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Co-Founder Of The Luminary To Leave Community-Focused St. Louis Gallery

Gallery-goers mill about near the piece "Blake the Great."  6/20/18
File photo | The Luminary
Gallery-goers mill around at the Luminary for the opening of an exhibition by Damon Davis in 2018. Brea Youngblood, one of the gallery's two co-founders, will leave the organization at the end of the year.

The Luminary art gallery in St. Louis is losing one of its leaders. 

Brea Youngblood, who co-founded the Cherokee Street gallery, is leaving at the end of the year. 

She and then-husband James McAnally founded the Luminary in 2007 and have run it since then, calling themselves co-caretakers. He will continue as executive director. 

Brea Youngblood will focus on her commercial photography business while looking for new creative projects. [9/23/19]
Credit RJ Hartbeck
Brea Youngblood will focus on her commercial photography business while looking for new creative projects.

The two were newlyweds when they founded the gallery. Youngblood said they are no longer a couple. After leaving the gallery, she plans to focus on her commercial photography business and look for other creative projects.

“I’ve always been in creative work all my life, so I have some ideas in my back pocket that I’m letting simmer for a bit to see where they might take me,” she said. “This is more of a personal than a professional shift, in some ways.”

Under McAnally’s leadership, Youngblood said, the gallery will be “in excellent hands.” 

This year has been a time of growth for the Luminary, which re-opened in expanded form in March after the completion of a $500,000 capital campaign and extensive renovations to its building. Additions include classrooms, apartments for artists-in-residence and a small library intended as a space for community members to congregate. Katherine Simóne Reynolds also joined the leadership team as curator.

Youngblood and McAnally have made community involvement a priority since setting up shop on Cherokee Street. The organization purchased the building that houses the gallery in 2013.

Chandler Branch, executive director of Art St. Louis, described the purchase as “an exemplary move” that demonstrated the gallery founders’ desire to be a part of the community.

“To the extent the Cherokee Street district is gaining a reputation in terms of being a creative hub, they probably are largely to be credited for that,” Branch said. “What James and Brea have done has probably, for the most part, gone under the radar.”

Youngblood said the growth of both the gallery and its surrounding neighborhood have mirrored her personal journey.

“Much of what I’ve done in my early adult life has been learning in public, growing in public, running an institution like this,” she said. “Cherokee has really grown up. It’s grown up a lot, and I’ve grown up with it. The Luminary has grown, and I’ve grown up with it. Both the Luminary and the neighborhood that I’m in, I think I’ve helped shape and been shaped by both of them.”

Jeremy can be found on Twitter @jeremydgoodwin.

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Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.