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Quincy Troupe may be closing the door on Metropolitan Gallery

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 14, 2013 - Saturday, Feb. 16, from 3-6 pm, the Metropolitan Gallery’s Nu-Art Series will feature a performance by Quincy Troupe, a native of St. Louis who has written eight volumes of poetry, received the Lifetime Achievement American Book Award in 2010, and wrote "Miles: The Autobiography," in conjunction with the legendary Miles Davis.

Troupe will present a blend of poetry and music he calls “Soundart” – working with the backing of St. Louis musicians Darrel Mixon and Stan Coleman.

Those who come to experience Saturday’s performance can also view the current Metropolitan Gallery exhibit, “Icons of Sacred Rituals,” a dazzling selection of Nigerian art from the collection of A. Patrick Irue.

These events may be extra special because, according to George Sams, the performance by Troupe Saturday and the “Icons” exhibit will be the last events he will present in the Nu-Arts Series and at the Metropolitan Gallery.

“I opened this gallery space late in 2005,” says Sams, sitting in the Locust Street space and taking a break from setting up microphones and chairs for Saturday’s “Soundart” performance. “The first event we had was a poetry reading with Shirley LeFlore and Michael Castro. And we’ve done a lot of performances and exhibits since then. But this will be the last one here.”

Sams, a native St. Louisan grew up playing in a local drum and bugle corps during his high school days at Sumner and Beaumont before moving to San Francisco and then New York City, where he worked as a jazz horn player as well as working in the non-profit arts scene. Sams returned to St. Louis in the late 1980s, and has been involved in music and arts here ever since.

“I used to do a ‘Speaking of Music’ series for kids at COCA that featured Fontella Bass and other St. Louis artists,” recalls Sams. “And I also booked events for the ‘Jazz in June’ series at the Botanical Garden when that first started. And I’ve brought some great musicians here to the gallery since it’s been open. But Quincy’s performance will be the last one in this facility, I think. There’s just not enough community support to keep it going here.”

In addition, Sams has decided that it’s time to stop presenting exhibits he organizes and presents himself at the Metropolitan Gallery. He says the “Sacred Icons” exhibit will be his last.

“I’m thinking of putting a ‘For Rent’ sing on the front door,” he says with a smile. “The art world is difficult in St. Louis, especially for small nonprofit arts organizations. And in terms of grant funding that goes toward cultural diversity, it seems that dollars end up going mostly to larger institutions. And I have realized that the art scene here is Euro-centric, so that makes it difficult as well.”

The location of Metropolitan Gallery – 2936 Locust, six blocks east of Grand (four blocks from Josephine Baker Boulevard, the designated eastern limit of the Grand Center Arts District) – makes it difficult for Sams as well.

“I’ve tried to work with Grand Center in being part of marketing my exhibits and events with them,” he explains. “But being east of that designated limit by several blocks makes that almost impossible.”

Despite his decision to stop presenting events and exhibits at the Metropolitan Gallery, Sams is determined to keep producing musical and poetry events in St. Louis.

“I have a couple other venues in the works to host music concerts and poetry,” says Sams. “But I think it’s a little early right now to announce anything. Music and poetry are part of me, and I still see that as part of my job to put together creative outlets for those art forms. I still love the visual arts, and I’ll continue to be involved in taking photos, which is one of my passions. But producing visual arts exhibitions is in the past for me.”

Quincy Troupe

Quincy Troup’s return to St. Louis to perform one of “Soundarts” performances marks the third time in the past four years that the noted poet and writer has returned to perform in his native city.

In 2009, Troupe, guitarist Kelvyn Bell and drummer Ronnie Barrage (both St. Louis natives who now also live in New York City) performed a “Soundarts” concert at Robbie’s House of jazz in Webster Groves. And in February 2011, Troupe performed another “Soundart” concert at the Metropolitan Gallery, accompanied by famed baritone sax player Hamiet Bluiett and Bell.

“This time, I’m going to be working for the first time with Stan Coleman,” says Troupe, speaking by phone from his New York home. “So we’ll be rehearsing at the Gallery on Friday to see what’s going to work best. Right now I’m in the process of pulling together a lot of pieces I’ve used for ‘Soundarts’ performances in the past, and we’ll work everything out at the rehearsal.”

After his Nu-Arts appearance, Troupe will travel to the University of Missouri Columbia on Tuesday to lecture.

“I’ll be talking about the craft of writing memoirs,” explains Troupe. “I just finished my next book, which is a biography of basketball great Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. It will be coming out in the fall, and I’ll be reading the prologue from that book for that talk.”

Monroe sought out Troupe to collaborate with him on his biography after reading “Miles: The Autobiography,” which Troupe wrote with Davis.

“Earl told me he loved the Miles book, and that’s why he wanted to contact me to see if I was interested in working on his biography. We worked out the details, and it’s been really interesting. In a way, Earl was a game changer in basketball in a similar way to what Miles did for jazz. Earl brought the playground game – the shake and bake style – to professional basketball and changed it forever.”

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.