Whether you’re an arts aficionado or new to the scene, let this be your neighborhood guide to the arts.
Midtown/Grand Center: Cultural Soul of the City
It should come as no surprise that Grand Center Arts District in Midtown is brimming with art of all kinds. Live bands rock smaller nightclubs, jazz washes over the crowd at The Bistro, and the world-class St. Louis Symphony rarefies the air in Powell Hall. Intimate local theater engages audiences at the Kranzberg Arts Center, while Broadway touring companies sing and dance their way onto the massive stage at the Fox Theatre. With more than 12,000 theater seats, live music clubs, scores of restaurants and even a circus all within a four-block radius, it’s impressive that where Grand Center really shines is in visual art. Twelve museums and galleries offer everything from contemporary to classical art in all mediums.
See and Do
To rev up your art engine, start off at the Moto Museum and get a gander at the
Re+Republic‘s outdoor digital, immersive and interactive mural, where you can play Picasso and use an app to re-compose the mural into hundreds of variations. Turn the corner to the new International Photography Hall of Fame, where you can see rotating exhibitions and photos from its impressive permanent collection, featuring the likes of Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. If you’d like to engage your spiritual side, SLU’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art feeds the soul with Rebecca Niederlander’s “Axis Mundi” exhibit, MOCRA’s first site-specific installation opening Sept. 14. But no trip to Grand Center is complete without a visit to Pulitzer Arts Foundation (closed for renovations until May 2015) and the Contemporary Art Museum with exhibits by conceptual artist Mel Chin, Mark Flood’s first solo museum exhibition, and large-scale paintings by acclaimed Dutch artist Carla Klein, all beginning Sept. 5. CAM’s video art series, “Street Views,” resumes Oct. 3 every evening from dusk to midnight with two short films by Virginia-based artist Kevin Jerome Everson projected on the museum’s front facade. CAM also offers a host of programming where folks can learn and play, including lectures, workshops and design events; family programs such as stroller tours and morning play dates; and youth and teen programming such as ArtReach and the acclaimed “New Art in the Neighborhood” program for young artists.
Grand Center is strong on galleries too, with Bruno David Gallery just across the street from CAM. The gallery represents more than 30 local, national and international artists, such as St. Louisans Buzz Spector, whose exhibit opens Sept. 5, and Leslie Laskey and Frank Schwaiger, whose shows begin Oct. 17. The Portfolio Gallery, housed in a 19th-century residence, features the best local, regional and national African-American artists and offers vibrant educational programs for youth and adults. Sheldon Art Galleries present more than 20 exhibitions of national, international and regional importance each year. They also offer educational programs, including Tuesday evening gallery talks, lunchtime lectures in architecture and master-class workshops for children. The gallery count in Grand Center has grown with the additions of The Dark Room, both wine bar and photo gallery, and Duet, a gallery that offers meaningful pairings between St. Louis artists and ones from other cities.
Downtown: Art on the Rise
Downtown was once a gallery hotspot, but—one by one—the galleries moved to other neighborhoods. However, with new construction (Ballpark Village, SLU Law School) and a population increase, the retail and art markets are getting stronger. It’s only fitting that the city center with the largest modern art sculpture in the world—the Arch—should have a vibrant arts scene.
Who would think that the city of St. Louis—a bastion of Midwestern sensibility— would also be home to some of the funkiest galleries and new creative art in the region? Tom Huck, renowned for his diabolical woodcuts, keeps his studio there, while two blocks away, Phantom Gallery features contemporary and vintage art and photography. Downtown’s newest addition is Alexi Era Gallery, which focuses on the pop surrealism/new contemporary art movements and reps such artists as gallery owner Aunia Kahn, Jel Ena and Simona Candini. You’ll also find contemporary art at Hartz Gallery; the African-American-focused 10th Street Gallery; Cathy Gregory Studio; Art St. Louis, which hosts juried exhibits by contemporary artists from throughout the region; and Des Lee Gallery, featuring students from Wash U’s Sam Fox School who are shaping the art of the future.
