ArtFul Living

With Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Healthy Planet Arts Editor

I’m a firm believer that early experience with the arts can promise a lifelong love of the arts.

When I was a new mom, there was an exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum that included rare early American silver, even pieces by Paul Revere. I didn’t want to miss it. So, with a snoozing baby in my arms, I strolled the gallery one afternoon. The museum wasn’t very crowded; it was my son’s regular naptime so we didn’t disturb any other attendees, and it was a delightful day. I still refer to that museum visit as the first major exhibition my son attended, albeit asleep.
That early trip to the museum was just the first of many ARTful experiences for my child. Sometimes our visits were short, but they were frequent and instilled a comfort with the arts for my son. As a young family wanting to enjoy the arts, we didn’t spend much money—sometimes none at all—but we had the opportunities to experience the arts in comfortable settings. Outdoor family-friendly concerts provided familiarity with musical classics. ARTful experiences don’t have to be expensive or exclusive but impart some great memories. One only needs to look (in this column, of course!) to find wonderful opportunities to enjoy the arts in St. Louis for all age groups and budgets.

The Contemporary Art Museum on Washington in Grand Center offers some delightful family-friendly ART-filled days for young families this summer. On August 2, Stroller Tuesday is scheduled from 9-10 a.m. It’s age-appropriate for up to 24-month olds. What can a baby learn from the Contemporary? How about just learning to be comfortable in ARTful surroundings? I know some adults who might benefit from that experience! There are complimentary coffee and pastries from Companion Bakery, too, so Mom or Dad can enjoy the museum visit even more. For the 2-5 year old crowd, there’s Tuesday Morning Play Date immediately following from 10-11 a.m., again with treats. Simply wonderful! Find out details at 314-535-0770 or online at www.camstl.org.

Family Sundays at the St. Louis Art Museum can provide a nice cool break from outdoor activities. From 1-4 p.m., this month’s “Back to Basics” sessions offer free family-friendly art activities and tours of the collections in terms that the younger crowd can understand. Programs are held each Sunday (August 7, 14, 21, 28). Call 314-721-0072 or visit www.slam.org for more info.

The Northwest Coffee Roasting Company, 8401 Maryland at Crandon, hosts drawings and prints by Bulgarian-American artist Galina Todorova. “Human Light” reflects Todorova’s strong message of life as a holy experience translated to the language of visual art. Major inspiration comes from her own work with the Artists’ Fellowship 26-5 of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Now living and working in her native Bulgaria, the artist resided in the U.S. from 2004-2010 while earning her U.S. citizenship and working as a gallery attendant at St. Louis University Museum. Hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. M-F and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. For info, call 314-791-6466 or visit www.galina-art.com.

Plans are already underway for Grand Center’s First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this St. Louis family-centered tradition, the organizers invite the public to submit suggestions for a theme. Said Travis Howser, director of events and theaters at Grand Center, Inc., “We really wanted to engage the community in a special way for the 20th anniversary. First Night is an artistic celebration of the coming of the new year and a reflection of the entire community. We thought that (this) would be a great way to involve them in our planning process. Determining the First Night theme is a very important step as it sets the tone for the entire event.”

Past themes have related to popular fairy tales or books, such as “Wonderland” and “Emerald City.” Some themes simply evoke one the arts (“Rhythm of the Night”), colorful images (“Kaleidoscope”), or last year’s “FantaSea.” So put on your creative thinking caps and email your submission by 5 p.m. on August 26 to yourfirtsnight@grandcenter.org. Entries should include a brief explanation of the theme, in 200 words or less, and why it would be the best choice. Three finalists will be selected on August 26, with public online voting to determine the final decision on Sept. 6. Winner receives a free iPad.