the responses we gathered.


Matthew Kerns of St Lou Fringe and his husband with marriage license
Matthew Kerns of St Lou Fringe and his husband with their marriage license

“I came out of the closet in my early 20’s during the mid-’90s. When I came out I vowed to never go back in; not for a relationship, job, or any reason whatsoever. It has been a long road filled with daily battles for equality… every battle has been totally worth it.

“I live in a state that hates me. It fought against my right to live as an out and proud homosexual man, marry my husband, adopt a child, and even still to this day allowed others to discriminate against me in my workplace. 

“If there is a right for a straight man in Missouri the state government will actively and openly work to keep that same right away from a gay man.

“Missouri may hate the LGBTQIA+ community, but Lady Liberty loves us and she proved again [this month] that love always conquers hate.”

#LoveWins

 -Matthew Kerns, Executive Producing Director for St Lou Fringe


“Pride is canceled.

“I’m thinking about Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, Kiwi Herring, & way too many other Black trans folx murdered at the hands of state-sponsored violence, white supremacy, transphobia, & other systemic oppression. I’m thinking about all of the Indigenous trans & two-spirit folx who are murdered and missing, whose stories are usually erased and unheard under the same violent systems of power that are taking their lives. And how none of them get to live to celebrate their queerness, their joy, their magic, their fierceness, their aliveness.

“As a queer mixed-race east Asian femme artist, this time for me is another reminder of how acutely I (& we, but to speak for myself) need to continue to examine and use my roles, my art, and my relationships to power, privilege, and oppression to co-shape the reality many of us want to see. One that centers Black and Indigenous liberation & life & pleasure & creativity & wellness & leadership — especially that of Black & Indigenous trans womxn & two-spirit folx & non-binary folx & queer folx.

“To me, that’s a kind of pride to celebrate.” 

-Erika Harano, company artist + educator for Consuming Kinetics Dance Company


“These are celebrations [Juneteeth and Pride] of our human rights. What we do now and from now on will contribute to the changes we need for our future, for equal rights, and for equal treatment as a human race.” 

-Dawn Karlovsky, Founder and Artistic Director, Karlovsky & Company Dance


“For me, PRIDE is about celebrating diversity, inclusion, and the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a time to actively promote one’s self-affirmation and for everyone to reflect on the true meaning of acceptance and love for all of humanity.”  

-Ashley Tate, Artistic and Executive Director, Ashleyliane Dance Company


“I salute Pride Month. I honor my LGBTQ colleagues in the Arts. And I’m so happy about this [month’s] landmark Supreme Court decision, making this month, perhaps, the most significant Pride Month ever.

“And I salute all my fellow humans, of whatever stripe, who are carrying on through the challenges of our time to lead us to a brighter future for all.”

-Joe Hanrahan, Co-founder and Artistic Director, The Midnight Company 


“It’s fitting then that Juneteenth and Pride are celebrated in the same month. Both groups have endured struggle, hardship, and inequality, fighting tooth and nail for every inch of acceptance within the majority culture. Black and LGBTQIA communities have much to celebrate, but their celebration is bittersweet, not just this year but every year. The fact that these two groups share celebratory space isn’t all that weird when we consider how inequality and injustice found in American society are often interconnected by systems, institutions, and individuals. 

Quote by James Baldwin, Art by Megan Kenyon
Quote by James Baldwin, Art by Megan Kenyon

“One of my favorite Black authors also happened to be a Gay man; James Baldwin. He is the originator of the quote in the illustration. He reminds us that our character, integrity, leadership, love, is determined by how we treat those who have been pushed to the bottom, denied their full expression of humanity, left to be forgotten. 

“Celebration, with its twin sides of lamentation and joy, helps us to combat this desire to forget people not like us. It helps us see the other as just as human as us, full of the same emotions of joy and sorrow, fear and courage, hope, and despair. I hope [this] month gives you an opportunity to learn about the many beautiful aspects of Black and LGBTQIA culture, why they are worth celebrating, and that you not shy away from the sorrowful bits, but instead learn to sit with others in both their grief and their joy. 

