ArtFul Living: St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

By Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Art For All!

An evening at the theatre is always special. Live performance, whether a play, opera, dance or concert, has no match. Likewise, viewing an actual work of visual art, up-close and personal, is memorable. (It’s amusing to note that when viewing the Mona Lisa, one hears whispers in multiple languages, all saying the same thing: “There it is – that’s really it!”).

It’s enough to simply enjoy any of these artistic experiences, to just take in the experience. More and more people, however, like to seek out ways to enrich their artistic experience even further. Understanding where or why a musical piece was written, or what significance a painting may have ramps up the artful experience.

Part of my work in the arts includes advocacy and leading others to sample the arts. For that purpose, I recently attended the Americans for the Arts 2015 Annual Convention in Chicago. Headquartered in D.C., Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in the United States. With over 350,000 members and stakeholders, the organizations firmly states, “We believe in all the arts for all the people.” (www.americansforthearts.org) Artists, arts administrators, arts writers, anyone with the word ‘art’ connected to his or her name attended. Session after session, over many days, invigorated the attendees in connecting to the arts. Through it all, two concepts remained prominent.

I immediately appreciated the first idea presented by James Kass, the Founder and Executive Director of Youth Speaks, a national and global organization that champions spoken word performance and writing. Kass discussed how the arts are entwined in what sociology describes as “collective effervescence.” Simply put, experiences (in this case, artful experiences) are better when shared. A major component in an artful experience is discussion of the work, reading what others have said about a work of art, learning more about the process, etc. With those parts added to the experience, art is more effervescent—it bubbles, it shines, it’s just better!

The second concept discussed was the serious concern that the arts are often marginalized in our society. Arts are sometimes viewed as extras, apart from everyday experience. Even worse is the idea that the arts are available only to a few. Certainly, not so! Imagine how bare, how boring, the world would be without any form of art. Truly, the arts should be considered a natural element of life. Even our ancient ancestors sought to improve their home-sweet-home caverns with images of animals, etc. (Would tourists still trek to Pompeii or to Egypt, if no art remained?). Art is part of history, always present, always part of everyday life. It should remain part of our lives, and our children’s lives, incorporated into all aspects and accessible to all, not something “extra” for only a limited part of the population. So advocacy to keep the arts vibrant is everyone’s task.

To help draw new generations into music, The Bach Society of St. Louis has launched a new educational program entitled “Giving Bach to St. Louis Youth.” It’s a mentorship and scholarship opportunity for high school students who seek a career in music, sponsored in part by the Arts & Education Council. Students will meet and shadow Bach Society orchestra members, professional soloists, and the conductor to observe day-to-day lives of successful musicians. Two recipients will be chosen and awarded a $500 scholarship to use toward college. Know a student who might want to apply? Details at www.bachsociety.org/givingbach. Postmark deadline to apply is September 1st, 2015.

Congratulations to the newest leaders in the St. Louis arts community and best wishes as they work to make art part of everyone’s life: Michael Donovan, who succeeds Beverly Strohmeyer as Executive Director of Missouri Arts Council; Felicia Shaw, who follows Jill McGuire as Executive Director of Regional Arts Commission; Cara Starke, who joins the Pulitzer Arts Foundation as the institution’s new Director; Robert Stumpf, who succeeds Al Fischer as the Gateway Mens’ Chorus Artistic Director. Welcome, and best wishes to all!

You can see “ArtFul Happenings” at TheHealthyPlanet.com