A-List Awards 2017: Culture & Amusements

Back to A-List 2017

Reading Series

100 Boots, Pulitzer Arts Foundation

Fifty people at a reading is the poetry version of a stadium sellout. In its first season, 100 Boots regularly attracted several times that, and at every reading, people crowded hip to hip on the Main Gallery staircase. Curators Jessica Baran and Ted Mathys created brilliant pairings of local and national poets, starting with Alison C. Rollins and Lyn Hejinian, then dispersed their works to the audience in kicky broadsides printed by WORK/PLAY. Our only complaint? We just wish the season were longer. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Music Video Meets Festival

Lo-Fi Saint Louis

Every spring since 2012, filmmaker Bill Streeter has gathered a crew and 16 to 18 local bands for a genius hybrid of an event: a fast-moving daylong shoot along Cherokee that captures bands playing in restaurants, bike shops, bakeries, garden centers, and coffee shops. It starts at 9 a.m. and winds up at dusk and is followed by a concert/wrap party the day of the shoot and a video release party one month later.

Video Artist

Louis Quatorze

When St. Louis’ hottest hip-hop artists make a music video, the guy they call is Mike Roth, better known as Louis Quatorze. His dedication to St. Louis, and the artists he works with, is total. His calling card is his ability to create a visual world unique to each song and artist. Mvstermind’s “Mali Moolah” video, for instance, deftly weaves opposing elements—quick edits and slow-mo, drone shots of Cahokia and the neon signs of check-cashing joints.

Place to Hear Young Musicians Play Old Jazz

Yaquis on Cherokee

Yaquis is keeping the flame burning on behalf of Gaslight Square’s ragtime and jazz. Ethan Leinwand plays barrelhouse blues and boogie-woogie piano on Saturdays. On Fridays, it’s The Gaslight Squares, led by English trumpeter TJ Müller, who specializes in Jazz Age jazz—and dresses the part. (Photo by Kevin A. Roberts)

Digital Art Project

Charting the American Bottom

Created by artists Matthew Fluharty and Jesse Vogler, this project explores the floodplain stretching between Alton and Ste. Genevieve in all its strange, fractured glory. The nature of the landscape—industrial wastelands, fragile wetlands, historic cities—is mirrored with nonlinear storytelling that uses maps, words, and pictures. Dive deep, and you’ll never view Metro East—or planet Earth—the same way again.

Ongoing Art Project

The Reclamation Project

Founded five years ago by Damon Davis, Eric “Prospect” White, and Basil Kincaid, it’s unfolded in chapters, manifesting in live performance, digital albums, textiles, and paintings made with ground brick and wood. For Reclamation 2, at The Luminary last year, Kincaid showed huge collages made with discarded telecom scratch cards gathered in Ghana, assembled with residents of Labadi and the GoLokal artist collective. Reclamation 3 was a collection of Kincaid’s gorgeous wild quilts (pictured) made of materials sourced from friends and family. In other words, The Reclamation Project is about reclaiming not just materials but also community, connection, heritage, history, self, and space. (Courtesy of Basil Kincaid Studio)

Emerging Arts District


Last fall, The Livery Company pulled up stakes from Cherokee and relocated to South Broadway, where they could afford to buy a building. The Sinkhole, a live music venue that also has a music studio on premises, opened around the same time. Of course, these are just the latest additions: Already present were Overtime Studio; My City, My Music Radio; Lockheed Clothing; Perennial Artisan Ales; Sawhorse Studios; and Human Spaces, a multi-use community arts venue—and that’s not counting the dozens of non-public creative spaces such as artists’ studios. (Photo by Matt Marcinkowski)

Theater Festival

LaBute New Theater Festival

This summer festival, held at the St. Louis Actors Studio, isn’t LaBute in name only. In addition to producing his best-known works, Neil LaBute serves on the fest’s creative team and contributes a new one-act play every year. It’s also a great place to see the work of up-and-coming playwrights; last year’s fest showcased the work of writers from New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Theater Company

Upstream Theatre

Philip Boehm is an internationally respected translator, playwright, director, and Guggenheim Fellow—yet he goes about translating and premiering work by playwrights from all over the world in a seriously understated way. A few years ago, he invited Sleepy Kitty to help create a rock ’n’ roll version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and this year’s season has felt like the company’s most immediate, poignant work yet.