“We can never be the America we say we want to be if we do not learn how to love our neighbor as fully human, worth of dignity and justice, and worthy of our care and concern, regardless of color, nationality, orientation, gender, age, ability, religion, political affiliation, class, and any other distinction we could put out there. “

 -Megan Kenyon, 2020 visual art exhibitor

*This is an excerpt from a longer essay on the topic of Juneteenth and Pride written by Kenyon. Read the full essay here.*


“It’s so important to celebrate and support each other – all of us, no matter how we look or identify, are loved and important. One Love.” 

-Janet Evra, 2019-20 music artist in residence

26 Jun 2020

June Coronavirus Survey Results

As we enter the 5th month of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Kranzberg Arts Foundation is continuing to survey our guests to understand how the pandemic is impacting engagement with the arts. Our audience is a useful composite of the larger St. Louis arts ecosystem, and we’re sharing the results to help better inform other arts organizations as they build their plans to reopen. We’ll continue to survey and share the results on a routine basis on our blog. This survey was conducted June 15-18 and received 819 responses. If you’d like to stay up to date on future surveys and to learn more about what we do, sign up for our email list here.

Some takeaways:

  • 74% of guests anticipate returning to in-person arts events within the next three months or later, compared to 26% who plan to return within the next month.
  • We split out our question on the largest size audience guests would feel comfortable in from our May survey to have an indoor and outdoor question. What’s interesting is that the number for indoor track closely to last month’s numbers. With 50% of guests preferring to limit audience size between 0-25 compared to 47.5% last month. Moving to outdoor venues increased most guests’ max audience size.
  • Similarly, 83% of respondents said they’d are more likely to attend an outdoor performance. In response, we’ve created the Backyard Jazz BBQ at The Dark Room at The Grandel. We’ll continue to evaluate and develop opportunities for outside arts events as we’re able.
  • While masks have become a polarizing issue for some, 72% of our respondents said they’d feel more comfortable returning to our venues if everyone was required to wear a mask. 86% of our guests say they always wear a mask while in public with an additional 11.3% saying they wear one if required.

June Coronavirus Survey Results

19 Jun 2020

This year, Juneteeth comes amid a global pandemic and an invigorated movement against police brutality and racism. While the day commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved people in the Confederacy, specifically in Texas, the ancestors of those who were enslaved are still fighting for liberation as systematic oppression has not disappeared, but merely transformed and has become more insidious.

With this in mind, we tapped into the powerful and transformative capacity of the arts to share the voices of our resident artists and organizations. 

We asked our Kranzberg Arts Foundation family, “What does Juneteenth mean to you this year?” Here are some responses we gathered …


“Juneteenth is the celebration of the liberation of Blackness.

“To me, it represents disembodying white supremacy in all forms so that Black people have the freedom to just be.

“I hope one day Black lives and bodies gain true, tangible freedom, reparations, and justice in this country and in this city. And I hope for it soon.”

-Katarra Parson, 2019-20 music artist in residence


Ashreale McDowell, photo by David Moore, edit by Sonja Petermann
Ashreale McDowell, photo by David Moore, edit by Sonja Petermann

“As a Black woman, I am ashamed to say that I never truly understood the importance of Juneteenth and what it means for my community. It wasn’t something that was taught in the schools I attended, and it really wasn’t mentioned amongst conversations where I grew up. 

“My entire life I celebrated the fourth of July. I loved the fireworks and all of the festivities that take place during that time. In the midst of all the excitement and glamour of celebrating the fourth, I never really stopped to think about what I was truly celebrating. 

“July Fourth, America’s independence day, America’s “freedom” day. How could I have been celebrating a national holiday of independence and freedom, when in reality it wasn’t meant for me. 

