ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

Making A Change

Trained in dance at Webster University, local St. Louis dancer Rain Stippec, 26, had performed internationally, with a promising dance career ahead of her. On February 6th, she and a companion were sitting in a car around midnight in Soulard. An apparently random ambush by a gunman left both with injuries. Rain was critically shot multiple times in her back. Her survival was doubtful, but she prevailed. The road to recovery is so very, very long.

It’s unspeakable. It’s not fair. It’s wrong. And Rain is only one victim of the senseless violence that has become far too commonplace in our world.

Think of the arts, and you may immediately think “lovely thoughts” of beautiful paintings, sculpture, music and performances. But art is much more than “pretty.” It has always been the realm of the arts community to bring attention to social concerns. Individual artists continually strive to make the community at large pay attention to things that matter in our society. It would be easy to tick off a laundry list of the terrible events that have occurred in the St. Louis area, and equally as easy to throw up hands in despair at those events. Much easier to scream, “Make the violence stop!” than to try to actually do something to impact a change.

And the arts community steps in.

This fall, in collaboration with ANNONYArts, the CommUNITY Arts Festival STL comes to Satori (3003 Locust Street), conceived in response to the violent attack on Rain Stippec. This festival is intended to raise awareness of violent crime in St. Louis by building on strong community through the arts, allowing local artists to give their support to Rain and all victims of violent crimes while they engage and educate audiences.
Founder Paige Walden-Johnson is coordinating this community outreach, in hopes of making the CommUNITY Arts Festival an annual event. Artists in all disciplines will convene to perform in honor of Rain’s artistry and strength. Said Walden-Johnson, “St. Louis artists will now have a cooperative platform to speak out loud with a positive message, building safe communities for both artists and audiences…supporting the struggle of victims and survivors… bring(ing) awareness to the root causes of and alternatives to violence in St. Louis. It is up to us to begin the process of change for our city, our audiences, and our artists.”

Participating companies and non-profit organizations include MADCO, Ashleyliane Dance Company, Angel Band Project, Common Thread Dance Company, Big Muddy Dance Company, Artists for a Cause, and others. The Festival is August 31 through September 10, at 8 p.m. nightly with 2:30 p.m. matinees on September 2, 9, 10. Ticket price for one performance of the Festival is $20. Proceeds generated will be used to aid Rain in her recovery. A GoFundMe account has also been established for Rain (www.gofundme.com/pleaseprayforrain).

For more information on how you might help and/or to join performing companies, partnering organizations, or the young artists workshop, please visit www.annonyarts.org.

As August begins, we bid farewell to Rick Dildine, Artistic and Executive Director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Rick joins the Alabama Shakespeare Festival as Artistic Director for the operation that presents 10 productions in two venues. Said Penny Pennington, Board President of SFSL, “Rick’s innovative programming, leadership and financial acumen has catapulted the (St. Louis) Festival into the top tier ranking of theater companies nationwide. His ability to create art in the schools, in the streets and in the park reflects his devotion to our city Recognized as a leader in civic engagement, Dildine was named 2014 “Theatre Artist of the Year” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “40 Under 40” by the St. Louis Business Journal and recognized on the city’s Power List of “100 People Who Are Reshaping the City.” Dildine has traveled on TCG delegations to Cuba and China and served on numerous grant panels including the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught or served on staff for Brown University, Clark University, and Webster University (also as Director of Webster’s MFA Arts Management & Leadership program) and remains a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. Best wishes, Rick, and thanks for all you’ve done for St. Louis!