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Commentary: St. Louis is veritable visual arts cornucopia

Congratulations to Sarah Hermes Griesbach and Amy Reidel, the co-founders and editors of "All the Art:” the visual art quarterly of St. Louis. The magazine highlights not only the tried and true arts institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum and Laumeier Sculpture Park, but highlights the many and varied art galleries and smaller institutions in our metropolitan area that display high quality visual art. The duo says, "The magazine is a record of exhibitions and art events that invigorate the communities residing on both sides of Delmar and Highway 270 and on either side of the rivers."

One such small gallery, "Duet" directed by Daniel McGrath pairs a St. Louis artist with another nationally and sometimes internationally known artist in each exhibition. The exhibition that I saw this summer featured American artist Caitlin Aasen and Azerbaijani artist Vusal Rahim(YAY Gallery). To mark the first time these two artists have been displayed together, this exhibition creates a dialogue between their two cultures through their approaches to abstract painting. It was co-curated by Daniel McGrath and Lana Sokolova (local programmes director, Yarat Contemporary Art Space, Baku, Azerbaijan).

Recently the St. Louis Story Stitchers artists collective had a small installation of a work by internationally famous Buzz Spector who joined forces with the Story Stitchers to promote awareness of gun violence in their storefront studio on North Skinker Blvd. just north of the Delmar loop.

Jessica Baran, director of The Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts, a thriving small art complex on the artsy Cherokee Street describes the compound as a nonprofit alternative art space founded in 2002. Baran says, "We like to think of our programming as being akin to the socio-economic model of micro-lending. We offer small loans of time and space to under-recognized artists--or artists wishing to realize otherwise unrealizable projects--whose exceptional merit has been otherwise overlooked by more mainstream organizations."

Recent exhibitions at Gondo include, "A Glimpse Inside the Box: Work from SLU's Prison Arts and Education Program, "which is a group show both curated and composed by inmates at the ERDCC in Bon Terre, Missouri" and "Hello Can I Take Your Picture, "a solo exhibition of Polaroids by Cherokee neighborhood resident and community organizer Annie McCullogh, documenting her evolving relationship to the Cherokee community

Another beautiful new space is the International Photography Hall of fame where the current exhibition, "Nanjing Style: Photographs from our Sister City " is currently on view. The Hall of Fame is celebrating our "Sister City Collaborative" with the Federation of the Arts Photographers from Nanjing ,China. Sixteen Chinese Photographers arrived in May and spent a week visiting and photographing the St. Louis region. This cultural initiative is a reciprocation of a visit that IPHF photographers made to Nanjing one year ago. The exhibition is actually on view in three other locations as well.

Across the Missouri River in historic St. Charles is The Foundry Art Centre which house artists' studios, galleries filled with works by regional artists and hosts many other events and has classes available for young and old. Across the Mississippi in Alton, The Jacoby Arts Center also has varied arts programs and recently had a juried exhibition of St. Louis water colorists titled, "Splash."

These are just a mere sampling of places to see the visual arts. What a culturally rich city we live in and let’s not keep it a secret!!

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years on numerous arts related boards.