“My people were not free, there was no independence for us. We are still not free. We are still living in a world of racism and social injustice. We are fighting to have the right to LIVE! I made a vow to myself and to my people, that I will no longer celebrate and participate in a holiday that was not meant for us. 

“For me this year, Juneteenth means awakening!” 

-Ashreale McDowell, Assistant Artistic and Executive Director, Consuming Kinetics Dance Company


“Juneteenth is a time to celebrate how far we as a society have come while assessing how far we still have to go. This important day still receives little attention, but I am hopeful that because of recent events that will change. 

“Juneteenth, to me, means that while this marked the end of slavery in the United States, it represents the greatness that is the African-American legacy. It represents breaking chains and breaking barriers literally and figuratively…something that I hope continues with greater acceleration.”

-Ashley Tate, Artistic and Executive Director, Ashleyliane Dance Company


Saint Louis Story Stitchers commemorated Juneteenth with the release of a new podcast episode. In Episode VII, from the StitchCast Studio, St. Louis youth discuss “Compounding Issues” during the pandemic such as health disparities, mental health, economy and unemployment, education facing St. Louis’ economically-challenged minority neighborhoods. The episode was recorded on May 26, 2020. Listen here. 

StitchCast Studio Drop June 19 from Saint Louis Story Stitchers on Vimeo.


“Growing up in Texas, I remember when Juneteenth became a state holiday in 1980. That was a long time coming. Just like the 1865 event it celebrates — the announcement in Galveston made two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. I want to celebrate progress, but why does it always take so long to get here?” 

-Philip Boehm, Artistic Director, Upstream Theater


“I salute Juneteenth. I honor my Black colleagues in the Arts. And I’m proud of those who have taken to the streets in the last several weeks, making this Friday, perhaps, the most significant Juneteenth ever.”

-Joe Hanrahan, Co-founder and Artistic Director, The Midnight Company 

29 May 2020

From a variety of virtual performances to hours of educational content, explore the list below of digital resources provided by our resident organizations and artists. Have a digital offering your organization wants to add to the list? Let us know by contacting us here.

Educational classes and resources

Entertainment and engagement resources

28 May 2020

“You’re going to have to bring your own popcorn for this one!”

Reimagining what it looks like to connect with the community this year, Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization Circus Flora is planning to debut its Virtual Showcase on its website at 7 pm on Thursday, June 4 — the original opening night of their 34th season that has been postponed until 2021.

“There’s really no way to recreate a full-blown Circus Flora production, but we thought we’d do things a little differently,” said Managing Director Karen Shoulders.

Similar to a typical Circus Flora show, viewers can expect to see a variety of acts by performers from all over the world. Also a part of the digital experience this year will be music, guest appearances, and behind-the-scenes footage.

“The Daring Horseman, Caleb … he is practicing and has a new horse and is going to show us what he’s up to,” Shoulders said.

Without giving too much away, another performer Shoulders said viewers can look forward to is Adam Kuchler, a juggler and physical comedian who appeared as the Bellhop in the company’s 2018 production.

“It’s kind of nice to see from your home what our performers are doing,” Shoulders said. “They’re from all over the place, and we can still kind of be together and still experience the same kind of intimacy that Circus Flora is known for — but just in a different format this time around.”

Although we aren’t gathering under The Big Top this summer, Circus Flora’s Virtual Showcase is a modern example of how the community can continue to connect and engage with performing arts.

“This isn’t our first trial and tribulation,” Shoulders said. “There have been many things in our history that have proved to be challenging … but we go on with the show.”

15 May 2020

This year looks a little different than what most people expected going into it. That is no exception for Building Futures. 

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization hosts hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) workshops for local students, however, since the spread of COVID-19, Building Futures is having to build its own future a little differently than originally blueprinted.

“It’s been a new challenge to identify ways to transform methods we’ve created in-person to a virtual platform,” said Grace Pettit, digital marketing specialist for the organization.

Like many other resident organizations, for Building Futures pivoting to digital means maintaining a connection with the community as social distancing becomes the new norm. 

