A-List 2015: Culture & Amusements

Nick Cave's exhibition "Currents 109" at the St. Louis Art Museum | Photo by Kevin A. Roberts

Art Exhibit

Saint Louis Art Museum’s Currents 109: Nick Cave

1 Fine Arts, 314-721-0072


Though Cave grew up in Missouri, this was his first solo show here. But maybe the timing was perfect. Cave’s first Soundsuit was inspired by his despair over Rodney King’s beating, and though his pieces at SLAM were dazzling enough to send Instagram a-blazing, there was subtext, too. The centerpiece Soundsuit, “Speak Louder,” was composed of seven connected figures scintillating with black shell buttons evoking New Orleans jazz funerals that spoke to the silencing of black voices. After Ferguson, St. Louis responded to the beauty, magic, and joy in Cave’s work, as well as its directive to bear witness—and to speak louder.

Music Accolade

St. Louis Symphony’s Grammy Award for City Noir

718 N. Grand, 314-534-1700


This recording for Nonesuch wasn’t the symphony’s first collaboration with contemporary composer John Adams. But its nuanced on-a-dime interpretation of his Coltraneinfused City Noir, a musical evocation of midcentury Los Angeles, won it a much-deserved Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. It’s not a shock; that disc landed on many “Best of 2014” lists. What was a shock was the realization that it marked the symphony’s first Grammy since 1991. We’re guessing that the symphony won’t have to wait nearly that long for the next one.


Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd


Antonio Douthit-Boyd always hinted, when he and hubby Kirven visited St. Louis every January, that he’d eventually return home. We just didn’t realize that it would be so soon. The two have stepped down from their positions as two of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s biggest stars—even though they’re still in their early thirties—to become coartistic directors of dance at the Center of Creative Arts. And though they’re still getting effusive reviews in The New York Times, they’re giving it all up to train the next generation of artists and turn St. Louis into a hub for dance talent.

Visual-Arts Publication

All the Art


Amy Reidel and Sarah Hermes Griesbach crowd-funded to publish the first 500 issues of All the Art. And it seemed like everyone affiliated with a gallery, museum, or art collective showed up at Central Print for the release party in April. ATA’s goal is to recognize that, documenting exhibits big and small, splashy and grassroots, writing about artists “on both sides of Delmar, on either side of the river, on both sides of hwy 270.” The mag is free and quarterly; keep your eyes peeled for the next issue this fall.


Pokey LaFarge’s Something in the Water


Thanks to producer Jimmy Sutton, LaFarge and the South City Three sound tight as ever on their Rounder Records debut. But we love this record because it celebrates the Midwest from the title track to the closer, “Knockin’ the Dust off the Rust Belt Tonight.” Despite being accused of such, LaFarge isn’t “retro”; he’s genuinely connected to a musical lineage, drawing from the well of tunes made years before record-store bins and Pandora algorithms. He and his band allow a song to be what it wants to be instead of trying to force it into a genre, which is part of the reason that it rumbles so deep in your soul.

New Museum

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum

601 Clark, 314-345-9880


For years, baseball and bowling shared a single space devoted to honoring the sports’ greats. Then, in 2008, when the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame moved to Texas, the Cardinals snatched up the land. After much delay, the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors in Ballpark Village last April, the same day as the home opener. The inaugural Hall of Fame class included Jim Edmonds, Marty Marion, Willie McGee, and Mike Shannon—an impressive starting lineup.

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum | Photo courtesy of Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals

Museum Makeover

Pulitzer Arts Foundation

3716 Washington, 314-754-1850


How do you improve on an architectural masterpiece? The Pulitzer— as well as architect Tadao Ando and the original work crew—showed us when the museum reopened on May 1. The curators brilliantly helped us explore the changes in the building with exhibits by Alexander Calder, Richard Tuttle, and Fred Sandback, whose work drew our eyes up, down, and sideways— including in the 3,600 square feet of new exhibit space downstairs.

