The ArtsZipper Blog

The Fourth in St. Louis Promises Fireworks, Fun, and Culture


The 4th of July is a very traditional holiday.  That being said, it can be easy to rely on your go-to plans of family get-togethers and backyard barbeques.  Although, if you want to break the spell St. Louis is the right place to be.  As a city that is vibrant with culture, you'll find something for everyone this fourth, whether it be music or fine arts.

If you want attend Fair St. Louis but prefer something that is off the beaten path, look no further than the National Folk Festival Showcase.  The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) is presenting the day-long event on the Cultural Stage.  The festival will span from 1:15 to 8 p.m. and features a wide variety of musical acts.  Artists will include Beau Soleil avec Michael Doucet (Cajun), Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (Mexican mariachi), Cellicion Traditional Zuni Singers (Native American), Hot Club of Cowtown (western swing/hot jazz), Mythili Prakash Dance Ensemble (South Indian classical dance), Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy (blues) and Missouri Fiddle Masters Charlie Walden and John Williams (old-time Missouri fiddling).  The showcase is particularly appealing for many reasons.  First off, it's free.  This means more money to spend on food, drinks, or that funnel cake you've been craving.  The convenient fairground location promises that after a day of musical stimulation, you'll also be able to treat your eyes with fireworks.  The annual Fair St. Louis display is set to go on just after Trace Adkins performs on the main stage of the festival at 8 p.m.--perfect timing.

If you'd like to stay inside, or just cool down for a bit, the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) plans to stay open this fourth during its regular hours, and if you haven't checked out the new expansion, it's a must-see.  The museum will be offering hour long docent-led tours of the new East Building at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and the best part-- it's all free.


Have a fun, art-filled fourth!


For more information about the artists performing at the National Folk Festival Showcase click here 


Visit the St. Louis Art Museum here


Saint Louis Contemporary Arts Museum a True Treat for Patrons

If you're at all interested in art, hot social and ethical topics of the day, or just having your mind wracked with powerful questions then you'll want to check out three exhibits currently featured at the Saint Louis CAM (Contemporary Arts Museum). These extraordinarily intriguing artists address everything from perceptions of African American life, universal themes of violence and lust, and the advancement of technology. A day here will leave you both slightly confounded and truly inspired.

In the Front Room of CAM is found an installation piece by Kerry James Marshall entitled "Garden of Delights" which explores the history of race through a mock garden style spread. Chicago native, Marshall is primarily known for his paintings, but this 3D immersion takes a look at the realities versus perceptions of African American life. The garden displays images running the gambit of a typical day in Chicago. A photo of Marshall's kindergarten teacher sprouts from one flower bloom while the graven image of murdered Black Panther member, Fred Hampton, protrudes from another stem. Flaming Cheeto bags scatter the tiled walk way done in the colors of the Pan-African flag suggesting the complexity and nuanced life of Black America. If this concept intrigues you, then be sure to also see Marshall's "Watts 1963" on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum when the new Modern and Contemporary Wing opens June 29, 2013.

Lari Pittman's "A Decorated Chronology" graces the main gallery with a focus on sexuality, desire, and violence in the human experience. Pittman uses his work to make social commentary at political touchstones. Life as a gay American in Los Angeles at the onset of the AIDS outbreak in the late 80s and early 90s is especially depicted through Pittman's paintings. Earlier sign work in his career birthed a certain style in his works that is eye-catching, bold, and altogether wonderful.

Strangely interesting are his series of paintings created post 9/11. Mostly conceptual, these paintings are disturbing and starkly contrast earlier works. Regardless of topic, hybridity of high and low culture is seamless in his output. Pittman really produces mystifying works that require you to slow down and absorb them entirely.

Mika Taanila's "Tomorrow's New Dream" is an unusual exhibit focusing on the underlying question of what happens when humans push themselves too far technologically. Taanila follows the advent of the digital and the outdating of other media through history. The installations Six Day Run, Twilight, and The Most Electrified Town in Finland are all video projections on one, two, and three channels at a time depicting various events and how they contribute to the answer of this exhibit's overarching question. The sounds and sights of Taanila's work are truly unique.