“We’re focused on presenting ideas to students that haven’t been solved before … 

we are living what we teach right now,” Pettit said referring to the pandemic. “There are many barriers and landmines … but it’s refreshing to live what our organization’s mission is about — preparing young minds and individuals to solve these unknowns.”

Exploring the digital environment

In March, the organization launched its “Always Building Online Workshops,” encouraging students to engage with their peers over video to explore new concepts.

According to Pettit, the free videos accessible via YouTube or Building-Futures.org are all student-led, featuring adult teachers as guests, and geared toward students in second to seventh grade.

“In that respect, peer-to-peer learning is kind of happening,” Pettit said.

Virtual projects include designing a flying machine and building a tower out of straws. Students can also learn how to use scrap wood to create art and a handful of other activities.

However, transitioning hands-on learning to a contactless model has presented its own set of challenges. 

“The learning environment is so unique to Building Futures. You come to a workshop and you’re introduced to an idea. You’re introduced to all the tools, methods, and mechanisms that could get you to that end goal … We’re still working through how to capture all of those steps [on a virtual platform],” Pettit said. There are a lot of nuanced moments within learning, especially with what we do and how we do it, and virtual really hinders that.”

Connecting with students in new ways

Despite these obstacles, Pettit said they’ve received photos and videos of students’ projects. Messages from parents thanking them for the online workshops have also been sliding into their DMs.

“It shows that we as Building Futures understand that we need to be taking responsibility for producing and connecting and engaging with [students], even if it doesn’t look the same,” Pettit said. 

Building Futures continues to adapt and build a future for its students however it can.

“We’re really looking forward to continuing to work and come up with new ways to meet these challenges and support our students, educators, and community through whatever means possible,” Pettit said.

Image courtesy of Building Futures.

11 May 2020

The arts are a vital part of our city, social life, economy, and sanity — and in times like these, we feel the importance of art that can inspire us. But, when it comes to reopening our spaces, we know we only have one chance to do it right. Ensuring the safety of our guests, cast, and crew is of the utmost importance before we open our doors again.

Last week, we asked our audience what they would need to feel safe returning to our spaces. This information will be used alongside guidance from our local health and government officials to continue preparing to safely bring the arts back into our spaces. The survey went out to our email and was posted social media. It was open May 4 – 6, and received 915 responses.

08 May 2020

High Low‘s “Caffeinated Curation” series of books paired with beverages from Blueprint Coffee is back for another work-from-home edition, this time from the general manager of The Dark Room, Abbie Finley.

“I’m pairing  Norikori, Papua New Guinea single-origin coffee with Hard Travel to Sacred Places by Rudolph Wurlitzer. They both tell stories of places preserved in isolation and places filled with culture, diversity, and life. 

“My mornings now as they always have, start with coffee. The Norikori is something unexpected. I eyeballed the pour-over at first, causing it to be under-extracted and sour. Then, with intention and patience, I repoured for the sweetness and balance. 

“I bought this book as a means of escapism — the story that Rudy tells is a travel guide of Southeast Asia, as he and his wife try to cope with the immeasurable weight of loss. He is trying to find truth in the Buddhist scripture as they remove themselves from their own chaos, mourning through Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia. 

“More than ever, I find solace in the thought of patience right now. The world is changing; my world is changing. It is easy to want to rush and to push forward out of the unknown. I think of the sour pour-over, that held the tropical notes back, and one of the Buddhist quotes:

Be stirred by things which may well move the heart, And being stirred, strive wisely and fight on!  – Nyanaponika Thera

Read more from the Caffeinated Curation series here.

01 May 2020

St. Louis-based Consuming Kinetics Dance Company will begin its 11th year May 1, so we checked in with Arica Brown, Founder/Artistic and Executive Director, to talk about the ups and downs the past decade and a year have brought for her and the resident organization.

