The Hot List 2013: Arts and Culture
Best Museum: Saint Louis Art Museum
The art world is abuzz over SLAM‘s $160 million new wing, with its one-of-a-kind grid of skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows and 21 new galleries. Besides allowing the museum to stage larger exhibits, the expansion is expected to raise the museum’s national profile in a big way. The new East Building opens to the public June 29, with the unveiling of two new exhibits: “Postwar German Art in the Collection” runs through January 2014 alongside the new permanent showing of contemporary art by Warhol, Rothko, Pollack and others. Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone Sea,” an outdoor sculpture of 25 limestone arches, links the old building with the new. The addition also features a new restaurant and underground parking to accommodate its renewed influx of visitors. Forest Park, 314.721.0072.
Best Special Exhibitions: Missouri History Museum
Nobody does special exhibits like the Missouri History Museum, as proven with the recent showing of “The Civil War in Missouri,” which wraps up its 19-month run this month. Curators utilize compelling artifacts, interactive elements, video installations, hands-on displays, life-sized models and anything else that helps tell the story. As if they weren’t impressive enough on their own, History museum exhibits often also feature school, youth and community programs, lectures, films and even original plays. Right now, visitors can explore “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” and “Between Two Worlds: Veterans Journey Home.” Coming in October, “The 1968 Exhibit” is an ambitious, state-of-the-art multimedia show that already has history fans salivating. Forest Park, 314.746.4599.
Best New Cultural Venue: Central Library
Enter through the new covered entrance into the soaring atrium and it’s instantly clear that St. Louis’ Central Library has found its way to the 21st century. After a two-year, $70 million renovation, visitors have flocked to the Central Library to marvel at the Renaissance-inspired ceilings, alabaster lamps, smooth marble floors and staircases, granite walls and streaming glass, all restored to their former Beaux Arts grandeur. Alongside the original architecture are sleek new spaces and modern amenities, like the 250-seat theater, cafe, computer room and expanded public reading roomsÛÓnot to mention high-speed wireless access throughout. it’s not just locals taking notice, eitherÛÓCentral Library received Architizer’s A+ Library Popular Choice Award shortly after reopening its doors. Downtown, 314.241.2288.
Best Gallery: Philip Slein Gallery
Since settling into its new Central West End home just over a year ago, Philip Slein Gallery has continued to mount impressive exhibits of national scope. The new space was christened with a showing of large-scale abstract paintings by New York artist Jackie Saccoccio, which sold out on opening night. A string of successes followed with John Zinsser, Chuck Webster, Richmond Burton and, most recently, Cheonae Kim‘s study of surprising geometric abstraction. No matter the reason you venture in next, expect work that continually pushes the envelope. Central West End, 314.361.2617.
Best Live Theater Venue: The Fox Theatre
The name is not merely self-indulgenceÛÓThe Fox lives up to its fabulous claim time and time again. The former movie palace stuns visitors with its opulent Siamese-Byzantine style, in which huge golden griffons stand guard over the sweeping grand staircase, and ornate statuary peek out from every nook and cranny. The auditorium is massive and spectacular, apropos of the impressive Broadway shows it hosts on the regular. Last season, the mega-hit “Book of Mormon” kept audiences in stitches, and “War Horse” marveled with groundbreaking puppetry. The coming season will unveil a newly restored ceiling, the rollicking musical “Sister Act,” “Elf” for the holidays and Best Musical Tony award winner “Once,” among other Broadway favorites. Grand Center, 314.534.1678.
LouFest photo courtesy of LouFest
Best Music Event: LouFest
Easily the biggest and most talked-about music event of the year in St. Louis, LouFest brings national, regional and local acts to Forest Park for a weekend packed with back-to-back concerts. With just three years under its belt, LouFest has a community dynamic that’s lacking from other national festivals, which allows music-lovers to relax and enjoy the festival vibe. This year’s LouFest takes place Sept. 7-8, produced for the first time by C3 PresentsÛÓthe company behind such renowned fests as Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza. With that kind of force behind it, we expect it can only get bigger and better from here. Forest Park, loufest.com.