In many ways, Downtown offers art that involves the body, with works that you walk in, around and through. With the beloved Arch, visitors are invited to ride to the top for a majestic view, and in City Museum‘s case, the structure itself is the art. Once inside the fantasy wonderland, you can engage with it in a variety of ways, whether it’s venturing down the 10-story slide or riding the rooftop Ferris wheel. Citygarden is an urban oasis that blends lush plantings with internationally renowned sculptures featuring water, stone, architecture and design elements. Twenty-four sculptures by such artists as Fernand Leger, Mark di Suvero, Martin Puryear and Aristide Maillol keep watch over the park. Just two examples are Keith Haring’s exuberant “Ringed Figure” and Ju Ming's “Tai Chi” figure exploring an intriguing dichotomy of bulk and grace.
Cherokee Street/South City: Where Artists Live and Work
This is where artists choose to live and play, thanks to affordable housing and some of the strongest neighborhood personalities in the region, whether it’s the cultural and social diversity of Tower Grove, the rich historical residential tradition of Soulard, or the pulsing vibrancy of commerce and culture on Cherokee Street and in Benton Park. Here, you’ll find galleries, design studios, art exhibition spaces, public art projects and artists’ studios, where young artists congregate to create experimental art.
Artists And Their Studios
Many artists operate their own studios and galleries here, like the print-oriented Paper Boat and Firecracker Press, phd gallery and Mad Art Gallery, which resides in the ultra-cool confines of an old police station that doubles as an event space/barbecue joint. Others combine art forms: The Luminary and the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center focus on groundbreaking music with frequent concerts, while Fort Gondo has a strong poetry program with workshops and readings. SOHA Gallery features a new exhibit every two weeks with every piece for sale, plus artist talks and hands-on Family Days, where kids and adults create art in the style of the current exhibit. It’s also worthwhile to visit Concrete Ocean Art Gallery on Jefferson near Fox Park to view a wide variety of contemporary art by local artists.
Painting On The Wall
The area is also rich in street art and murals. Alicia LaChance (of Hoffman LaChance Gallery) painted the large mural on the side of the Firecracker Press building; Faring Purth’s work adorns Nebula Coworking; and Jeff Kapfer painted “Spring Birds” at 5401 Lansdowne, just a few blocks from SOHA Gallery, which, by the end of September, will feature its own mural by Megan Rieke. Peat Wollaeger, possibly the best-known St. Louis street artist, has murals at Nebula on Cherokee, Atomic Cowboy in The Grove and the old Church’s Chicken on Delmar in U City. His lenticular blinking eyes also watch over 1600 Broadway, part of the Broadway Public Art Program. The program also has murals by Vesna Delevska at 7405 S. Broadway, at 6721 by Joe Schaefer and Carey Seven and a metal puzzle piece mural at 7625 by Richard “Indy” Bowers, with more to come in the future.
Central West End/The Grove/ Forest Park: Collector's Central
Serious collectors know that the CWE is the place to find art by nationally recognized artists. Philip Slein Gallery, which relocated from Downtown in 2010, represents more than 30 national and international artists, including Jamie Adams (whose recent “Niagara” series was shown), as well as Cheonea Kim’s boldly colored geometric work, Fred Stonehouse’s surreal figurative paintings and Jackie Saccoccio’s colorful abstracts. A few doors down, Duane Reed exhibits dozens of nationally recognized contemporary artists working in painting, photography and sculpture, such as emerging local artist Andrew Brandmeyer (upcoming exhibition Oct. 24-Nov 28) and Beverly Mayeri’s sculptural figures that evoke a richly complicated human presence. Slein and Reed often schedule openings on the same night, setting up an ideal opportunity for an art-filled outing. Start at the World Chess Hall of Fame gallery and then hit the openings at Slein and Reed, finishing with a nightcap at The Vino Gallery, the combo wine bar and art gallery.
Across the street, Houska Gallery offers not only Charles Houska’s colorful, cheerful work but other local artists as well. Over the years, Houska has shown dozens of local artists, including Jeff Kapfer, Julie Malone, Alicia LaChance and Michael Hoffman. Another gallery worth exploring is Atrium Gallery at 4814 Washington, which exhibits and sells work by notable regional and national artists.