Like many of the Kranzberg Arts Foundation performing arts residents, CKDC has been virtually active since COVID-19. The dance company has pivoted their educational programs to Patreon, a platform in which users can pay for digital content at various price tiers. Check out CKDC classes on Patreon here.

Q: How are you?

A: I’m doing pretty well, actually. There’s always a silver lining … I’ve been able to get really caught up on all things business. Our files are super organized right now, I’ve gone through all of our archives of videos and images … We updated our website. We’re finally future-focused looking at some strategic planning and development, and we have already planned to hire our second full-time employee this year, which we’re still optimistically moving forward with.

We miss everyone. It’s weird for me, as an extrovert, to not be interacting and collaborating with people and creating art, but we’re adapting and I certainly have found some joy in this sad time.

Q: Where did the idea to start a dance company come from?

A: I always feel a little bit guilty telling the story because it’s not as exciting as I think people hope it is. In 2009, I was right out of undergrad and I wanted an opportunity to continue choreographing, because I found dance really late in life, and I found choreography even later in life … So with my dance degree, I had a full-time career in IT, but I was keeping the dancing going on the weekends and evenings, so I was just as busy as ever just like I was in school.

A group of friends of mine and a few more community dancers that we recruited were just rehearsing and the only performance opportunities that we had were just these organized St. Louis events … that’s basically it. We didn’t have our own concerts, we didn’t have seasons. We used the name Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, and we fully committed to that identity and saw ourselves as a pre-professional company, we just weren’t doing that much because we all had full-time jobs elsewhere.

At that point, I had been working for a couple different dance studios teaching around St. Louis, and I was teaching some kids classes — adult classes were not (common) in 2009 when I started the company. And as people started to become aware of us, they would ask if they could come to rehearsals, but they didn’t want to dance professionally, they didn’t want to go on stage or anything, they just wanted to do the warm-up.

So, I started to realize there’s a market in St. Louis for adults who wanted to dance for extracurricular or for an alternative to whatever other fitness thing they could be doing. I started observing nationally to see if this was a thing … I found that it was not uncommon in the Pacific Northwest and on the West Coast to have a studio that opens exclusively to offer adult classes or companies, like ours, that has an education program … Eventually we started our own business inside the studio and after a couple of years, it just really grew … we outgrew the space and eventually it became a full-time job … I left my job … I always say I didn’t “found” the company, the company found me. I think my biggest (skill) is just bringing people together, and being community-focused, so I’m not good at saying no, and I’m really good at meeting the demands of the community. That’s how it all started.

Q: When you started CKDC in 2009, what music were you singing along to in your car?

A: Oh my God, I love this! There’s a Canadian band named Stars and definitely that was in the CD player of my car playing constantly 24/7. Especially in spring and fall with the windows down, I’d definitely be singing those songs at the top of my lungs as I’m driving around St. Louis.

And then also a little bit more inspiration for my serious, artistic side is a band called Lydia, which I named my cat after actually, because I think Lydia the band is perfect, and I think that my cat is perfect. They are very different now than they were back then, but they had a male and female vocal lead that shared this really beautiful melodic interlacing, catching, pseudo-folk pop music.

I was also starting my obsession with Drake.

Q: Where has dance taken you in the past 11 years, geographically speaking?

A: Part of our strategic plan, our three-year-action plan even, this year our big milestone was hiring a full-time person because one full-time person cannot sustain this org, and next year we hope to have a weekly or monthly stipend for our artists during rehearsals, so we hope to grow in that way, and our third year out, touring and traveling at least in the Midwest is a priority for us.

So far, myself and my assistant artistic director Ashreale, who we’re bringing on full-time this year, we’ve been the only two who have officially taken business trips except last year in 2019, we took a piece of mine to the Exchange (Choreography) Festival (in Oklahoma).

We definitely want to grow our national visibility, and so to this point, it’s been mostly business research since 2009. Every year I would go back, check in on the studios and companies I identified and create relationships with their directors and learn about the new ones that have popped up. Ashreale and I went international, I think it was in 2018. We went to Dublin, Ireland, and also London, just to take dance classes and see where we were on an international scale and kind of how we fit in and see if there are other progressive things we need to kind of get on the boat with.

