St. Louis Arts Incubator Hosts Contemporary Art Auction And Benefit, Lot 49

It’s rare for an arts nonprofit to hold a fundraising event in which artists donate a piece to auction and receive 51 percent of the proceeds back. This is the second year that The Luminary, a bold arts incubator and platform based in St. Louis, will do just that, at the upcoming event, Lot 49. “It was initiated and shaped by artists,” co-founder Brea McAnally says of the event.

As was The Luminary itself. Ten years ago, she and husband James McAnally co-founded The Luminary, a concept that developed through close consultation from the artists they now embolden. “We pulled together our artist advisory board and ran this idea by them. I was hesitant to take this fundraising approach in some ways, because it’s important to us that the artists always feel supported.” The remaining 49 percent of the split will go towards The Luminary’s programming, which includes an international artist residency program, subsidized studio spaces, several exhibitions throughout the year, live music events, pop-up galleries, community-building initiatives and volunteer opportunities. Artists have responded to their vision for what an arts incubator can be, and the event: internationally acclaimed artist Paul Chan donated a piece outright, and the auction will also feature work from Vaughn Davis, Kahlil Irving, Eric Wesley, Alberto Aguilar and Catalina Ouyang.

Miraculously, their vision for the organization hasn’t changed much, if at all, from what it was when they began it almost 10 years ago. It began, Brea recalls, when she and James began initiating a dialogue with artists about what kinds of resources they felt were missing. “I think so much of what people needed was community,” she says. It was a spark that has since incensed a commitment that supports not only artists from all over the world, but conversations around art. Another project developed at The Luminary is Temporary Art Review, a platform for art critics, curators and commentators to catalog their thoughts about art through the written word. They just released a selected anthology containing essays and commentary from its first five years called “To Make A Public,” which was accepted to the library collections at MOMA, LACMA and the Smithsonian, among others.

We spoke with Brea to further understand The Luminary, and how the McAnallys have created an arts organization with impact and longevity.

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What is the overarching goal of The Luminary? What deeper values have kept you committed for all these years?
We released a manifesto earlier last year attempting to more fully communicate what our values and goals are. In short, our goal is to care well in the ways we can – care for artists and for our community. For Lot 49, our goal is to raise funds and to sustain ourselves as an organization, but to do that ethically and have our ends and means connected. To be small, but bold.

We started The Luminary in the fall of 2007. We’ve always made art ourselves, and The Luminary grew out of that. We began asking the artists surrounding us what they needed, and what they wanted to see from the community that was lacking at the time. The Luminary was a response to addressing those needs. We do have an artist advisory board, but really, we’ve been having a dialogue with artists for our entire history, formally and informally.

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How does Lot 49 fit with those goals?
The ways we’re raising funds are consistent with our mission. For us, it’s important that artists receive support for their practices to continue from the purchases made at the event. Rather than asking artists for donations of their work, we feel that our artists need to be supported as well, and that we’re building community with that in mind. We’re also a really small institution—we have a small staff with support from an artist advisory board and volunteers, so every donation makes a significant difference.

All of the artists will also get a free VIP ticket for a chance to meet with buyers, to meet with each other and to foster that idea of community. When work sells with Lot 49, we also like to connect the artist to the buyer so there’s a relationship possible as well. We have a broad range of artists participating. There will be a number of St. Louis artists, alumni from our residency program and out-of-town artists.

There’s a lot of intention that has gone into the structure, but it’s also going to be a really amazing art party. There’ll be artist-designed cocktails, performative pieces in the auctions, publications available, drinks from Urban Chestnut and Major Brands and amazing food from Mofu and Good Fortune. We want the energy to feel really good.

 

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What is the net effect of supporting artists? Why is this work so important to you?
I would say within our sphere, I keep going back to what it is to care, and what it is to run an ethical institution. This is our attempt in all our work. The art world can be uninviting and unwelcoming, so how can we be an alternative to that? That goal really speaks to everyone. My hope and goal is that we can constantly be drawing our organization back to asking, “How can we be more welcoming?” as well as having challenging conversation and dialogue. Those are things we really value.

How does The Luminary connect St. Louis to its own arts ecosystem as well as the larger art world?
The benefit of St. Louis is the type of practice that can happen here, but that connection to people outside of our circle is super helpful. Our residency program brings in artists and curators from all over the world, to connect them to each other and build their networks, as well as for them to connect with St. Louis’ creative communities. Many of our resident artists have a really experimental, multi-disciplinary practice: they’re working in a variety of mediums, unconventional structures and alternative spaces. We have a lot of folks pushing boundaries—working in public, in new forms, or in collaboration with other institutions and community-centric spaces, and we’re bringing in that energy all the time.

Recently, we started inviting other artists to start new spaces within our building. The first experiment with that was “STNDRD,” a flag-based concept gallery started by Sage Dawson at The Luminary, who has been in our space since last year. That will be replaced by another gallery project later in the year, as we’ve been focusing on the full ecosystem of the arts and asking, “What are the tools we have as an institution to support visual artists’ spaces where it happens?” We want to see that energy of new independent spaces, and we have that experience to lend.

 

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Don’t miss Lot 49 on Friday, March 24 from 7 to 11pm.

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