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Tag Archives: St. Louis

22 Jul 2020

Videos and process behind the artmaking for “It Hits Home”

By Christine A. Holtz and Jessica Witte

In March 2020, this New York Times headline grabbed readers’ attention: ‘I Feel Like I Have Five Jobs’: Moms Navigate the Pandemic. Simultaneously, artists Jessica Witte and Christine A. Holtz were responding to these exact same sentiments through artmaking.

Prior to the pandemic, the two artists were scheduled to hang their show centered around caregiving and parenthood at the end of May. As everything began to shut down, Jessica and Christine were given the option to reschedule for the following year or follow through with their show as the first physical show scheduled since the shutdowns occurred. The second of these two options would pose several unknown challenges for public viewing and the logistics of creating a collaborative show while social distancing. Both mentally and physically exhausted from homeschooling their children and working remotely from home, the artists had to make a decision. Christine called Jessica that evening and said, “I think we should do it. When has our subject matter of caregiving and parenthood been more amplified than in this current situation?” Both of them decided to sleep on it and make their decision the next day. Ultimately the two friends motivated each other to take on the unknown along with making new works, and the exhibition “It Hits Home” was born.

Artist Christine A. Holtz shares her creative process making new artworks for “It Hits Home”

I make all my artwork in my living room — which transforms into a studio once everyone else is in bed. When the pandemic started, I began furiously jotting down inspiration and conceptual ideas in my notebook/sketchbook. My emotions about the pandemic needed an outlet. My dining room table, now a schoolhouse and home office, caused stress just looking at it. To add insult to injury, I would step on Legos at the base of our stairs almost daily (which inspired “One Step from (in)Sanity”).  A huge part of my artistic practice is a reflection of the absurdities endured during my everyday life. The pandemic provided an abundance of absurdities. In the evenings, my husband and I would work out in our living room after the kids were in bed as a way to relieve stress. We often elbowed or kicked each other due to lack of space, but it made us laugh. It helped us stay connected. Exhausted and feeling defeated from the day, my living room transformed from family space to workout room to studio, where working on art provided me with a release for my flood of emotions.

Covid-19 Work Blazer” is a work uniform for the pandemic. The blazer has three sets of sleeves to show the extra arms needed to take on the additional job of homeschooling while also transitioning my job of teaching to a remote format. I plan to wear it this fall while teaching on campus.

https://www.katebackdrop.de/
Daughters of artist Christine Holtz sit inside “Up a Creek Without a Paddle”

Up a Creek Without A Paddle” filled up my entire living room floor during construction. It is made from an old set of bed sheets out of necessity and to symbolize the home. Due to tight quarters and the size of the piece, I had to actually sit on the floor and move my sewing machine instead of the fabric to make each of the seams. I needed to make this boat. I needed to do whatever it took to keep my family safe. I know it is absurd — so is the situation. It is also a very raw display of how helpless the pandemic has made me feel.

More people being confined to the domestic environment due to the stay-at-home orders has amplified the uneven division of labor in the home. I wanted to follow through with this exhibition in hopes that the work would resonate with more people right now. I can’t help but wonder if our show would have been received the same way without a pandemic.

Artist Jessica Witte shares her creative process making new artworks for “It Hits Home”

As soon as we made our decision and connected again to talk strategy, Christine shared her idea for a huge mask/boat titled “Up a Creek Without a Paddle.” Her idea was inspiring and could be an anchor for the show’s new direction. Christine added, “I know it will be hard, but I think we will both feel better if we can process this while it is happening.”

With the baseline anxiety of everyone being so high, I definitely felt the stress on my students, myself, and my family. I began hard training again with running to exhaust myself physically as well as emotionally and help me sleep. Even though I have resources and support, every so often the stress of the situation would leak out and emotions would run high at home. “Smoke and Mirrors: everything is fine” captured those moments when small accumulations of stress exploded into outbursts. To create these little bombs, I inserted wicks into wool and laundry lint felt balls. Stabbing the felting needle repeatedly to form the ball and seeing the works take shape was cathartic, (Christine was right, again).

Witte: Thinking of the viewer at the window

Many people would see the show from the windows on Grand Boulevard, so how could we arrange “It Hits Home” to make the artwork most visible from the street? We placed Christine’s embroidery artworks close to the windows so her intricately detailed drawings would not be lost. “Up a Creek Without a Paddle” and her “Covid-19 Work Blazer” were timely, personal, and still humorous so they were close to the title and window. My new artworks needed to attract the eye with contrast and size but be light enough to be handled by myself alone (due to social distancing during install). Once I had spatial parameters in place, I could start sketching ideas.

What did I most want to say about the pandemic? I worried about my Grandma Rose isolated in her nursing home and my sister-in-law undergoing radiation therapy being at high risk for the disease. Encouraging others to realize how their behavior affects some of the most vulnerable (and to see their value) was my aim for the floor works in “It Hits Home.”

I decided to convey the bright, sunny colorful spirit of Grandma Rose — and make her comfortable and safe during this health crisis. I brought out her pile of quilts to inspire me. How could I also convey her vulnerability? Grandma Rose could have visitors through the glass of the lobby but was too fragile to have close contact in the same room. A drawing on the floor would be similar — easily destroyed by a misstep in the room, but safe when viewed from the window. How could I make the patterns as bright as the colorful quilts and clothes my grandma made for my children? Drawing in sidewalk chalk with my kids between teaching, or drawing some painting by numbers, furiously cleaning, and home-schooling helped answer the question.

Witte: Selecting and learning a new medium

I made lap-blanket-sized powdered chalk drawings into bold quilt patterns. The chalk came in vibrant colors and with the thick application could catch a viewer’s eye from the street. I had a tight timeline to learn how to use this new material, as my previous floor drawings were in seed, with a limited color range. I tested various chalk brands and how to grind and apply a consistent dusting. I made small laminated paper and foam-core templates to quickly stencil and layer the colors.

I dedicated “Targeted Treatment” to my sister-in-law Lori and her fight with breast cancer. I interviewed friends and family who had battled cancer about symbols that best represent their treatment. Caretakers and patients mentioned a new sense of time after a cancer diagnosis. The pattern has seven columns and four rows like a calendar page. A ring of cancer-awareness ribbons surrounds crosshairs in each block. Bullseye targets are peppered throughout the “calendar page” of the pattern to make one think about being an easy mark for the virus.

You Are My Sunshine” is patterned in bold blue and yellow sunburst shapes centered around archery target centers. I left every other square bare except for the center target highlighting the isolation of the residents of nursing homes.

Please wear a mask in public, reach out to your neighbors and loved ones, work out, get sunshine every day, and be kind.

Related: “It Hits Home” virtual exhibition

07 Jul 2020
All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks
All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks

For this edition of High Low’s “Caffeinated Curation” series, we’re featuring an Iced Chai Latte from Blueprint Coffee and “All About Love: New Visions” by bell hooks.

This pairing was recommended by artist Hayveyah McGowan ahead of her virtual opening reception for the exhibition “Feelings of Home: A need to simplify,” on Friday, July 10, at 7 pm on Instagram Live.

McGowan writes:

“In this context ‘maternal surroundings’ are not bound to the idea of a certain sex rather its the qualities of birthing receptivity, nurture, and sensuality, all expressed through the subtle realm and reinforced in the physical. Through this alchemical process I want to call attention to, not only, the unique ways that the black maternal lineage creates safety but also the synchronicity and rooted need for safety that we share.”

The exhibition will be on display at High Low Gallery by appointment only through Aug. 14, 2020. Click here for more information.

Blueprint Coffee at High Low is now open for curbside pick-up and patio service, Monday through Friday, 8 am – 3 pm. Order online here.

Read more from the Caffeinated Curation series here.

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.

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