It was a really great experience. She and I saw one of the most memorable concerts we’ve ever seen in our lives when we were in London, it was just unbelievable and it was a two-man dance performance. I even emailed whoever was the artistic director of Dance St. Louis at the time, it was like an interim and I was like, “You need to bring them here.” We were just so into it. So mostly for inspiration and business growth and seeing how other people run classes making sure we’re keeping up with the times. It’s taken me all over the United States, for sure, and then a little bit internationally, and hopefully more of that in the future.

Q: What’s something you’ve thought about trying in the past 11 years but haven’t yet?

A: In alignment with bringing on Ashreale this year, I hope to have more time that is not work.

A lot of people will say, “You’re so lucky you get to do what you love for a living,” and while that is absolutely true and I am so grateful, what people sometimes fail to realize is that you can get burnt out on things that you love just as much as you can get burnt out on something that you don’t love so much.

I would definitely say that the goal is to share the labor of love and be able to employ another full-time artist, which is a part of our mission — to support artists who want to work full-time, and also less things will fall through the cracks … All of those things will help me personally be able to react from a more calm state and be able to better tackle obstacles that come our way including concert cancellations and ongoing struggles with the pandemic, if that is a thing, and who knows what else.

The life of a nonprofit is always torrential and it can be traumatizing at times, but to have another person on my team tackle that and go into the darkness with, I think it’s going to be a huge emotional benefit for me.

Q: What is your favorite dance move?

A: Hahaha, something that’s codified that has a name that I can think of is “banking,” like banks of a river … it’s like a slide on the ground on one leg on the outside of your shin so a little bit hitting the meaty part of your calf muscle and your top arm circles over your head like a helicopter and you just glide on the floor, and there’s so many variations on that move. I love floor work so that’s one that has a term I can assign to it and most people will know if they are dancers. I’m not into ballet, I’m not a “bunhead” or anything, I don’t love pirouettes and jumps, I just love dance as an expressive and healing art.

Q: So, in a life where you might go to the club, are you banking on the dance floor?

A: Hahaha, no, I’m definitely going to pull out my hip hop moves and social dance skills, and I love going out to dance, so definitely that happens in my world. That may or may not be how I found out I love to dance.

Q: Can you recall a time in the past 11 years that has been more challenging than dealing with COVID-19?

A: Yes, and that’s one of the things that I keep trying to remind myself of, is that we’ve been through worse, hypothetically, right? We don’t know how long this thing is going to go on, but like Wednesday, April 29, is our anniversary of the worst hardship that we ever had to overcome. … We were renting from another studio in 2015, and our pretty informal leasing agreement got terminated with no notice, day of. We were ceasing all of our classes and rehearsals in the space. And so we had a student dance concert coming up in a couple of weeks … and we were working on a professional concert that we ended up combining our student and professional companies in one night because of the hardship.

I just remember myself and my two associate directors at the time just sat on my floor of my apartment and wondered, “Is it over? Are we just going to fold after five years, or are we going to suit up and make this thing work?” We didn’t give up obviously. We spent the entire summer — May, June, July — renting from random facilities all over St. Louis … and we just took a month at every location and got feedback from our clients… all the while I was searching real estate, and that’s when we found our studio at 460 Whittier, which is just a couple blocks east of where we are now. We were at Whittier and Olive, now we’re at Taylor and Olive.

We really have grown in this neighborhood, and everything’s changed, you know, things that we thought were benefits to our organization like being under someone else’s roof and paying a sub rental fee and not having all the overhead. I mean, for sure, our expenses are astronomical now compared to what they were, but our exposure has also increased over a hundred fold. Just the physical act of having your own brick-and-mortar and your own logo on the door and traffic driving by and seeing you, has changed everything for us. We’ve been able to further our mission of making dance accessible to everyone and spreading the joy of dance … Everything changed, again it was another hardship time, it was something that looked like an obstacle that we could never overcome, yet somehow it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened for us.

