Archetypes: A Conversation With the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis' Executive Director Felicia Shaw

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

A conversation with Felicia Shaw, executive director at the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. A St. Louis native, Shaw most recently was the director of arts and creative economy at The San Diego Foundation, where she served from 2007 to 2014. Prior to that, she spent 12 years as the program manager for the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. She’s excited to come back to St. Louis not only for the blues and barbecue, but to explore and connect with the neighborhoods and arts leaders around town while reigniting a discussion about the future of the arts in St. Louis.

Felicia Shaw | photo by Wesley Law

Felicia Shaw | photo by Wesley Law

What is your current frame of mind? Right now I’m pretty peaceful.

When and where are you happiest? I think I’m happiest when I’m around my three sons.

What is your favorite smell? Lavender.

What is one word that describes you? Tenacious.

What did you eat for breakfast today? Special K and skim milk.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Probably “partner,” “collaboration” and “vision.” I say “vision” a lot.

What is your most marked characteristic? Gutsy.

What is your greatest weakness? Greek yogurt, the lime-flavored one. I can eat two or three cartons of those in one sitting! It’s so delicious.

What trait do you most admire in others? People who are really frugal—not cheap, but frugal.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? Nothing! I love me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? I learned to drive a stick in San Diego with lots of hills. So, without rolling backward, I can actually manage it.

Which historical figure do you identify with most?
I like Rosa Parks. That thing about sitting in the back, you know, “I’m gonna sit here no matter what”—that took some guts. I like her.

Which living person do you most admire? I would say my mom. She is pretty awesome. She made me. So she gets big ups for that.

If you were to die and come back as a thing, what would it be? I would like to be a gorgeous piano, like a concert-quality Steinway piano only the greatest pianists get to play.

What is your greatest extravagance? Naps. I love naps.

What is your most treasured possession? My father, an Omega Psi Phi, gave me his fraternity pin. He wanted me to have it for the rest of my life.

What is your greatest fear? Dying and not having made a mark, made a difference.

Who are your favorite writers? Probably Mark Twain. He is funny as hell. The stuff he says … I feel like he’s still around.

Which artists do you admire most? I admire any artist who can make a living and still do the kind of work they really love.

What is your favorite hobby? Probably thrift shopping.

Where would you like to live? Right now, the Central West End.

Who are your heroes in real life? Anyone who can push against the grain and keep doing it: courageous people who try to make change, who aren’t afraid.

What are you most looking forward to? Getting reacquainted with St. Louis and figuring out how I can be of service.

What is something interesting that you just learned? I learned a little bit about how to code, which I think is just fascinating. I also am helping renovate my mother’s house. It’s more than 100 years old, so I am learning how to skim coat a wall … I’m always online looking at those wiki-hows that tell you how to do something, and then I hire someone to come and fix it.

What is something that you still want to learn? I really want to learn how to get people to change their minds. When they are really, really set, and you feel like this person will never, ever have another way of seeing and to actually figure out what you have to do to have a person go from here to there.

What is one thing that you want to do before you die? I think I want to skydive. I’m going to be 60 in November, and I’m thinking that’s what I’m going to do for my birthday.

If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? “Just be fearless.”

This story appeared in the August 2015 issue. For further conversation with Felicia, check out our story from the July issue here.

“Archetypes” are off-the-cuff interviews with St. Louis’ most inspiring, well-known personalities based on the 19th century Parisian parlor game known as the Proust Questionnaire.

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