Look for other upcoming events surrounding Taanila's exhibit at CAM in Grand Center. A performance by St. Louis musicians in response to the film The Most Electrified Town in Finland, a panel discussion, and two other short films by Mika will be shown at the gallery in the coming weeks.

Hours: 11-6 Wed / 11-9 Thu & Fri / 10-5 Sat & Sun

3750 Washington Blvd St. Louis, MO 63108

(314) 535-4660


Travel the World in Kodachrome with Harry & Edna

As an avid thrifter, I am no stranger to sifting through bins and boxes of someone else's things.  I get giddy upon finding a treasure after hours of searching.  Although usually my hunt ends there.

Things were different for Jeff Phillips.  While visiting his parents in St. Charles, he bought a box of 1,100 photographs at an estate sale.  The collection ended up being mostly pictures of an older couple traveling the world in the 1950's.  The images made him smile, laugh, and struck up some serious curiosity.  He started a Facebook page called "Is This Your Mother?".  The idea behind it was this: if one image was posted on the page every day, how long would it take for someone to recognize their mother or father? 

It turns out that the couple had no children; but that is what makes this story so special.  As the "social media effect" spread, people commented under the photos with fictional accounts of the couple's exploits and reminisced over when they had vacationed in the very same places way back when.

Eventually, people started sending Jeff private messages with hints that they had noticed in the photos, such as a license plate number or hotel.  Jeff started to call them the search party.  Then, a mere three weeks into the hunt, a woman from Washington state emailed him with an answer.  Their names were Harry August Grossman and Edna Annette Lehr.  Edna died in 1983, and Harry passed away three years later.

"Lost and Found: The Search for Harry and Edna" is currently gracing the walls of the Foundry Art Centre.  I attended the exhibit and artist talk last weekend and was intrigued the entire time.  Although the funky images and captions displayed alongside are humorous, curator Jeff Phillips explained that he wants people to take away much more than laughs.  He posed this question to the audience: does technology help or hinder the preservation of our memories? And in the age of smart phones, are our images really lasting?  Someone could find a box of photos from the 1950's and piece together a whole story from them, but it is hard to imagine the same happening with any images captured during this era. 


Visit Foundry Art Centre here


Exhibit Hours:


Tuesday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sunday-12 p.m.-4 p.m.


The exhibit is free and runs through June 21.



Twelfth Night in Forest Park Sure to Enchant

12th Night Banner

In order to take full advantage of these pleasant summer evenings in Forest Park you'll want to grab your slice of lawn early. Space in Shakespeare Glen across the street from The Saint Louis Art Museum goes fast on summer nights, and they are sure to disappear even faster after last year's record attendance of 66,000 people at Shakespeare Festival's Othello. This year's Twelfth Night is just as alluring a show. Since 2001, Shakespeare Festival has been providing Saint Louis with top notch actors in quality performances for free. This is definitely one experience you should make a summer tradition.

At 5pm patrons begin to leisurely stroll into the park with their picnic baskets, blankets, lawn chairs, wine bottles, pets, and bundles of eager excitement even though curtain doesn't figuratively rise until 8pm. The energy is contagious on the grounds as pre-play entertainment commences. Enjoy tantalizing Elizabethan appetizers such as an available backstage tour, a reduced version of the play performed by the Shakespeare Squadron, full bar and concessions, or the Strolling Performers before you experience the main entrée.

Don't let the fact that the production is a work of Shakespeare overwhelm or intimidate you. Twelfth Night is an accessible work and leaves the audience rolling with laughter on the lawn. Forest Park creates a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy this classic tale of mistaken identity. Characters are loveable and the story is full of quick wit and wonderful music.


Make sure you pay close attention, however. Shakespeare's command of language is alive and well in the dialogue of the character of the Fool. Both he and drunken cousin Tobi provide endless amusement for listeners. If they don't get to you, the slapstick antics of Sir Andrew and the plight of poor Malvolio will certainly have your ribs cracking.

Truthfully, with a gentle breeze, the solitary light of the moon, and sounds of the birds in the trees, this culturally infused evening under the stars will have you smiling from cheek to cheek. Just be sure to take part before they strike the set on June 16th!




