Chandler Branch's Blog

About last weekend...

Opening reception for Art Saint Louis January 2012 exhibitions. Photo: Wm Daniel FileSince arriving on the scene with Art Saint Louis last September, I’ve discovered and come to savor the sense of community generated by opening receptions like the one we hosted last Saturday. When the gallery is decked with the work of over 40 talented artists, most of whom are native to our region, it’s no surprise that an enthused crowd gathers for the occasion.

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Newcastle Project in St. Louis?

Could something like this work in downtown St. Louis? Over the last two years, a slew of empty buildings in Newcastle, Australia, have been enlivened by a group of temporary, artistically-driven tenants. Where capital improvement projects failed to revitalize and bring foot traffic, entrepreneurs with modest financial means but plenty of creative energy are getting the job done. You can read about the project here. (Thanks to ASL’s Robin Hirsch for bringing this to my attention.) Renew Newcastle is a nonprofit organization headed by Markus Wesbury, who, in the video below, discusses the impetus and impact of the project.


There are plenty of empty commercial buildings in downtown St. Louis, and no shortage of talented, driven artists. I’m told similar projects have been undertaken in the nearby suburbs. And I’m aware of two buildings in the city of St. Louis exclusively dedicated to providing affordable residential and studio space for artists, including the Leather Trades Artist Lofts at 16th and Locust. How exciting would it be to see something akin to the Newcastle endeavor take hold in the heart of the city? Seems like an idea worth exploring.

Hold That Thought

The inspiring idea that is Art Saint Louis is taking flight, remarkably, at the end of the most financially difficult year we've ever faced. Consider the following highlights:


• We recently became the first organization to partner with the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis in the Metro Arts Exchange, a new initiative giving regional artists opportunities to showcase their work.

• Our mission is being brought to thousands of viewers this month and next in the current episode of the Emmy Award-winning TV program State of the Arts, on HEC-TV. (Click here to watch the video.)

• Our reach into the community is growing through new offsite exhibitions, including the beautiful and expansive lobby of The Laurel Apartments in downtown St. Louis.

• We are continuing our educational outreach with a two-week artist residency program in April that will benefit students at an area elementary school.

• Exciting plans are forming for Food, Glorious Food, a new, month-long gala taking place in our gallery this spring, centered on fine food, wine and art, encompassing a variety of events and partnerships.

 

All of this follows an important determination made only a few months ago, at nearly the lowest point in the 25-year history of this organization. With full-time staff reduced to two and very little operating capital to keep us afloat, the leaders of Art Saint Louis committed the organization and themselves to making life in our community a richer experience through regional visual art--an ambitious but nonetheless inspiring new aim.

Like every worthy endeavor, Art Saint Louis is driven by an idea. We see incredible opportunity to foster the development of local artists and help more people discover and enjoy their work. I owe tremendous thanks to those of you who've recently taken hold of this idea by providing much-needed financial support. Thank you for stepping up to further our work!

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