Theatrical Innovation

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

205 N. Kirkwood, 314-835-1419

sleepykittymusic.blogspot.com, sleepykittyarts.com

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s long poem has made a lot of ninth-grade eyes go glazy over the years. Not this version, though. Upstream Theater and playwright-director Patrick Siler approached Sleepy Kitty’s Evan Sult and Paige Brubeck to help bring Rime to the stage as a mini rockopera. The production was a study in less-is-more. The stripped-down set was made richer by projecting Gustave Doré’s engravings of the poem. The three-member cast gave powerhouse performances. Jerry Vogel starred as the Mariner, and Patrick Blindauer and Shanara Gabrielle played multiple roles. Even the band had acting roles, playing Death and Life-in-Death. During a two-weekend run at Kranzberg Arts Center, the production knocked out every local theater critic—not to mention the crowds at each sold-out show.


The Makings of You

205 N. Kirkwood, 314-835-1419


Director Matt Amato’s breathtaking movie isn’t just a love story—it’s a prismatic love story. At its core is the story of Judy and Wallis, a single mother and lonely bachelor. As they fall for each other, Amato deftly shows us how the electricity of their relationship changes everyone and everything around them. As Wallis’ poet roommate, Carl, types: “Nothing happens until two people fall in love / and then the whole world changes.” The really profound thing about it is that we get to experience that transformation by proxy too. Thanks to the gorgeous cinematography, St. Louis’ tipsy brick buildings, humid streets, and undulating river are all touched with that magic and glow you feel when you’re in love. And of course we wouldn’t believe it at all without the powerful performances of the cast, including Sheryl Lee as Judy, Jay Ferguson as Wallis, and Grace Zabriskie as Judy’s complex, totally indefatigable mother, Margaret.

Response to Ferguson

Painting on Board-Ups

We don’t need to tell you why there was plywood on the shop windows along South Grand or Florissant Road. What you might not know is how it all happened: A group of South Grand board members, alderman, and Tower Grove residents put the call out for artists to paint the boards; Natasha Bahrami of Cafe Natasha was one of the first to have her board-up painted. Molly Rockamann of EarthDance put out a call in Ferguson. Hundreds of artists showed up to paint boards in both South City and Ferguson, and paint was donated from as far as Massachusetts. (Art Bar’s Tom Halaska, who gathered supplies and matched artists with board-ups in Ferguson, continues to store donated art supplies and is still matching artists with boarded businesses anywhere in St. Louis.) When the boards came down, they were shown in an exhibit at RAC, and went into the collections of SLU and the Missouri History Museum. Among them was that iconic image of two arms—one black, one white—clasped together to form the shape of the Arch.

Natasha Bahrami of Cafe Natasha | Photo by Byron Kerman

Second Act

Rick Dildine


Why are we so happy about your return to Shakespeare Festival– St. Louis, Mr. Dildine? Because you asked the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra to score Twelfth Night. Because you created SHAKE-38, where we get to see Antony and Cleopatra translated into Roman hairstyles or do yoga along with a reading of Richard II. Because we love Shakespeare in the Streets, where we see the Bard’s work grafted onto our own 21st-century Midwestern lives. We understood when you took off for Shakespeare & Company—but we might’ve just shouted a little Heyho, sing hey-ho! upon hearing the news of your return.

New Music Venue

Ferring Jazz Bistro

3536 Washington, 314-571-6000


Did you complain about the old Jazz at the Bistro? Never. And neither would the musicians who loved it for the fact that it was a listening room, where people came with their ears turned out like satellite dishes, versus a bar or club, where the crowd might pay more attention to the whiskey. But boy howdy, the new one: Jazz St. Louis’ gut rehab allowed it not only to rearrange the stage and seating to best effect but also to bring in a world-class acoustical engineer. And if the show sells out, you can head next door to Nancy’s Jazz Lounge, where you can nurse that whiskey—and watch the show on a 90-inch screen.