Opera Theatre Saint Louis' "Pirates" Sure to Delight and Dazzle Audiences

A pirate ship appearing onstage in three pieces pushed and pulled about by bumbling, well-meaning pirates immediately gives the audience insight into the merry & playful world of Gilbert & Sullivan. The colors are bold and geometric like a children's book and pop making the small but suitable stage come alive.

Pirates of Penzance is one of the most beloved operettas by famous Victorian duo, librettist William Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. First premiered in New York on New Year's Eve in 1879, the piece is a more whimsical work of standard repertoire, and OTSL does not fail in delivering its fun, satirical, and yet sophisticated qualities to audiences this season.

The fantastical tale revolves around young Frederic, who has just completed 21 years of dutiful service to a Pirate King and his not-so-intimidating cohorts. At his release from servitude, Frederic feels love's keen sting only to have it ripped from his hands by pirate contractual fine print. After a battle between yellow-bellied Bobbies and the pirate band, Frederic's future father-in-law is saved, and a happy ever after ending is guaranteed for all.

With a fabulously talented cast, Pirates makes the frivolity of patter-sing and puns appear easy and free when in reality it holds all the difficulties of Bel Canto style opera. Regardless of the difficulty of this performance, it is a production for the whole family to enjoy. Visually stimulating and equally as well choreographed as sung, this is truly a sheer delight of a show, especially if you wish to expose some young-ins to the world of opera for the first time.

Not a single dull moment arises throughout the story as Gilbert explores wit and humor in a way audiences have come to understand as uniquely his. A personal favorite piece to look for in addition to the audience favorite, "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," might be "Hail Poetry," a truly show-stopping number that removes the patrons from the superficiality of the rest of the operetta for a brief moment and praises the wonder of words. Last, but not certainly least, the orchestra's fine musicianship will astound, as always. Highly recommended, Pirates of Penzance does not disappoint.

For Tickets Click Here

Location: Loretto-Hilton Center in the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre

130 Edgar Road (at Big Bend Boulevard) on the campus of Webster University

Production Dates: 8pm May 25, 29, & 31

8pm June 6, 12, 14, & 29

7pm June 9

1pm June 22 & 26

Upcoming OTSL Productions:

Commissioned work, Terence Blanchard & Michael Cristofer's Champion

Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci & Puccini's Il Tabarro

Bedrich Smetana's The Kiss

Other Links to Consider

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Review

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tabarro & Pagliacci Review

Pre Season Review

Season Announcement

Cross-Cultural Engagement: Building a Diverse and Dynamic Community


Gitana Productions, Inc. and the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) are presenting a two-day conference, Cross-Cultural Engagement: Building a Diverse and Dynamic Community,  to help non-profit arts, social services, education and community organizations develop strategies and tools to effectively engage new and underserved communities, develop lasting cross-cultural relationships and improve their own internal diversity.

"RAC considers diversity and cross-cultural engagement very important to the cultural vitality of our region," Jill McGuire, executive director of RAC said.

Howard J. Ross, one of the nation's leading experts on diversity, leadership and organizational change will deliver the key note address.  Ross is also the author of Reinventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose, and Performance.

Sessions at the conference include Interpersonal Skills in Cross-Cultural Engagement, How Immigration is Changing the Face of St. Louis and America,  Local Models of Cross Cultural Engagement and a poverty simulation amongst many others.  The poverty simulation will help "participants understand the day-to-day reality of poverty in the lives of low-income families, single parents, people with disabilities, senior citizens on Social Security and others."

The conference will also feature a workshop from the Urban Bush Women Leadership Institute of New York.  The performance ensemble, which uses cultural expression as a catalyst for social change, is presenting its experiential workshop "Entering, Building, and Exiting Community."  The workshop uses theater games, writing and movement exercises as experiential learning tools in order for participants learn how to become aware of the values, leadership and history of a community and much more.

Executive Director of Gitana Productions, Cecilia Nadal said, "Organizations will get the tools they need to go beyond simply meeting diversity goals and learn how to develop true relationships with diverse groups, for long-term results."

The conference will take place October 11 and 12 at Webster University: Community Music School.  The cost for the two-day conference is $45 and scholarships are available.  To register and for more information visit:


Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night

Witness an international exhibit right here in St. Louis that will leave you both enriched and speechless.  The Lantern Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden hosts over 20 colorful, enormous lantern sets.  The detailed, outdoor lanterns are created from silk, steel, porcelain and other materials that come to life once the sun sets. 