Paul Artspace

Tucked into a woodsy 6 acres in North County, this unassuming ranch house has become a magnet for creatives from all over the world: Paris, Santiago, New York… Artist and founder Michael Behle named it for his uncle Paul (who once lived here), and though it’s amazing that artists travel from around the world to be here, we’re most impressed with Paul’s dedication to St. Louis. It hosts local artists, too; as part of their residencies, artists volunteer and teach in the community. (Courtesy of Paul Artspace)

Artist-Run Gallery


Co-founders Amy Granat (pictured) and Annina Herzer’s space in South City hosts artists from all over the world. The art community—including NPR and Art in America—has taken note. But don’t just take the critics’ word for it; check the website for dates, then go to the exhibits and artists’ talks. You’ll find Granat’s instincts and aesthetics are flawless. (Photo by Matt Marcinkowski)


Whose Streets?

St. Louis artist Damon Davis and L.A.-based Sabaah Folayan’s documentary premiered at Sundance to wide critical acclaim. Acquired by Magnolia Pictures, it opens nationally on August 11, the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. It tells the other side of the Ferguson story from the point of view of residents and activists, who had rifle scopes trained on them for no reason, who were tear-gassed and told they were loitering in their own backyards, who lit candles in the name of the dead, yet were never given a voice on national TV, even as networks eagerly focused their cameras on a burning QuikTrip.

Theater Adventure

Cocktails and Curtain Calls

Its tagline is “intoxicating entertainment”—that’s literal. Artistic director Nick Henderson and company embrace producing theater in “the Dionysian way.” That’s included a hybrid of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a Soulard pub crawl; a production of Conor McPherson’s The Weir at McGurk’s and Dressel’s Public House; and bringing Fifty Shades of Shakespeare, an original production by Chicago’s (Re)Discover Theatre, to The Crack Fox. They aim to break down the fourth wall—in a way that’s fun, raucous, and approachable.

Open Arts Studio

Artists First

This Maplewood studio provides materials and space to artists with disabilities and mental illness, including veterans with PTSD and brain injuries. The core of its programming is adult and youth open studios, but through its Lifeworks program it’s helping its artists build local followings and careers. Whether or not participants choose to pursue art as a career, everyone who comes here finds healing through form, color, self-expression—and community. (Courtesy of Artists First)

Arts Collective

STL Free Jazz Collective

The Tavern of Fine Arts is gone, but the Collective—which clocked many hours there—plays on. Catch it in such places as Wash. U.’s Holmes Lounge and the 14th Street Artist Community. The collective includes some of the city’s leading purveyors of the improvisational avant-garde jazz tradition—so wild and untranslatable, it’s just called that “St. Louis Thing.”

Month for Film Aficionados


We’re insanely blessed when it comes to access to independent film—but the richness of our scene means it’s hard to catch everything, and so these two fests might’ve slipped past your radar. They shouldn’t. QFest, which turned 10 this year, celebrates the LGBT experience; Wash. U.’s African Film Festival, now in its 12th year, dazzles with cinema from across the diaspora.

Record Store

Endless Planets

If you’re an audiophile or a record junkie, most likely even you can’t believe how many new record shops are popping up, especially ones catering to those who fetishize the vinyl record as the most perfect artifact—not just sonically but also visually. This Cherokee Street gem, founded by members of that tribe, is tiny and vinyl-only. There are only about 1,500 records on the premises, but every damn one is brilliant and chosen with care and likely not available anywhere else (even online), especially if it’s in the jazz, soul, house, ambient, world, or experimental genre. (Photo by Matt Marcinkowski)

Local Music Initiative

Listen Up STL

There’s no question that St. Louis’ music scene—including jazz, hip-hop, indie rock, Americana, gospel, and blues—is mind-blowing right now. Hunting it all down on Spotify is possible, but here’s a better idea: Whip out your St. Louis County Library card (city dweller, you can get one, too), download the BiblioBoard app, and stream hundreds of songs by local bands.

Gallery Within a Gallery


Primarily a printmaker, Sage Dawson has also recently established herself as a whip-smart curator, too—take, for example, Ghost, a popup show last spring that took months of prep but lasted just one day at The Luminary. That was a bit of a warmup for STNDRD, an ongoing project also hosted at The Luminary that invites artists to interpret the concept of the flag. After a little less than a year on Cherokee Street, Dawson’s going to take STNDRD traveling—a brilliant twist on an already brilliant project.

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