The New Guard
Six local gallerists changing the way we see art
There’s no doubt that St. Louis has a vibrant art scene supported by an array of gallerists who are as diverse in the artwork they represent as they are in the ways they share it with the community. Not only do these art leaders give local and out-of-town artists places to promote their work, but the best of them are stepping up their game—providing more than just a space to see some pretty pictures. These gallerists are dynamic parts of the community, bringing the best and most challenging works to new audiences and offering patrons unique ways to experience them. Just in time for our Arts & Culture Issue, ALIVE went on a search to find the leading forces behind the “new guard” of gallerists who are at the forefront of innovation in exhibition in St. Louis. And, what we found was original in every sense of the word.
Founder of Luminary Center for the Arts
Housed in a former convent in South City, Luminary Center for the Arts didn’t start out to be the state-of-the-art gallery space and comprehensive art resource for the community that it is just four years later. “We had no idea what it would become,” says Brea McAnally, who co-founded Luminary with her husband, James, in 2007. Their original intention was simply to rent some studio space, but the project gradually took on a life of its own. Currently, Luminary occupies the entire building, providing some 9,000 square feet of gallery, studio and event space. In addition to curating group exhibitions four to six times a year in the 4,500-square-foot basement gallery area, there’s also a 500-square-foot installation space in the former chapel and several classrooms and work spaces on the main floor.
The magnitude of the space aside, Luminary supports local artists in a variety of other ways. The organization offers three-, six- and 12-month residencies, as well as a year-round internship program. For a membership fee, artists can participate in an equipment library program that includes access to the center’s wood shop, paper cutters, photo and video equipment, media lab, sewing machines and other facilities. Plus, workshops are available on subjects like web development, grant writing and studio lighting.
The center hosts a slew of performances in all genres, from readings to concerts, as well as interactive art projects. “Art is important for the health of the community,” says McAnally. There’s no doubt Luminary is doing all it can to keep St. Louis in top shape.
Where to go: 4900 Reber Place, South City
What you’ll see: An emphasis on cutting-edge work from emerging artists like Lauren Frances Adams, Charles Gick and Jill Dowen.
Next Exhibition: “FORMAT,” an international exhibition translating digital art into physical, distributable media. Sept. 9-Oct. 21.
Founder of phd gallery
Philip Hitchcock has always been one to do things “his own way.” Over the years, phd gallery has developed a reputation for promoting controversial works, especially art with erotic and gay themes. Hitchcock shows artists who he feels are honest and engaging, and while he doesn’t consciously aim to be edgy and doesn’t promote anything just for the sake of shock value, if it happens to ruffle some feathers, so be it. The way he sees it, an important function of art is to provoke frank discussion about ourselves as individuals with diverse, and sometimes conflicting, points of view. If he can help jumpstart that conversation, he’s done his job.
Hitchcock opened phd gallery in 2005 after spending years as a successful artist in LA. His motivation for opening a gallery of his own? He’d seen too many shows that weren’t done well and didn’t help the artists involved, and he knew he could do better if he had the freedom to do exactly what he wanted. Now Hitchcock has complete say over which artists he promotes, and he’s particular about what makes it into phd. Before he’ll commit to working with an artist, he has to be visually engaged and challenged by the work in some way, and he has to have an affection for the artist. “I have to like them, at least a little bit, to work with them,” he explains.
One only has to look at the recent phd gallery showing of original drawings by iconic artist Tom of Finland to see the effect the gallery has on the local art scene and the community at large. Showcasing provocative and explicit images of powerful and proud gay men, the show at once provoked and pushed the status quo while also empowering and engaging the gay community in a way that few other local exhibitions have.
Where to go: 2300 Cherokee Street
What you’ll see: Contemporary and often provoking work of all types from artists like Tom of Finland, Aunia Kahn, Ruth Reese and Deanna Chafin.
Next Exhibition: “Feet of Clay,” a group show featuring eight artists working in ceramics, Sept. 10-Oct. 15.
Francesca Wilmott & Cole Root
Founders of Los Caminos
Francesca Wilmott and Cole Root wanted to create a venue for artists to show their work, but didn’t think the St. Louis market was large enough to support another conventional gallery. So they decided to follow a different, less traditional path. Embracing the do-it-yourself ethic, the duo set up the Los Caminos gallery in Root’s Cherokee Street apartment. They chose the name Los Caminos for multiple reasons. It’s a plural play on Chevy’s famous El Camino car-truck combo, a nod to the hybrid aspect of what they do, and it also evokes images of roads and journeys, which are always good metaphors for the artists’ quests.