Chinese culture is celebrated throughout the exhibition by recreating an ancient tradition that is often only found in Asia, dating back over 2,000 years.  The different lantern sets each have their own exclusive story that represents a part of ancient Chinese tradition.   

The Magic by Night opens at 6 p.m. which leaves you plenty of time to visit the Food Court which offers Chinese fare ranging from delicious crab Rangoon to fried rice and much more.  If you are lucky enough to find a cool evening to go in which it is not sweltering hot, take the time to find a table to sit at and thoroughly enjoy your food.  If shopping is your hobby, you will be right at home at the Lantern Festival Bazaar.  The Bazaar offers Asian merchandise and souvenirs that cater to every age and interest.

There are nightly stage shows at the outdoor Cohen Amphitheater and indoor Shoenberg Theater including Sand Drawing, the ancient Chinese tradition of sand animation and the ChenLong Troupe, which includes a juggler, acrobatic performers, and the ancient Chinese art of Bian Lian (face-changing).  The ChenLong Troupe performance will leave you astonished.  Watching a juggler lie on her back as she uses her feet to quickly juggle a large pot is not something you see everyday.  The acrobats' physical strength and flexibility is visibly apparent when you watch them lift each other and bend in unthinkable ways with such ease. 

Take time to stop and feel like a kid again while making  a wish at the Wishing Tree and Wishing Well, both significant items in a traditional lantern festival.  Numerous traditional artisans are also on site creating one of a kind, unique works of art including seal engraving, straw pictures, charcoal portrait drawings and many more.

At 8 p.m. the magic happens, the lanterns are illuminated and radiate throughout the garden.  As you walk through the garden and admire each illuminated lantern set, you can read the story behind it in the provided guide or off of the on-site description.    My personal favorite due to the complexity of the lights and the overwhelming size, Heavenly Temple, was structured after a Beijing Heavenly Temple from 1420.  Other exceptional lanterns such as the Four-Faced Buddha that blinks and shines and the Porcelain Dragon that blows out smoke as it moves its head from side to side are breathtaking. 

The Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night is an exhibition that you truly do not want to miss!

The exhibition runs through August 19th at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  For exhibit hours and ticket information visit:

Check Out the Inspirational Exhibit , Art by Children of Artists


Immediately upon entering the gallery Art by Children of Artists, you are greeted with unique, creative works of art produced by local, young minds.  One of the first displays of artwork, Cat Town, contains over twenty pictures of drawn cats mixed with a few, real life pictures.  A puzzle depicting a picture of a cat is also available to piece together.  The main focus of this display is a large, dry erase board that has a spotted bunny staring at a cat who has a carrot resting on its' tail.  Right away, you can tell it is artwork created by a child.  Not because of the complexity of the artwork, but because of the endless amount of creativity that is visible.  Not only are the cats in Cat Town each presented in different settings, but they are also different colors, wearing different clothes, and have names such as Mr. George and Mrs. Georgina.

The gallery contains work from over 16 local children whose parents are active in the art community here in St. Louis.  Growing up with parents who are active in the arts has shaped and influenced their lives everyday since birth.  The children artists presented in this gallery range in age, with the youngest being two years old. 

Each child artist brings something completely different and distinct to the gallery.  The artwork ranges from pictures of cats and dogs to insects, aliens, monsters, family, people and even Japanese cartoon characters.  There are paintings, drawings and 3-D artwork such as wooden boxing figures and squishy sock toy people. 

After viewing the gallery, I was intrigued at how the artwork was so raw and real.  Looking at the different pieces of artwork makes you realize exactly how open and unbiased young children are.    At such a young age, they have beliefs and ideas that have not been influenced by many outside factors yet.  Considering how these children's parents are present and active in the art community also makes you ponder how that has formed and shaped their artistic abilities.

Art by Children of Artists will leave you inspired and delighted!  You can visit Art by Children of Artists now until Saturday September 22, 2012 at the Sheldon Art Galleries.  This event is free and open to the public.


