ArtFul Living

With Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky
Healthy Planet Arts Editor

February Is Arts Exceptional

I just got a new cell phone. It’s a new I-phone, so I feel that I’ve finally stepped into the 21st century, learning how to text (but not when I drive!). I can now describe the ARTful events for February accurately as OMG!!

Although every month offers plenty to see and do ARTfully, this month is exceptional. The ARTful Happenings is packed with a diverse list to must-see and do’s. Due to space constraints in our print issue, it’s the difficult duty as arts editor to select what to leave in and what to take out; this month was truly tough.

Recently, while awaiting a film at Hi-Pointe Theatre, an acquaintance got out of her seat to come over and ask if I knew about the Turner Center for the Arts. She told me a little, just enough to pique my interest. The film started; she returned to her seat, but I had to learn more…

The Turner Center for the Arts was founded in 2006 as a branch of Bridges Community Support. The Center is now spreading its own wings at 3109 Sutton in Maplewood in a wonderfully ARTful way.

“It is our belief that all individuals have the right to, and need for, opportunities for creative self-expression,” director Nate Larson told me in a recent interview. “With that as our goal, we strive to create and maintain a space that is open, warm, safe and freeing to facilitate the making of fine art by all who enter our doors.” Great concept, but it gets even better:

As a studio space, the Turner Center offers art-based day programs for adults with disabilities, as well as evening classes for them. There are integrated after school art classes and summer art camps for children both with and without disabilities, and even open studio time on Thursdays for teenagers to find ways of creative expression. It’s a welcoming place where creativity and freedom of expression are alive and well, particularly for those who may not find a way or a place to express themselves artistically in the mainstream.

Finished works are exhibited at the Turner Center and online. Plus, the works are available for purchase, making every one of the aspiring artists who participate at the studio into professional, exhibiting artists. Last year, Turner Center teamed up with Koken Art Factory at 2625 Victor Street to present St. Louis Outsider Art Fair. Attended by over 3,000 in 2011, the event will run April 26-27 this year, offering affordable original art created, as Nate said, “by people who do art because they do it, because it’s instinctive for them, not to gain recognition or to make a statement.” Simply put, it’s art for art’s sake.

But the funding of the Turner Center’s impressive programs is even more creative. They’ve found gold in coffee beans. Art House Coffee, founded by Nate’s father, provides supported employment (gainful, competitive employment for persons with disabilities). They offer seasonal, organic, mostly fair trade, coffees roasted right next door. Subscribers can sign up to have regular deliveries brought to their doorstep.

Additionally, Art House provides office-delivery service and keeps Tiffany’s Diner in Maplewood supplied with fresh brew. The money from all Art House Coffees goes to help pay for paints, brushes, paper, canvas, clay and basically anything else that is used in the Turner Center for the Arts studio. You’ve got to love this concept.

So get a cup of Joe to make you feel good and, if you buy it from Art House Coffee, it’ll make you feel even better knowing that you are also supporting the ARTS.

Find more details at www.turnercenterforthearts.org or call 314-781-4440.