New Bookstore

Novel Neighbor

7905 Big Bend, 314-738-9384


We know that proprietor Holland Saltsman is a hardcore reader. Her shop’s name is a double-entendre, referencing both books and novelty. The selection is phenomenal, but Novel Neighbor aspires to be more than a bookstore. To that end, it offers Mind Fest classes and sells work by local artists. Saltsman’s not bluffing about the “neighbor” part, either. With the store’s homey vibe, customers often tell her that they don’t want to leave. And where else can you buy Old Book Smell– scented candles?


The Blues Hall of Fame, a long-overdue museum that pays tribute to the city’s rich musical heritage. (Sound familiar?) Opened in May, the museum showcases guitars, awards, and sheet music from the likes of Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Memphis Slim.


Big Cypress Lodge, the 32-story, pyramidshaped hotel that was closed for a decade before recently being resurrected by Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris, who’s reimagined the space as an outdoor lover’s paradise.


Restaurant Iris, where chef Kelly English (formerly of Kelly English Steakhouse at Hollywood Casino) serves French-Creole cuisine in a welcoming two-story house. And on the way home, stop at Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken, the addictive chain that plans to add a St. Louis location.

Literary News

Michael Castro’s Poet Laureateship


In January, the Regional Arts Commission hosted a “coronation” for Castro, where he read (sans crown) “Re: Birthday St. Louis Two- Fifty,” an occasional poem for the city, part of his job as our first poet laureate. Of the 65 nominees, he was the unanimous choice. He’s the founder of River Styx, former host of KDHX’s Poetry Beat, and a prolific poet in his own right—not to mention that he moves easily in many worlds: black and white, academic and grassroots, city and county. The other part of his job is to help us speak as a region—and we can’t think of a better person for the task.

Michael Castro | Photo by Kevin A. Roberts

Movie + Music

Old Orchard Gazebo Series

Big Bend and S. Old Orchard

Not content with simply showing movies beneath the stars, the Old Orchard Gazebo Series pairs flicks with tunes. This year’s lineup is as impressive as ever, including popular St. Louis musicians Miss Jubilee & the Humdingers, Tommy Halloran’s Guerrilla Swing, and Javier Mendoza. And the movies are equally local, including Marshall the Miracle Dog (inspired by a death-defying canine from Missouri), Game of Their Lives (based on the 1950 U.S. Soccer team, which include multiple St. Louis natives), and The Pride of St. Louis. The final event of the season, scheduled for July 17, is as local as it gets, with St. Louis–based School of Rock’s students performing, followed by (what else?) the 2003 hit movie of the same name, starring Jack Black. Free. Music at 7 p.m., movies at 9 p.m.

animal addition

Saint Louis Zoo’s McDonnell Polar Bear Point

Saint Louis Zoo, 1 Government, 314-781-0900


How excited are we about polar bears returning to the Saint Louis Zoo? We put one on our cover six months ago, long before Kali (pronounced “Cully”) moved here from Buffalo, New York. His new home is a $16 million, 40,000-squarefoot exhibit, complete with a dive pool, an arctic cave, and a tundra-like area. Situated beside Penguin & Puffin Coast, the cold-climate carnivore is the zoo’s hottest star.


Alarm Will Sound


John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. Like that piece, Ten Thousand Birds is a musical response to nature: Missouri’s native birdsong. Alarm Will Sound, the superlative New York chamber orchestra, performed the piece. And it was not static: As Michael Eastman’s animations of local flora lit up the giant screens at Grand Center’s Public Media Commons, musicians spread through the space and stayed in constant motion. At one point, the violinists even wove through the crowd at a fast jog, their instruments trilling like swallows. Adams was there; he stood on the outskirts, tall and thin, in a black hat and long black coat, taking it all in. He seemed pleased. The rest of us? Stunned in a good way—and moved beyond measure.

St. Louis-Produced Musical

Fun Home


It may be a few years before we see it here, but we can gloat right now: Among the producers of Fun Home, the buzziest show on Broadway, was a trio of St. Louisans: Mike Isaacson (of The Muny), Jack Lane (of Stages St. Louis), and Terry Schnuck. Based on Alison Bechdel’s poignant autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, it’s been nominated for 12 Tonys, including Best Musical. (All of its cast members have been nominated as well.) During its initial off-Broadway run in 2014, the show was nominated for a Pulitzer and named Best New Musical by the Off Broadway Alliance. We’re betting that it’ll sweep—and become a permanent part of the American theater canon.