Because it’s not a commercial space, Los Caminos doesn’t function as an outlet to sell artists’ works, but instead focuses on the mission of creating opportunities for artists to get in front of interested audiences. Artists of all types are welcome, from painters and photographers to sculptors and videographers. “It drastically changes the way the art is experienced,” Wilmott says. The presentation is still professional, but the fact that the work is exhibited in a domestic space—with the kitchen right behind you and the shag-carpeted foyer just outside the doorway —takes away some of the pretension associated with galleries.
Keeping with the low-buck aesthetic, Los Caminos doesn’t have much of a PR budget, so they rely on Facebook, e-mail blasts and word of mouth to inform the public of upcoming shows and events. Wilmott and Root hope their DIY efforts inspire others to look for new ways to display and promote art, as well as help build and support a cultural foundation in their neighborhood. “We need to make our own opportunities,” Wilmott says. “We want to encourage other people to do this.”
Where to go: 2649 Cherokee Street
What you’ll see: Contemporary art encompassing all genres from artists like David Johnson and Dominic Paul Moore.
Next Exhibition: “Doing Easy,” featuring Glen Fogel, Danielle Kantrowitz, Gregg Louis, Michael Schuh and Matthew Strauss. Sept. 10-Oct. 8.
Founder of Good Citizen Gallery
Andrew James was inspired to open Good Citizen Gallery by the space itself. The small storefront on Gravois Avenue has a large billboard perched on the roof, and for a while, James had studio space just around the corner. The sight of that billboard got him thinking about how it could be used to display art. The idea for the rest of the gallery was developed around that central idea, and Good Citizen made its debut in late 2008.
James takes selected works from current shows, then enlarges and mounts them on both sides of the billboard. These oversized displays rotate every four months or so and act as an extension of the gallery space, putting the work in front of the public in a way that’s hard to ignore. It also serves as a way to draw folks into the space who might not otherwise consider patronizing an art gallery.
James says his goal with Good Citizen is to provide artists in the midst of their professional lives a place to mount a show and be seen. As he sees it, there are plenty of small galleries around that cater to young, new artists, and many places for established artists to show their work, but up-and-coming mid-career artists have a hard time finding venues. Good Citizen hosts about eight or nine shows a year, and most of the artists are found via recommendations from those who James has already worked with. There are no limits to the types of pieces that make it into the gallery; so far, works from fiber artists to printmakers to sculptors have been on display. “I just find someone good, and let the artist do their thing,” James says.
Where to go: 2247 Gravois Ave., McKinley Heights
What you’ll see: Contemporary art spanning all styles and mediums from artists like Tory Wright, Mimi Kato and Jose Ferreira.
Next Exhibition: “Expansions and Stratifications,” featuring Karl Jensen and Ken Wood. Sept. 2-Oct. 1.
Founder of SOHS Studio & Gallery
Julie Malone has been a fixture on the St. Louis art scene for years—known as much for her striking abstract oil paintings as she is for her inviting and community-building personality. She’s always harbored a dream to open her own gallery, and earlier this year, she found a vacant South City storefront located in the charming SOHA neighborhood just east of Hampton Avenue. After some extensive rehabbing, the gallery debuted in June with much success. Malone says the area has proven to be a perfect spot to open the type of community-centric gallery she’s always wanted.
More than just a gallery, SOHA functions as a sort of neighborhood art center. Malone sees her mission as not only to help promote local artists and get the word out about their work, but also to educate and engage the community. Unlike some galleries, at SOHA, show openings aren’t the main attraction. Instead, there are a myriad of programs offered for artists and patrons alike. Exhibiting artists are asked to give a workshop, demo or some type of presentation; it’s Malone’s way of not only helping them connect with their audience, but also giving the artists an opportunity to market themselves and to learn how to articulate what they do to the broader public. Malone and various guest instructors also put on workshops for adults, children and families on topics ranging from paper-making to fashioning robots out of found objects. She’s also working on a project featuring local independent films. In addition, SOHA is home to Malone’s personal studio. True to the mantra her gallery is built upon, she encourages folks to stop by, watch her work and ask questions…lots of them.
Where to go: 4915 Macklind Ave., South Hampton
What you’ll see: All types of work in all mediums from artists like Charlie Houska, Christopher Gustave, Jeff Kapfer and Alicia LaChance.
Next Exhibition: Hannah Montford, mixed media, and Courtney Wells Turney, textile. Sept. 23-Oct. 14.
Francesca Wilmott & Cole Root
Photo credit: Photos by Katherine Bish