Years ago, I lived in a small rural town right outside of St. Louis, Missouri. One day I stopped at a Motomart to get gas. I was wearing a more than slightly stained and tattered T-Shirt with a logo on the front that proclaimed in bold letters that: “You Gotta Have ART.” I don’t remember where I had gotten the shirt, probably in the discard bin at the local Goodwill store or at a garage sale. Anyway, a heavyset fellow with spider veins in his nose, a farmer’s tan, and wearing bib overalls asked me why. “WHY do we have to have art?” He asked. Taken aback by the unexpected question, I answered something like: “We…we… just do, that’s all.” The guy just shook his head at me, spat some tobacco juice on the ground, and walked away.
Now, some twenty-years-later, I think I may have found the answer. We have to have art for the same reason that cave dwellers sketched out the deer and bison on the walls, the same reason that DaVinci painted the Mona Lisa, or Michelangelo sculpted the statue of David, and so on and so forth throughout history: It’s in our genetic makeup to do so. We have to be continually creating something or our soul dies. Here’s how Art St. Louis puts it: “We believe that Art has the capacity to relay something of transcendent meaning to people from all walks of life; that through aesthetic exploration and illumination of the human experience, Artists play an important role in provoking the social and spiritual consciousness of our community; and that, by nurturing the progressive development of art, Our community is more apt to appreciate subtlety, respect individuality and celebrate diversity.”
Art Saint Louis, 1223 Pine Street in downtown St. Louis, is unique because it combines a modern art gallery with a coffee bar in the same space. Mississippi Mud brews fresh roasted coffee that you can sip while viewing contemporary art on the other side. There’s nothing like a little shot of espresso to get you creative appreciation juices flowing.
Chloe Hamilton is a student at Jefferson College with an interest in photography. She was one of the many artists who displayed their work at the Art Saint Louis galley during a showing on March 7th. My friend Stephanie, her husband John, and I decided to go check it out.
When we arrived at the art gallery/coffee bar, the place was packed. People strolled through the gallery, coffee cup in hand, checking out all of the unique art that was on display. I had just gotten off of work and was pretty famished so I asked at the coffee bar if they served sandwiches. The answer was no, but the barista did turn me on to some delicious mac and cheese. That struck me as a little odd for a coffee bar, but it was delicious. I washed the dish down with some exquisite tasting coffee and threaded my way through the crowd to find Chloe and Don, who were standing in front of her photograph answering questions about it. I met Chloe’s mom, who turned out to be a delightful school teacher who was also the subject of the photograph.
We all had a great time talking to the patrons who came up to view the work. We also had time to stroll around and look at the other art work. I then asked the gallery manager if we could photograph some of the other art and he enthusiastically said “yes!” Chloe’s take on photography is as follows: “There’s something about photography that makes me want to capture memories on paper. My photography is another memory bank for me. I want to make my memories your memories with my pictures. My photography represents the people, the places, the feelings that go on in the world that’s hidden to the rest of us.”
Art Saint Louis started as a Kickstarter project and still depends not only on the income from the coffee shop, but also on the support of the art patrons as well. He welcomed any additional exposure that he could get for the worthwhile cause. So, stop in for a cup of coffee and then check out some of the exhibits. It’s a great way to relax and nourish that inner self. Remember, “You Gotta Have ART!”
Note: Chloe’s photographs are for sale, as are most of the other art pieces at the gallery. Contact them at 314/241-4810 for more details.