For more information: 

(314) 533-9900

Enjoy Dances of India's performance "The Magic Grove"









While watching "The Magic Grove", it is easy to perceive the passion and tradition behind Indian dancing.  As soon as the first scene begins, the dancers carry themselves across the stage with high energy and poise.  The narration compliments the dancers and their fluent movements by engagingly relating the story to the audience.

"The Magic Grove" is a dance-drama performance based on a Jain Fable.  Jainism is an ancient religion of Indian people that has existed for many centuries. Through folk stories, Jain monks uplift the spirit of common people.  This fable derives from the Jain scripture, Vardhamana-Desana.          

Bright and traditional clothing captures your attention along with detailed, flowered headpieces.  The different scenes consist of both storytelling hand movements and coordinated group dancing.  Ghungroos ring and make sound as the dancers complexly move their feet.  Ghungroos are a traditional musical instrument from India that consists of small brass bells that are attached to a bracelet and then strapped around the performers' ankles.  The music created by Ghungroos allows the audience to hear the rhythmic movement of the dancers' feet.    

Like other stories from the Jain tradition, "The Magic Grove" communicates the philosophy that admirable acts bring success and fortune while evil acts will bring gloom and sadness.  Even though in Jain philosophy each individual is in charge of their own destiny, throughout this dance-drama, supernatural elements are significant in each of the characters' destinies. 

Dances of India was the first classical Indian Dance Company to be founded in Missouri. In 1976, Asha Prem founded the company and has since been the Artistic Director.  Dances of India has annual formal concerts, performances and demonstrations for the community, outreach activities, and the company also sponsors and coordinates a collaborative dance showcase each year.   

Watch "The Magic Grove" at

For more information please visit or call Dances of India at (314) 997-0911.

Broadway's "Rock of Ages" Melts Faces for Two More Nights Only

Lonny and the Cast of Rock of Ages (Justin Colombo and Company). Photo by Kate Egan


Rock of Ages' narrator, who is inexplicably an hilarious impersonation of Jack Black, opens with: "Look at the person sitting next to you. No, not the person you came with, the other one." I dutifully smile and nod facetiously at the older stranger next to me, who does the same toward me. "By the end of this show," he continues, "you will be making out."

I chuckled and turned back to the guy hogging the other armrest just in time to see him freeze and visibly balk. He left after intermission. I tried not to take it personally--but there was no chance I was leaving, Jack Black--I mean Lonny--promised to melt our faces off. Besides I was still a little confused: if I am at a rock concert why am I sitting in a velvet seat next to someone who doesn't want to make out with me? And if I'm at a musical why is my face being melted off?

It was difficult at first to know how to respond to the huge performance on stage. Throughout the night they played a compilation of every mixtape you ever made. Laughter from the crowd began mere bars into each song as we all recognized which it would be, and how the plot was being built from the stories of those familiar power ballads.

Lest my confusion be confused with lack of enthusiasm, friends who know me will recognize this show had me at Mr. Big's "To Be With You."

As it goes on, the show plays with the concept of just what is a musical. At one point the narrator explains to one of the characters why things are going the way they are going by producing a copy of "Script-writing for Dummies." They don't just break the fourth wall, they trample it and then throw some of the bricks at you.

The sight gags are to die for. The wine coolers, the sitting-in-chairs-backwards, Arby's (which I never knew was an 80s phenomenon), the dance moves (they did not forget the Roger Rabbit), and finally, the death knell of Rock rung in by boy bandz. It's all there.

Remember when crossword clues got easier for you? Like, instead of clues like "Levantine coffee cup" (?!), there was "Wack, in hip-hop." Or remember when Trivial Pursuit Genus II (or better yet, III) came out and you finally understood how people were answering questions without having a doctorate?

Rock of Ages is like that for musicals. It's not that the structure of the plot or the expertise of the performance (or music) are less than the classic musicals of the past, it's that it's a musical where the frame of reference is finally totally ours. It's in moments like this that I realize that all of those who count themselves children of the 80s are finally adults--at least by the default of the march of time--and we're ready to really laugh about it.

Surprisingly, no one came dressed in their 80s finery. The show goes on tonight and tomorrow night (Sat and Sun, Feb 4 & 5) as part of The Fabulous Fox's Broadway Series. Do it.



Danielle Sommer

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