Groovin’ in the Grove
The Grove is the place to party and see art, whether in a gallery or simply taking in the public art displayed on everything from fire hydrants to the many outdoor murals. White Flag Projects—a not-for-profit alternative art institution established in 2006 that mounts exhibitions by progressive international, national and local artists—is known for presenting dynamic new experimental work. Its exhibit “Shit Like Hair” runs Sept. 6-Oct. 18, and its series of artist-chosen films continues with showings on Sept. 5 and 19. But any time is good to see some of its many murals, such as “Rollergirl” on N&M Market; the “St. Louis Wall of Fame” mural at the corner of Tower Grove and Manchester; “Girl Riding a Rocket” at Atomic Cowboy; or Wollaeger’s “Eyeball Listening to a Boombox.”
The Big Daddy
Just west of the CWE, Forest Park is home to the center of the local art world, the Saint Louis Art Museum. It’s one of the nation’s leading art museums and draws in a half-million visitors every year. Its encyclopedic collection spans the centuries from ancient Egypt to the present, and the addition of the East Building means it’s bigger and better than ever. You can catch Janaina Tschäpe’s new media series “The Ocean Within” through Oct. 19, and “Atua: Sacred Gods from Polynesia” beginning Oct. 12, among other impressive shows. While you’re in the park, hit the Missouri History Museum, where exhibits utilize a variety of presentation techniques and interactive elements to tell deep and compelling stories. Just north of the park, the Mildred Lane Kemper Arts Museum is one of the city’s best kept secrets. Its impressive collection includes works by artists Max Beckmann, George Caleb Bingham, Frederic Edwin Church and Willem de Kooning.
U City/The Loop: Making It
The famed U City Loop neighborhood has a well-deserved reputation for renowned eateries and iconic attractions such as Blueberry Hill and the Tivoli, but it holds its own on the art front as well. So much so, in fact, that people flock to The Loop to learn how to make art. Think of it as an education station. COCA’s Millstone Gallery features contemporary art exhibitions by regional and nationally recognized artists, which are accompanied by exhibit-related programming such as gallery talks, hands-on workshops, classes, lectures and demonstrations. Craft Alliance (recently rebranded as Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design) offers classes in a variety of disciplines like clay, glass and metal, while Third Degree Glass Factory offers classes in flameworking and kilnworking, as well as glassblowing. There’s lots of fun and learning to be had by individuals and families alike.
The Loop is also a stimulating area to shop for art gifts, either for yourself or others. Third Degree features two galleries with the work of local artists with prices starting at about $20. Componere Gallery of Art and Fashion features handcrafted jewelry, original prints and paintings, ceramics and imaginative steampunk lamps for viewing or purchase. Serendipity Gallery exhibits and sells the work of contemporary artists who express themselves in paintings, photography, jewelry, sculpture, ceramics, wood, metal and glass. And as long as you’re in The Loop, you should treat yourself to a visit to the gallery of the Regional Arts Commission, where there is always an impressive lineup of works, many times by local artists with guest curators.
Clayton/Frontenac/Ladue: Art of the Deal
You'll find no better area than this to begin or expand your art collection. No matter what the medium, there’s something in every style by well-known and emerging artists in a variety of price ranges. William Shearburn Gallery overlooking Forest Park features cutting-edge modern work by respected artists—think Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons, de Kooning and Judd— plus an impressive lineup of local artists such as Cayce Zavaglia, recent winner of the Great Rivers Biennial at CAM, and Sarah Frost, whose computer key mosaics never fail to impress. Kodner Gallery in Ladue, by contrast, specializes in fine American and European art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Whether the Regionalism of Thomas Hart Benton, the impressionism of Johann Berthelsen, or a piece by fauvist painter Jean Dufy, you will find it at Kodner.
Pop Goes the Art World
New collectors will also find plenty to like in these neighborhoods. Clayton Fine Art Gallery features quality regional artists displaying paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolors, photographs, sculptures and glass art. Here you’ll find everything from the impressive photography of Greg Kluempers to John Salozzo’s striking neon-colored paintings of St. Louis landmarks. Barucci Gallery has been around for more than 25 years and features contemporary art by regional and national artists in watercolor, acrylics, serigraphs, hand-blown glass, ceramics and jewelry. 618 Gallery specializes in pop art by artists like Chuck Close, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and more.
