With Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky

Healthy Planet Arts Editor

The Contemporary Art museum St. Louis

I like to visit art museums, and have seen quite a few of them, all over the world. I love the Prado in Madrid. I’ve been awed by the Louvre in Paris. The Albertina in Vienna is so special and the Musee de Beaux Arts in Montreal is just wonderful. Having spent a few days last month in D.C., I thoroughly enjoy the National Museum of Art, as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts. (Oh, I know—sorry to drop names, but I’m establishing a “foundation for comparison” here.)

We’ve got some impressive art institutions right here in St. Louis–and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis ranks high on my personal list of favorites.

Occupying the corner 3750 at Washington, CAM is an imposing landmark. Founded in 1980 as the First Street Forum in downtown St. Louis, the institution put down roots in 2003 within the contemporary structure designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture. The space suits the exhibitions CAM presents.

Visitors are impressed by the interior space, which is open, broad and all-encompassing, just like the museum itself! CAM is a noncollecting museum, which means that it does not exhibit its own collection. Rather, exhibitions change three times a year, encouraging visitors to return.

The Main Gallery is huge. It welcomes installation works by artists from across the globe. Its walls have held works by such artistic icons as Warhol.
The Front Room presents short-term exhibitions, often edgy, interactive works that invite discussion from viewers. Wander upstairs to see video works. The outdoor courtyard of CAM connects the institution to the neighboring Pulitzer.

Besides just-look-at exhibitions, CAM is noteworthy because of its creative ways to engage the community. “CAM serves up an ever-changing mix of music, art and culture to bring people together,” says the museum’s p.r. materials. “ From live bands to chess competitions and barbeques, our public programs provide new ways of public engagement with art.” Gallery tours and lectures are relaxed and fun. Film screenings inspire discussion.

And CAM knows how to engage people with art! For example, CAM’s family programs include some of the most creative and engaging programs I’ve ever seen. There are Stroller Tours for new parents with tiny babes. Tiny Tots Play Dates is planned for the preschool set, with activities to keep them engaged and parents involved. When I was a young mom, I welcomed any exhibition I could find as a way to stay connected to the arts, but taking a stroller-size baby to an event could be stressful, for both baby and me. The programs at CAM offer breakfast and socialization for parents, while not minding  a little noise from its youngest visitors. It’s good that someone finally got the message that young parents can love the arts, too—-thank you, CAM, for understanding!

Special evenings with cocktails and live music prove that CAM knows how to involve young professionals as well. Evenings at CAM are more than just openings; they’re social events that bring the community together in an engaging, ARTful way. Member programs offer preview receptions, behind-the-scenes tours, artist studio visits, dinners with visiting artists, and even travel opportunities. Being a member of CAM is not just a way to support a great institution, it’s a way to expand your social circle.

I must admit that CAM is most creative when it comes to presenting interesting, intriguing programs—so why haven’t you been there?

Admission is just $5 ($3 for seniors; free with a student ID), but every Wednesday and Saturday the museum opens its doors wit