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Tag Archives: The Dark Room

08 Sep 2020

In an effort to build sustainable infrastructure and feed artists, The Dark Room and Urban Harvest STL have been collaborating to donate pantry items including fresh produce to local families in need.

From radishes and collard greens to oregano and thyme, Sally’s Rooftop Garden — which is located above .ZACK and maintained by Urban Harvest — has produced over 550 pounds of organic produce so far this year, according to Drew Hundelt, Urban Harvest’s Director of Urban Agriculture.

“Urban Harvest strives for building stronger communities around food, so like making every process of food available to the surrounding communities, from growing it to eating it,” Hundelt said. 

Food and beverage director for Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Gene Bailey explained that the vegetables and herbs were originally destined for the menu at The Dark Room. However, when the pandemic hit, he started thinking about how the food could still be put to use.

“We wanted to be able to donate it in a way that it would still carry its mission. We intended to sell it at this restaurant that showcases local artists, so we were looking for a way to use it that might still focus on benefiting artist communities. Me and [Executive Director Chris Hansen] went back and forth on it,” Bailey said. “We didn’t want to dictate who it’s for, but we wanted to put it through a channel for a community that was artist-rich.”

By tapping into the Foundation’s network of resources in South City through the Art Place Initiative, Bailey got in touch with Amanda Colón-Smith of Dutchtown South Community Corporation, who then connected him to a local business for distribution.

Gooseberries, a restaurant in Dutchtown South, has now been doing weekly food pantry donations every Saturday since May to people in that community, which includes a lot of artists, as well as families in need,” Bailey said estimating that about 15 families per week have benefited from the donation bags.

In the earlier months of summer, leafy greens and herbs from Sally’s filled the donation bags. Hundelt said the later summer harvests produce larger crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and corn. After Hundelt and his team gather the food, Bailey divides it among bags consisting of hand sanitizer from local brewing company, 4 Hands, and pantry staples such as crackers, peanut butter from Performance Food Group.

“We plan on continuing this project … It’s something I want to make sure that we can carry on,” Bailey said. “It’s been good to tangibly do something with those resources.”

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.

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.

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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