Art With a View
Not to be overlooked is the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Set in a sprawling house on the edge of Oak Knoll Park in Clayton, the Guild offers frequent exhibitions, programs and educational projects for art-lovers who want to take up the craft or merely learn about it. Its next group of exhibits from Sept. 12-Oct. 25 features a solo exhibition of abstract sculptures by Andy Van Der Tuin, as well as additional exhibits showcasing sculpture, fine craft, textiles and the art of stitchery.
Webster Groves/Kirkwood/ Maplewood: Catch the Local
With strong representation of local artists, these neighborhoods are bringing new audiences to art and providing fresh opportunities for first-time collectors or keeneyed connoisseurs. Grafica Fine Art Gallery represents some of St. Louis’ best-known local artists. Here you’ll find Janice Schoultz Mudd’s colorful mixed-media paintings, Bryan Haynes’ celebratory landscapes and the unique symbolic work of Ron Isom Sr. They also represent Art Group 360, a consortium of six local artists, including Lisa Ober of Ober Anderson Gallery. Having celebrated its one-year anniversary in July, Green Door Art Gallery continues to represent and show more than 25 local and regional artists. There’s also a gift shop and a variety of workshops and classes with working artists available. MySLART, an artists’ support community, occupies The Old Orchard Gallery one Friday night each month to showcase the work of 33 local artists, providing an opportunity to see and buy local art. While you’re in Webster, stop by the May Gallery at Webster University, dedicated exclusively to showing a wide range of photographic work.
Tale Of Two Cities
Maplewood and Kirkwood are contributing to the region’s vibrant art culture in their own ways. In Maplewood, artist-run Hoffman LaChance Contemporary Art Gallery shows local, regional and international artists whose work is on the cutting edge. It’s not unheard of for the owners to hand over the keys to an artist who lives in the space as they create the art to be shown there. Ober Anderson Gallery in Kirkwood features the works of 16 local artists, including gallery owner Lisa Ober’s portraits and still life paintings, the representational and philosophical sculptures of Abraham Mohler and Janet Fons’ colorful and captivating landscapes. September’s special exhibit features work by the Saint Louis Watercolor Society.
The Big Picture
These neighborhoods have their share of larger art experiences as well. Laumeier Sculpture Park is a 105-acre, open-air museum and sculpture park that houses more than 60 outdoor sculptures, including Ernest Trova’s “Falling Man,” Alex Liberman’s “The Way” and an untitled work by Donald Judd. In addition, Webster holds the popular “Art & Air” festival celebrating regional and national artists with art, music and hands-on art experiences, and Maplewood hosts “Let Them Eat Art,” a whimsical tribute to Bastille Day with a self-guided tour through historic downtown Maplewood that offers live demonstrations by more than 35 regional artists and artisans.
Historic St. Charles: Hit the road, Jack
Although typically associated with antiques, Historic St. Charles also has some art destinations that warrant a special trip. Whether you want folk art and crafts, a peek at a national exhibition, or to pick up exciting art by local artists, you’re in luck here. Missouri Artists on Main is a co-op gallery featuring the works of 28 award-winning Missouri artists, including fine art photos taken around the world by Greg Matchick and impressive figurative sculptures using natural materials by Adam Long. The Foundry Art Centre features 5,200 square feet of Smithsonian-caliber exhibition space that hosts national touring exhibitions featuring a variety of media. Curated exhibits and juried competitions are exhibited in the Foundry’s many galleries, and art programs are offered for young and old. Framations represents an impressive lineup of more than 20 local artists, and includes works ranging from Shirley Nachtrieb’s vibrant watercolors to Suzanne Lowry’s whimsical figurative sculptures.
Bruno David Gallery
Jeff Kapfer mural
Duane Reed Gallery
World Chess Hall of Fame, John Cage and Glenn Kaino exhibition
St. Louis Artists’ Guild
Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design
Pulitzer Arts Foundation
Photo credit: Michael Becker