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Brian Owens Is Building A 'Creative Ecosystem' In North St. Louis County

Singer-songwriter Brian Owens joined Friday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The secret to Brian Owens’ success is no secret at all. “I always tell people I get these heavenly hookups,” he explained. “God’s favor in my life. It’s begun in spite of me to position things to happen.”

The Ferguson-based soul singer, a devout Christian, can cite numerous blessings of late where he sees God’s hand in the works. There’s the former church building donated to his nonprofit Life Arts; he’s working on its renovation now. There’s also $200,000 in funding for that nonprofit from a New York-based benefactor.

Owens said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air that he met the benefactor by chance online (or, to be more precise, by “heavenly hookup”). He’d posted a video on Facebook of his 6-year-old son, who has autism, playing the piano. As he recalled it, “some random person” chimed in suggesting a potential resource.  

The man turned out to be Lon Dolber, CEO of American Portfolios, but Owens didn’t know that. They bonded over music, and, ultimately, Owens agreed to sing with Dolber’s Motown band.

It was only when Owens was in New York for the gig that they discussed Dolber’s work.

“I found out that he started a firm, a financial services firm, and that it was actually his company,” Owens recalled. “I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’”

Dolber ended up granting Owens’ organization the funding, which is now fully financing five artists’ residencies for a two-year period. 

“I’m really excited about what we can provide for them, because as any creative will tell you, [the lack of] financial stability can be a hindrance to your creativity,” Owens said. “Being able to have a stipend, even if it’s not huge, to know that you have that income coming in and you can block out that much time of your life and direct it towards not only creativity, but community …. it’s not just about them doing projects, but doing projects that will be productive toward the uplifting of our community.

“I’m super excited about all the things they’re going to get to do, and what we’re going to do with them.”


Life Arts is actually half of the “creative ecosystem” Owens is building in his native north St. Louis County. Along with a for-profit entity called the Life Creative Group, Owens is using the nonprofit to nurture and develop the next generation of creatives and community leaders. 

Establishing and running the entities are roles Owens initially resisted. 

“I never wanted to start a nonprofit,” he said. “I was always wanting to use my talent and my gift that God gave me to help other nonprofits, to raise funds and resources.” Eventually, he realized he had to start an organization of his own, along with its for-profit sister organization.

He has big plans for the two entities. 

“It’s like the old Captain Power cartoon — and no kid under 30 knows what I’m talking about right now,” he said. “When you get all those things combined, together in one place … we’re able to now bring in partners underneath the ecosystem. And the only agenda now is to develop people and places within the north-county community that can help lead and guide the vision of the future for this city — and provide a really dope soundtrack for it as well.” 

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.