Best Theater Event: Briefs
The only event of its kind in St. Louis, Briefs is a mini-festival featuring seven short LGBT plays. The festival, produced by That Uppity Theater Company and Vital VOICE, brings together LGBT and non-LGBT communities through performances that address subjects that are relatable and educational for all. At times funny, at times poignant, the selections showcase directors and actors from the St. Louis area, producing plays by writers from across the country. After the show, there’s a Q&A session with the directors and actors to continue the dialogue, and the atmosphere shifts to a party as guests stick around for drinks and dancing. uppityco.com/briefs.html.
Best Free Event: Fair St. Louis
Each year, Fair St. Louis presents a massive Fourth of July celebration that lasts all weekendÛÓand is completely free. From the beloved traditions of the Veiled Prophet Parade and the ever-patriotic air shows over the river, to live music under the Arch (this year’s headliners include Trace Adkins, Bret Michaels and Counting Crows) and the spectacular fireworks display after dark, it’s a whole lot of entertainment for the price of a Metrolink ticket Downtown. Downtown, 314.434.3434.
Best Art Fair: Saint Louis Art Fair
Known as one of the best art fairs in the country, Saint Louis Art Fair draws tens of thousands of people to Clayton each September, presenting an incredible array of art and entertainment. Visitors stroll along rows of white canvas booths, browsing the wares of artists peddling everything from modern sculpture to pastoral paintings. Feet tired? Take a load off at one of three stages offering nonstop live music by local and regional acts, or visit the food court crowded with food trucks dishing up local favorites. Clayton, 314.863.0278.
Best Arts Educator: Craft Alliance
A fixture on the St. Louis art scene, Craft Alliance continues to push the limits of its role in arts education. Both of its locations feature art galleries that exhibit the work of students and established artists alike, as well as extensive studio and classroom space. Master craftsmen offer instruction in a variety of mediaÛÓincluding clay, glass, metals, fiber, graphics, wood and moreÛÓfor students of all ages and skill levels. A particularly innovative addition to the repertoire is Fashion Lab, now in its third year, which enables fashion enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the art and craft of the industry. Multiple locations, craftalliance.org.
Photo by Wayne Crosslin/International Institute of St. Louis
Best Festival: Festival of Nations
The Festival of Nations captures that elusive festival spirit from cultures around the globe and melds them together into the ultimate celebrationÛÓwith the added benefit of a gorgeous setting in Tower Grove Park. Artists perform indigenous music and dance, and festivalgoers experience folk art demos, educational exhibits and an eclectic bazaar rich with jewelry, art and other exotic treasures. For many, the highlight of the festival is the international food court, where visitors chow down on foreign delicacies like Filipino kebobs and Cuban empanadas from 40-plus ethnic food vendors. Tower Grove, 314.773.9090.
Best Dance Organization: Dance St. Louis
For 46 years, Dance St. Louis has made it its mission to bring major dance companies from around the world to St. Louis audiences. Perhaps most memorable this year was Pilobolus, which merges choreography and contortion into beautiful and awe-inspiring performances. Ballet fans were equally thrilled with “Carmina Burana” and “Moulin Rouge,” and the world-renowned New York City Ballet performed locally for the first time since 1994. Dance St. Louis’ tradition of excellence continues next season with the Shanghai Ballet, Ballet Memphis’ performance of “Wizard of Oz” and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Grand Center, 314.534.5000.
Best Female TV Personality: Virginia Kerr, KMOV
Although Virginia Kerr is a recent and welcome addition to Great Day St. Louis, she started at Channel 4 in 2003 as the morning features reporter, tackling everything from rappelling down high-rises to driving the monster truck Bigfoot. After four years as anchor of News 4 Awake, Kerr has found her home with Great Day. Viewers tune in to share in her discoveries of the best places and most interesting people in town. Simply put, Kerr connects with the community, and viewers connect with Kerr. @virginiakerr.
