Thousands of St. Louisans have enjoyed Circus Flora’s world-class productions annually for over 30 years. However, the end of the circus season does not mean the clowning around is over.
Offering healing through humor since 2012, Clowns on Call is Circus Flora’s program that ensures young patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital receive a healthy dosage of laughter as often as possible.
Yet with the onset of the pandemic, physicians of fun Dr. Pepper, Dr. Too-Me, and Dr. Celia have had to adapt to the cyber realm to maintain a connection with and provide a distraction for hospitalized children of all ages when they need it most.
Without her red nose, Dr. Pepper is Audrey Crabtree, professional performer and coordinator of the program. “This is all new territory,” she said referring to their digital approach.
Before the pandemic, the Clown Doctors visited a few times per week. But since their virtual return in September 2020, they have to make the most out of a one-time weekly check-up via Zoom video calls.
“It’s a little bit of a learning curve but they’re ecstatic to be back,” Circus Flora’s Managing Director Karen Shoulders said.
Dr. Pepper and her comedic accomplices meet their patients on an iPad that on-site child life specialists carry from room to room — after sanitation, of course. Whether they are miming fetch with a ball that is imaginarily thrown through the video or juggling props between one Zoom window to another, Crabtree said, “We’re having fun finding creativity within the confinement of the screen.”
Regardless of the way they connect, Crabtree emphasized that the Clown Doctors are best friends with the children during their time together.
“In the moments we see them, we are always on their team; we always follow their lead,” Crabtree said. “If they’re in a sad mood and want to stay there, we’ll go there too … We just try to engage with them wherever they are and just make a real connection as much as we can. We all need that.”
The fun and games prove to be beneficial for not only the patients, but also the hospital workers, family members, and the Clown Doctors themselves.
“I do different kinds of theatre work and performance, but this hospital clowning is the very best thing I’ve ever done. Big audiences and huge crowds do not compare to this one-on-one engagement,” Crabtree reflected.
Unlike any program in the bi-state region, Clowns on Call features experienced and professional performing artists skilled in a wide variety of genres including clowning, music, juggling, magic, improvisation, puppeteering, dance, and slapstick. “It’s not just a volunteer putting on a nose,” Shoulders said.
Crabtree elaborated by adding, “We have ongoing training and rehearsals, and we’re a part of a national organization that has standards. It’s serious work to make it possible to play in a healing way.”
While the Clown Doctors have found a way to continue making their rounds through Cardinal Glennon, they hope to spread contagious laughter to more patients across the region. “There are other institutions that we could be working with, but we just don’t have the funding,” Crabtree said.
It all started when I pulled into one of the giant concrete parking garages at the University of Missouri-STL, where I was headed to Gallery 210 to view the current art exhibit. After maneuvering my Mini Cooper into a tiny spot, I happened to look up and saw a surveillance camera with a bird’s nest built into it. Twigs and nesting materials were woven together with the camera’s cables to make an integrated and bizarre object. This strange, shocking, and thought-provoking juxtaposition of man-made technology with nature happened about 14 years ago. At that time, the proliferation of surveillance cameras hadn’t reached huge numbers. Or so I thought because I really hadn’t paid attention to them before. Right after that I started looking and was surprised to find them at every traffic intersection, on top of Walgreens, at the bank, and Quick Trip; everywhere. Cameras were recording virtually every moment of our lives in public. Since then, their numbers have only exploded (Proliferate)to the point that we are ‘on camera’ over 75 times per day.
I had no idea my newest art series had just been born or that it would still be expanding right up through 2020, with Eyes Wide Open: Surveillance Seriesat The Kranzberg Gallery. I realized that digital surveillance was seriously threatening our civil rights and liberties online too, in our most private activities, and that most of this was through government and corporate entities. In the time since I saw that bird’s nest, research has uncovered an overwhelming invasion of our privacy occurring with nearly every online activity including email, phone calls, texting, personal finances, photo posts, social media, business communications, political action, and location/movement (Off The Record).
Multi-faceted, Concerned, and Hyperactively Creative
Many artists focus on one style while specializing in a single medium; I often embrace a wide range of different looks and materials or learn a brand-new technique (such as laser cutting or 3-D design/printing) as I create each new piece. For the floor installation USofA Drone Carpet, I taught myself 3-D design software in order to print 109 tiny drone sculptures (based on the Black Hornet military surveillance drone) using selective laser sintering and nylon powder.
Arranged in the pattern of the American flag, but in grayscale color camouflage, the drones offer a somber critique of the United States. Juggling five or six different series simultaneously, my art deals with things that matter right now: surveillance, natural disasters, climate change, species extinction, our separation from nature, the Anthropocene, and gender issues. I look at connections between our contemporary culture, technology, and nature and try to understand our lives. These series don’t usually come to an end although sometimes I will focus on just one, letting the others hibernate until a new concept reactivates them. Infusing my art with the passion of my ideas is a challenge I love.