Public Space

Public Media Commons



Located between St. Louis Public Radio and the Nine Network, in the heart of Grand Center, is a pair of two-story-high video walls rising above a 9,000-square-foot open-air plaza. Here, the community comes together for performances, films, food trucks, and more. Last October, shortly after the commons opened, renowned band Alarm Will Sound performed the world premiere of Pulitzer-winning composer John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds. This April, the Oscar-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam played on the video walls. And in early May, the plaza became a welcome addition to First Fridays, complete with an artist showcase.

Creative Inspiration

Art + Wine

Pablo Picasso once said, “I like all painting. I always look at the paintings— good or bad— in barbershops, furniture stores, provincial hotels… I’m like a drinker who needs wine. As long as it’s wine, it doesn’t matter which wine.” Maybe it’s only natural, then, to pair vino and art— especially for those who are not Picasso. It’s a concept that’s recently caught on in St. Louis, with wineand- art classes: Art on the Vine, Pinot’s Palette, Sips n Splatters… Sure, some sippers’ work is more abstract than others, depending on the number of glasses. But it always makes for a memorable evening.

Canine Addition

Queeny Park

As you admire artist Maud Earl’s oil painting of a Great Dane standing on a lakeshore, looking longingly into the distance, it’s only natural to want to take your own pooch outside the Museum of the Dog and let him run free. Soon, that will be possible. Construction’s under way on a 7-acre dog park, just south of the museum, with designated areas for creatures both large and small. The daily admission fee: $5 per dog—the same as a ticket to the museum— and a small price to pay for an afternoon with your best friend.

Movie makeover

AMC Esquire 7

6706 Clayton, 314-781-3300


Not so long ago, the Esquire was showing its age, with cramped aisles and sticky floors. But after a multimillion-dollar renovation, the theater’s seven auditoriums are all about luxury: You can reserve a specific cushioned, reclining seat ahead of time, order a cocktail at the bar, and admire the restored Deco design while you wait for the movie to start. Ah, moviegoing should always be so refined.

Community Initiative

St. Louis Bike Share


Our neighbors to the west are winning the I-70 rivalry when it comes to community cycling. In 2012, Kansas City B-cycle’s bike-sharing program launched, with docking stations across the downtown area. Then, last year, it added bike-rental locations to other neighborhoods. Now, St. Louis has plans to catch up. Earlier this year, Great Rivers Greenway released a study calling for 540 bikes and 60 stations in the first phase. Though it remains to be seen whether St. Louis will roll out the program in the next year or two, the proposal is a bold call for cutting congestion and our carbon footprint.

Cinematic sequel

Hi-Pointe Backlot

1002 Hi-Pointe Place, 314-995-6273


The Hi-Pointe Backlot is like a Movie Mini-Me. Located on the second floor of a beautifully rehabbed brick building, it’s the perfect answer to its enormous counterpart. While the Hi-Pointe has 450 seats, the Backlot has just 48. Where the original one-screen wonder must appeal to a broad audience, the newbie can screen niche films. And while the 93-year-old is a throwback to another time, when movie-going was a community activity, the Backlot is a more intimate—but equally unforgettable—moviegoing experience.

Jazzed-up landmark

Union Station

1820 Market, 314-421-6655


Bob and Steve O’Loughlin went to Disneyland this year—not to ride the teacups but instead to receive an award from the Themed Entertainment Association for the Grand Hall Experience at Union Station. The lobby light show is a true spectacle, recapturing the railroad glory era and the world’s glorious epochs. All that color, sound, and movement breathe life into a historic icon that had grown dim and desolate, giving us new ways to see one of the city’s most triumphant architectural landmarks.

Union Station's Grand Hall Experience | Photo courtesy of Technomedia