Classical concerts. Poignant plays. Children’s opera. Hip-hop dance. Fashion exhibits. These eclectic forms of art and more will come together for a 17-day event this fall, highlighting local and national talent during the fourth annual American Arts Experience (AAE) from Oct. 4 to 20 at various area venues.

Themed 'Art Made Fresh Daily,' the multimedia festival will kick off Oct. 4 with an intimate acoustic performance by Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriters Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin at the Sheldon Concert Hall, among other shows.

Paul Reuter, executive director of The Sheldon and AAE festival chairman, says the event is an opportunity to celebrate the stage—from American theatre, dance and music to art. “We have so many amazing arts organizations in St. Louis, and this event gives us a chance to work together. It reminds everyone that the arts are part of what makes St. Louis great.”

Kids will take center stage during productions by Opera Theatre, COCA, Circus Harmony and St. Louis Children’s Choirs. At Touhill Performing Arts Center Oct. 17 and 19, Opera Theatre will showcase free dress rehearsals of The Very Last Green Thing, a children’s opera set in a 2413 classroom where a student stumbles upon the last green thing on Earth during an outdoor lesson. Popular family hip-hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo will take the COCA stage Oct. 19 and 20, the child acrobats of Circus Harmony will fly high during free performances Oct. 5-20 at City Museum, and the 450-member St. Louis Children’s Choirs will sing Oct. 13 and 14.

The theatrics will continue Oct. 16 as The Repertory Theatre performs Fly, a play following the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. And contemporary dance performances will include Dance St. Louis’ PNC Arts Alive New Dance Horizons II, with numbers created by renowned choreographer and former Alvin Ailey principal dancer Uri Sands, on Oct. 4 and 5.

For those in the mood for music, Judy Collins will sing at Washington University’s 560 Music Center on Oct. 12, and St. Louis Symphony will play George Gershwin’s classics, Cuban Overture and Concerto in F, and John Adams’ new saxophone concerto, The Chairman Dances, Oct. 5 and 6.

In celebration of our nation’s artists, Saint Louis Art Museum will display an all-American exhibit in its new East Building, and The Sheldon Art Galleries will highlight an array of photography, painting and fashion. And at Missouri Botanical Garden’s Best of Missouri Market Oct. 4, 5 and 6, attendees will find handmade crafts, jewelry, toys, food and more.

“We have something for children to seniors, and everyone in-between,” Reuter says. That diversity allows local arts to build new audiences, he adds. AAE began in 2010 with more than 100,000 people attending 200 events presented by 48 arts and cultural organizations. For more information and a full schedule of events, visit

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