It’s quite impossible to miss the enthusiasm in Paul Ha’s voice when he describes everything—and everyone—that is wonderful in St. Louis. As the executive director of Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM), Ha appreciates the innovative spirit that has made CAM a leader on the national arts scene, and he welcomes the opportunity to honor local leaders who have demonstrated that same innovation and creativity outside of the art world.

    On May 13, CAM’s Viva la Masters Gala will honor three individuals who exemplify the museum’s values: David Robertson, music director and conductor at the St. Louis Symphony, Ron Kruszewski, chairman/CEO of Stifel Financial, and Dr. Matthew Smyth, pediatric neurosurgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “This is the first time we are doing this,” Ha says. “In the past we have honored great people associated with the arts in St. Louis: Emily Pulitzer, Tom Friedman, the late Ernie Trova. This time we thought that, instead of choosing people in the arts, we wanted to show what’s best about St. Louis and what makes it so fantastic!”

    CAM is supported by a diverse cross-section of the city, Ha says. “Not just art lovers, but people who love education, and just love St. Louis. So we wanted to honor ‘masters’ from every genre, like David Robertson, who is a fantastic treasure. He is respected throughout the world for his leadership of our incredible symphony orchestra. We want to honor him and claim him as ours!”

        Describing Kruszewski as a true world-class leader, Ha says “Ron is another St. Louis treasure! He led his company to record growth, even in these tumultuous times. We’re delighted to show him off, thank him for his leadership and acknowledge his demonstrated mastery of the financial industry.”

    Perhaps because of his own passion for the arts, Ha uses a theater reference to describe his admiration and awe of the evening’s third honoree, Dr. Matthew Smyth. “In his ‘theatre’ he’s practicing what I can only think of as magic: saving the lives of children every day with his skill and expertise. It’s truly a privilege to have a surgeon of his caliber in our city.”

    The Viva la Masters Gala is the second of two parties during Misterios de Mayo, a series of events inspired by the upcoming exhibition CRYPTIC, featuring works by Francisco Goya paired with those of other contemporary artists. CRYPTIC, created especially for St. Louis, was organized by CAM and curated by Santa Fe-based independent curator Laura Steward.  “We’re known for our world-renowned exhibitions,” Ha says. “And we’re also known for throwing fantastic galas!” CAM board member David Drier is the event chair of Viva la Masters Gala. “David represents what’s so great about St. Louis. His energy and passion for the institution are one of the reasons we’re able to do what we do. We’re so glad he has taken on this role.”

    The evening includes a live auction featuring the works of international artists. “The live auction is a great indicator of how artists around the world love us,” Ha says. “We’re getting top-notch work from artists like Dana Schutz in New York and Pipilotti Rist in Switzerland.”     Proceeds from the gala benefit all of CAM’s programs and services, such as City Wide Open Studios, an annual event for local artists. “This is a really fun weekend!” Ha explains. “We invite artists to open up their studios, and you can go to our website, download a map, and drive around and meet all of them. We want people to know that art is everywhere in our city.” Gala proceeds represent about 20 percent of the museum’s annual budget, he adds.

    “This is a night to celebrate St. Louis and all of the great things we have—including the Contemporary, by the way!”  LN

On the Cover: Viva la Masters / Annual Gala, the second of two Misterios de Mayo special events presented by the Contemporary Art Museum, will be May 13 at The Ritz-Carlton. The evening includes a live auction of contemporary works from international artists. For more information, call 535-4660 or visit