ARTful Living: There is an Art to Living

By Mike “Michelle” Ochonicky
Healthy Planet Arts Editor

Photo Caption: Sunset at the River, photograph by Ruth Harrigan.

Like all of us, during the social isolation compelled by COVID-19, I did a lot of thinking. I came to recognize that life can be truly artful, despite circumstances beyond our control that may impact it. I lost four members of my own family, including my mother, within a span of just five months in 2020. As the anniversaries of those losses begin this month, the ache remains, but I’ve reflected a lot on what these dear people taught me. They each had a beautiful way of living: in outlook, with smiles, in how to embrace life despite what it throws at us. And, somewhere in the midst of all that was messy on the outside, what was on the inside shined forth through their respective loves of visual arts, music, performance, even nature. While some created art, some supported it or just appreciated art’s many forms. Each found a way to live artfully.

There are lots of ways to experience artful living. On a particularly beautiful day this week, my husband and I met our artist-friends Pat and Tom Hooper (owners of ASL Pewter in Ste. Genevieve; www.aslpewter.com) for an outdoor afternoon at Wild Sun Winery in Hillsboro. We’d only seen each other via Zoom in the past year so, when the CDC announced that those of us who are fully vaccinated could remove our masks, we delighted in seeing each other’s smiles, long-missed works of art! The setting was reminiscent of a 19th century Hudson River Valley painting. While winery owners Ed Wagner and Mark Baehman, with wine educator Rodney Coombs, chatted with us about the wines and beers they create, it was clear that theirs is an artful endeavor (www.wildsun.com).

If you like to experience the arts outdoors, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival returns to Forest Park June 2-27. Tony, Emmy and Grammy award-winner Andre De Shields masterfully takes the lead as Shakespeare’s King Lear. Reservations for socially-distanced pods are required for this year’s performances. Both premium and free pods accommodate up to 6 persons. Learn more at www.stlshakes.org

Circus Flora is a perennial favorite. The pandemic deterred its 2020 season but the Big Top is back up in Grand Center this year! Unlike other circuses, Circus Flora is a theatrical performance, with a storyline weaving the acts together. Ready for safe public performances with a Missouri-Safe certification from Missouri Arts Council, Circus Flora presents St. Lou Review, June 4-6. So reserve your tickets now at www.circusflora.org. AND there will be an additional show, The Trial of the Century, October 7-31. Details on that show later.

What to do with an empty Big Top in between that time? Fill it with dancers! The Chicago Tribune aptly described Spring to Dance as “a buffet of dance.” This year 19 dance companies are scheduled to perform, June 25-27. Tickets, sold in “pods,” will go fast! www.dancestlouis.org

The Sheldon again presents PNC Picnics on the Plaza in its Steward Family Plaza this summer. Live music begins at 7:30 p.m. by Tru Born on June 4 and TJ Muller Trio on June 18. Enjoy a boxed picnic dinner and drinks at assigned socially-distanced tables for 2-4 people ($20/2 people) with reservations at www.thesheldon.org

Experience outdoor opera through June 20 during Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ Festival Season. The new outdoor setting adjacent to the Loretto-Hilton Center provides a fresh and safe way to enjoy such varied operas as “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini to “New Works, Bold Voices” premiering three new operas. “I Dream a World” in celebration of Juneteenth will be presented as part of the festival, but free of charge, at Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park on June 15. Reserve your tickets now at www.opera-stl.org

Nubia: Treasures of Ancient Africa continues on view through August 22 at St. Louis Art Museum. While there, check out the special installation through June 20, Methods and Materiality: Women Working with Abstraction. Check details on the museum’s safety practices prior to your visit at www.slam.org

Hannah Wilke (1940-1993) developed her own boundary-crossing art that encompassed sculpture, photography, video and works on paper. Hannah Wilke: Art for Life’s Sake is on exhibition June 4-January 16 at The Pulitzer, 3716 Washington. www.pulitzerarts.org. The artist once said, “I have always used my art to have life around me. Art is for life’s sake.” 

I couldn’t say it any better.

And a few other things:

June 2-July 11
Untold Black Stories Exhibition & Tour
To celebrate and share the conversations recorded by StoryCorps, large-format portraits of over 30 Alton residents have been commissioned to animate windows along the Broadway corridor with portraits of the participants.
Jacoby Arts Center, Alton, IL www.jacobyartscenter.org 

June 5
Grand Opening: KNOW/HOW: books + print
11a.m.-4 p.m. at The Lumiary, 2701 Cherokee
KNOW/HOW: books + print is a bookshop and communal publication studio located inside of The Luminary that houses large and small press editions of artist books, poetry, fiction, dissent, cultural work and criticism. www.theluminaryarts.com 

June 6
Discover Laumeier
11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road
Free art activities for all ages. www.laumeier.org 

June 11
BBQ: Beers, Bites, and Questions Virtual Trivia Night
Benefits The Contemporary Art Museum, 7:00 p.m.