Many of us think we know what we like when it comes to the arts in St. Louis, but sometimes the most thrilling performance or the most moving canvas can be found in an unexpected place. We asked some of the area’s most plugged-in artistic leaders and supporters about their favorite arts experiences—perhaps you’ll find a new place to love!
Gene Dobbs Bradford
Executive director, Jazz St. Louis
One of my favorite parts of the summer is Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’s festival season. We were pleased to collaborate this past season with them on Champion, which we co-commissioned. There are few things I enjoy more than sitting outside after the concert, talking to the artists who performed, and having a glass of wine and debriefing with the concert-goers. I also love the St. Louis Symphony—I worked there for five years, and one of best parts was getting to hear one of the world’s great orchestras. Powell is one of my favorite concert halls in the world—it’s a fantastic space. What David Robertson is doing with the orchestra is outstanding. St. Louis is showing the orchestra world how to do it right.
President and CEO, St. Louis Symphony
I always say to people around the country that St. Louis has a breadth and depth of cultural institutions that belie its size. Some of my favorites include Opera Theatre, which recently wrapped up its season with the world premiere of the critically-acclaimed jazz opera Champion. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that OTSL has one of the best ‘pit orchestras’ around–the St. Louis Symphony! There is the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, a great space designed by Tadao Ando that presents some of the most interesting shows anywhere, as well as a contemporary music series that the Symphony does in collaboration with the Pulitzer. And of course, the new east wing of the St. Louis Art Museum is a must-see. It is a great addition to an already very special place.
There are so many memorable arts performances at venues all over St. Louis in any given year, but I will mention just two of the magical evenings which come to mind: Both happen within the wonderful world of Forest Park. Every September, the St. Louis Symphony performs for one night only at the base of Art Hill. The musicians are in casual dress, and the audience fills up the whole hillside, sitting on blankets and just soaking in the experience—the glorious music, the kids spinning and clapping to the music, the sunset and the fireworks. Another not-to-be-missed St. Louis experience is any night at the Shakespeare Festival—sitting with fellow St. Louisans and visitors of all ages, watching the sun go down and the stage lights go up, and then becoming fully engrossed in the human comedy as told by the master himself—this never gets old! And both of these magical evenings are free!
President and CEO, The Nine Network of Public Media
Some of the best arts experiences in St. Louis can be found every week on Nine PBS with Sunday Arts and Living St. Louis: Best of the Arts. Both shows highlight exciting, unusual and creative art happenings right here in St. Louis. In person, my wife, Rosemary, and I enjoy attending live theater—whether it’s a new drama never before seen in St. Louis at The Rep, a big-stage musical or concert at the Fox, or the charm of watching top performers under the stars at The Muny. We also enjoy St. Louis’ many art fairs, galleries, museums and clubs. We have lived in and visited many cities in America known for their artistic communities and none rival the rich offerings found in my hometown, St. Louis.
The whole St. Louis arts scene is astonishing, really. I certainly have a list of my favorite venues and exhibitions: There’s the Contemporary Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park and Washington University’s Kemper Art Museum. One of my favorites not to be overlooked is the Craft Alliance gallery, where they highlight regional and national craft arts. Another favorite is the outdoor Citygarden downtown on Market Street: It’s such a delightful marriage of fountains and art. In the summer when the weather is warm, everyone brings their kids and it’s kind of like magic to them, running throughout these fountains.
Also, I recently attended the reopening of the St. Louis Public Library. As far as being an architectural gem, I thought I was possibly in Paris or Rome (being in that building). In June, I visited the yet-to-open National Building Arts Center, in Sauget, Ill., which is just five minutes from downtown St. Louis. The layout is phenomenal and it will be the largest collection of architectural artifacts housed in one place. This gentleman has been collecting these pieces from around the country and when it opens, I think it’s going to bring a lot of people to St. Louis because it’s just a treasure trove for architects, artists and lovers of historical buildings.
Television host, STL-TV
So much to experience, so much to do—St. Louis offers a unique combination of traditional and avant-garde art for the enjoyment of all. I personally enjoy the new wing of our world-class Art Museum: The panoramic view of Art Hill and the 1902 World's Fair basin is just right to inspire artists young and old alike. I also love the innovative minds at Opera Theatre-- productions such as Champion make one proud to live in St. Louis. The recent performance of the Gateway Men's Chorus at the Edison made me realize that equality for all is now a reality. I also had the opportunity to view the newest exhibit at the Regional Arts Commission—what a great treat. There's no excuse to stay home this summer in St. Louis.
Vince Schoemehl Jr.
President and CEO, Grand Center Inc.
I'm surrounded by great art experiences every day in the Grand Center District. Where else in St. Louis can you attend a performance by a world-class orchestra one day and up-and-coming musician the next? Or see a Broadway performance down the street from a one-ring circus? The range of visual, theatrical and musical arts experiences that surround me makes it impossible to pick just one; I discover a new ‘favorite’ all the time!
Chancellor, Washington University
St. Louis has a great arts scene, and I have recently been fortunate to have a great introduction to the new facilities at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The design of the space itself and the wonderful art—together with a new restaurant—make this a very special and new space. In a different vein, I am very impressed with the Bruno David Gallery, which presents exciting new work from very creative people, many living right here in our community. These special presentations reveal that St. Louis is not only a place to see and experience art, but also a community where important art is created. Finally, I have to comment on the Citygarden: This is a great venue to experience large works of art by people of all ages…on a hot summer day, the fountains are an arresting place for excited children!