I always quote one of my favorite artists, Jen Sincero, she says, “On the other side of your fear, is your freedom.” … We’ve been through worse, and we can survive this. We’ve done it before.

Q: What is one thing you’re proud of?

A: I’m so proud that May 1 is going to be our 11th year, like I can’t believe it. We’ve been celebrating 10 years for a whole year, it doesn’t even feel like the end of our 10-year celebration, and you know, we can’t really market 11 years like we’ve marketed the 10-year celebration … But me, personally, I’m super celebrating because I feel too young, and I don’t even understand how it’s already been 11 years, but it’s pretty incredible.

Q: What advice would you give yourself 11 years ago; what did 2009 Arica need to hear?

A: Wow, that’s personal, but the huge difference between me in 2009 and currently, like the advice I think I would have benefited from the most is to not allow exterior circumstances to impact my inner calmness and happiness.

It was a much bigger struggle back then, before I had a full-time salary to do this, and before we had donors, before we had infrastructure. I mean I kept going obviously, tenacity saved the company, but I had a lot of times feeling sorry for myself. “Why is it like this? Why doesn’t St. Louis support the arts? How come dance is underfunded?”

And then I just took control, because if you can’t get what you need, then you have to manifest it, and I wish that back then I would have learned some of those lessons earlier because maybe we would have grown to this point sooner, and be already touring by now.

Q: What are you grateful for today?

A: I am grateful for our conversation today. Quarterly taxes are due, it’s a stressful week and I have to do payroll and I’ve only seen my boyfriend and my cat for over a month … hahaha … not that I’m mad — they’re great company, but it was great to talk to somebody outside of my new norm.

20 Apr 2020

As springtime begins to bloom outside the windows of our self-quarantine locations, it’s (mostly) business as usual for Urban Harvest STL, which maintains the rooftop garden at .ZACK.

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization focused on food rights has just finished its first harvest of the season from its urban farms across St. Louis. Farmers collected 50 pounds of various leafy greens, radishes, pea shoots, herbs and edible flowers. 

Like the majority of what the farms produces, Urban Harvest STL will donate these plants to their nonprofit partners. These partners serve local communities with limited access to healthy and nutritious food. In the past year, the organization grew and donated 4,740 pounds of food.

“The need is greater now than ever,” Executive Director Clare Higgins said.

Three organizations Urban Harvest STL regularly donates to include Fit and Food Connection, The Urban League, and North Newstead Association

This year, the organization anticipates making even more donations. Some partner restaurants that typically receive a portion of produce are temporarily shuttered, including The Dark Room at The Grandel

Though the crops are unaffected by COVID-19, the farmers are practicing social distancing while tending the gardens. Additionally, office staff transitioned to working from home. Higgins said everyone feels safe with the measures put in place, and the team even added five new staff members in March. 

Growing community … online

The organization’s mission not only includes providing food resources, but also educational resources. However, conducting food roof visits and workshops is now out of the question. 

“Not being able to gather together means doing it on video,” Higgins said, mentioning the resurrection of the organization’s YouTube page and website blog.

Using the platforms to share learning opportunities on topics such as seed germination and composting, Events & Marketing Coordinator Anna Lin-Schweitzer said they are excited to broaden their reach online. They hope to continue to create digital content to fit the needs of community members, especially as more people turn toward at-home gardening.

“There’s something cathartic about being out with the plants, embracing the small amount of control we have over a small plot of land,” Higgins said. She explained that peas are a good beginner plant because the seeds are large (good for tiny hands), and they sprout fairly quickly. 

Since mid-March, the organization has included 160 packets of seeds along with produce donations to “plant the seed” and encourage others to garden. 

Learn more about Urban Harvest STL at urbanharveststl.org.

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