Best Male TV Personality: Tim Ezell, KTVI
The ever-energetic Tim Ezell is loved by loyal fans for his goofy persona, wit, comical irreverence and respect for his subjects. He shares oddball stories with his early-morning viewersÛÓlike a yogurt-eating challenge or behind the scenes at Comic ConÛÓand has won legions of fans through segments like “Tim’s Travels.” He’s not afraid of jumping right into any situation, whether it’s ballroom dancing, a juice cleanse or driving a race car. Tuning into his show in the morning is like having coffee with a friendÛÓone who is very much a morning person. @TimEzellTV.
Best Radio Show: Curt Copeland, Z107.7
Is he hilarious? Yes. Is he lovable? Yes. Curt Copeland has worked his way into the hearts of St. Louisans, not just as the drive-time DJ at Z107.7, but through gags like White Castle Weddings and Free Therapy Thursdays. His motto is “I’m your best friend in the whole wide world,” and his fans aren’t disagreeing. Copeland’s fanatical devotion to the Cardinals doesn’t hurt, either. It’s no accident that he’s thrown out the honorary first pitch at a Cardinals game. @curtcopelandstl.
Best Place to Buy Local Art: SOHA Studio and Gallery
As more and more artists choose to live and work in St. Louis, new galleries have popped up to display and sell their work. Enter SOHA Studio and Gallery. Since its opening in 2011, SOHA has firmly established itself as a place to buy quality local art. The gallery, located on the bustling Macklind Avenue in Southampton, also offers classes, artist talks and community-building events like young artist workshopsÛÓall of which have helped strengthen the eclectic neighborhood. Catch the opening of Shana Norton’s “Cyanotypes and Mixed Media” on June 7. Southampton, 314.497.5202.
Best Social Enterprise: Rally St. Louis
Designed to help implement cool, innovative projects around the city, Rally St. Louis sends the resounding message that “St. Louis doesn’t suck.” Rally has captured the public’s imagination and drawn creative individuals to the website to post inspired ideas. Once a project is posted, people vote on it and pledge funds to show their support. If funding reaches the necessary level, the project is implemented. The group’s first two successfully-funded projects are the Food Roof, a rooftop farm in the heart of St. Louis that aims to provide the community access to hyper-local, organic food, and the Cotton Belt project, which will turn an abandoned riverfront factory into an enormous welcome sign. rallystl.org.
Most Innovative Arts Organization: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Performing the Bard in the park has always been a staple of Shakespeare festivals worldwide, and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis does it right with top-notch productions that never fail to captivate. But it’s the innovative ways the organization brings Shakespeare to the community outside the production itself that is truly impressive. Shake38 is a 38-play marathon that takes place all over the city, in which amateurs and professionals alike perform their interpretations of classic Shakespeare works. Shakespeare in the StreetsÛÓthe newest addition to the festivalÛÓdescended on Cherokee Street last spring with “The New World,” an original, neighborhood-centric version of “The Tempest” performed by residents and community leaders alongside professional actors. This season, The Grove gets its turn. Forest Park, 314.531.9800.
Best Performing Arts Organization: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
The Rep has long been known as a go-to theater destination, and this year proved why with stellar main-stage productions like Neil Simon’s classic “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Sense and Sensibility” and the noir thriller “Double Indemnity,” while the Studio hosted daring and provocative productions like “Venus in Fur” and the acclaimed “Clybourne Park.” But The Rep is also deeply rooted in educational outreach and community development. Each spring, the WiseWrite program features a weekend of plays written and produced by local kids, and The Rep’s new play festival Ignite!, now in its second year, presents readings of commissioned plays by famous playwrights. There are also show guides, teacher activities and the Talk Theater interactive lecture series to help theater-goers learn the intricacies of featured plays. Webster Groves, 314.968.4925.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg