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Tag Archives: St. Louis

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.

10 Apr 2020

The 2020 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards recognized six Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organizations this week. Outstanding work in professional St. Louis theater is acknowledged during this ceremony, which was presented virtually this year by HEC-TV.

Well-deserved recognition also goes to Nancy and Ken Kranzberg for receiving a special award for invaluable support in the arts. The St. Louis arts is a thriving community because of their longtime contributions.

Many congratulations to the Kranzbergs and the winning resident organizations, listed below.

Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Patrick Huber, Indecent

Outstanding Sound Design
Phillip Evans, Indecent

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
Indecent

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Joanne Gordon, Indecent

Outstanding Production of a Drama
Indecent

New Line Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Tiélere Cheatem, La Cage aux Folles

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Sarah Porter, La Cage aux Folles

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Patrick Blindauer, Love’s Labors Lost

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis & The Big Muddy Dance Company

Outstanding Choreographer
Dexandro Montalvo, Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, and The Nine Network of Public Media

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Such Sweet Thunder, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Jazz St. Louis, and The Nine Network of Public Media

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Kelley Weber, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
(Tie with Katie Kleiger, Pride and Prejudice, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis)
Maggie Wininger, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
Kari Ely, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

Upstream Theater

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Donna Weinsting, Salt, Root, and Roe

See the full list of winners here.

Image features “Indecent” by Max & Louie Productions, captured by Don Donovan.

24 Mar 2020

For creators of any and all media, here is a list of artist resources related to support amid public health concerns over COVID-19. We hope to continue to develop this list. Request to add your local resource here.

Please note: These links are not affiliated with Kranzberg Arts Foundation, nor is the foundation responsible for the websites’ content.

National Resources

Local Resources

Related Content:

 

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

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

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

People from outside the area are often surprised when they learn how lively the literary community in St. Louis actually is, but I think part of that may be that we aren’t currently home to one large hub that draws national attention,” says Shanie Latham, managing editor of River Styx, St. Louis’ oldest literary magazine, which is moving its own offices to the space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Phillip Zacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01 Aug 2019
group of 10 musicians sitting and standing

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

By Jeannette Cooperman

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

Scooter Brown, Jr. holding saxophone

Scooter Brown, Jr.

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

Headshot of Brianna "Be.Be." Brown

Brianna “Be.Be” Brown

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

Headshot of Janet Evra

Janet Evra

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

Mark Harris II

Mark Harris II

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

Kaleb Kirby

Kaleb Kirby

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

Brady Lewis plays trumpet at The Dark Room

Brady Lewis

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

Headshot of Ryan Marquez

Ryan Marquez

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

Katarra Parson sitting on curb outside in Grand Center

Katarra Parson

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

Andrew Stephen kneels on keyed instrument

Andrew Stephen

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

Ben Wheeler stands against brick wall

Ben Wheeler

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

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

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

By Melissa Meinzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a woman standing against a textured background wearing a crown of flowers
work from “Astigmatism” by Victoria Donaldson at The Dark Room

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

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

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

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

Photography exhibition at The Dark Room
works from “I am there” by Orlando Thompson at The Dark Room

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

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

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

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