Infraredwas the first work in my surveillance series; it was directly inspired by the parking garage encounter. Noticing nature and surveillance cameras were intertwined in the real world, I started picturing them in drawings, paintings, and mixed media artworks. I hid cams in plain sight, assimilated into the natural landscape (Darkwoods I, Darkwoods II, Darkwoods III, and Surge).
Why It Matters
Someone asked me why they should care about surveillance. Right here in St. Louis, government/police surveillance with no oversight is an ongoing concern, threatening the civil liberties of all, but especially those of people of color, immigrant and refugee communities, and local activists. In July, a member of the Board of Aldermen made a resolution for St. Louis to contract for limitless aerial ‘spy plane’ surveillance. The Missouri ACLU websites states that when mass surveillance systems are deployed by local police, they are frequently used to target communities of color. “While the nation is discussing the demilitarization of police, St. Louis is considering turning wartime specific technology on its own citizens. This is a threat to liberty. This summer, Americans have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and demand change. During the protest surrounding the death of Freddie Gray, officials in Baltimore quietly and secretly turned to the very surveillance technology now before the (St. Louis) Board of Aldermen to track protestors.”* After working with the citizens’ group Privacy Watch STL, I know that since at least 2017, our Board of Aldermen has failed to pass a bill requiring oversight, accountability, and transparency of surveillance practices by the St. Louis police. I think this matters. Earlier, our current federal administration overturned the FCC regulation that banned internet service providers from selling our private information without our permission.** Not long ago, my husband and I were sitting at our kitchen table talking about cats even though we didn’t have one yet; only a short time later ads for cat food appeared on our digital devices because our conversation was not private inside our own home. That conversation’s content wasn’t important, but I am concerned that our privacy is seriously impacted by warrantless and unconstitutional surveillance, even when our devices are switched off. Just last week, the news warned of Zoom hacks into email accounts. Events like these are what feed Eyes Wide Open: Surveillance Series.
My goal is to raise awareness of these issues, in the hope that viewers will be moved to support our right to privacy and even to advocate for it. My art looks back at government, corporate, and personal cameras — especially at the vast insertion of surveillance cameras into the natural world — and focuses on the secretive relationship between subject and spectator.
Footnotes: *The River Front Times, Luz María Henríquez, 7/13/2020 ** NPR, March 28, 2017
As an artist, I make things that explore concern about our place as humans living on planet earth. Over fifty galleries, museums and collections have exhibited my work; in 2018, my sculpture Riverbend was installed at the Gateway Arch National Park as Critical Mass for the Visual Arts’ Public Works Project. Botanica absentia – a memorial to future lost species- was at The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2019, when I was also the recipient of The Regional Arts Commission’s $20,000 Fellowship Award. As the Nicholas Aitken Artist-in-Residence at The Forsyth School, my project became a permanent campus installation in 2020. This year, my solo exhibition Leaning on Nature was featured at The Mitchell Museum while more work is online at Wayfarers Gallery, Brooklyn. My multi-faceted career has included being a college art professor, historic preservation consultant, Fiscal Analyst for the Missouri State Legislature, self-employed cake decorator, box factory worker, writer, wife, and mother of three.
“Caffeinated Curation” is a routine book and beverage pairing that highlights Blueprint Coffee and relevant reading recommendations from High Low resident artists and community members.
Our latest chapter of the series comes from High Low barista Lindsey.
As a tribute to two classics that have carried me through all aspects of life — Stephen King’s “The Shining” is paired with a simple cappuccino. The overall focus on character development in King’s novel brings light to personal challenges that evolve throughout the story. It begins, presenting a seemingly average family situation, taking us on a journey through mental collapse, ending in eventual demise. Similarly, the cappuccino begins its journey as creamy and rich that, as it cools, will eventually evolve into something brighter, with a more expansive flavor.
While the cafe at High Low is temporarily closed, you can still place an order online for your favorite Blueprint Coffee beverage from their Watson or Delmar locations.
“It’s up to independent filmmakers to show what filmmaking could be here.”
That’s what filmmaker Josh Guffey believes when it comes to producing for the silver screen out of the Gateway City.
“I think this community is ready. The talent is here … There’s great infrastructure and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation is a big part of that now.”
From gaining access to tools and training to pitching to investors and more, Guffey, says filmmaking is “hard as hell,” but he wants to help up-and-coming film artists better navigate the scene through the Kranzberg Arts Foundation filmmaking residency.
An Iowa native and filmmaker who launched his career in Los Angeles, Guffey relocated to St. Louis in 2014 with his family in the middle of researching and developing the movie “All Gone Wrong.”Inspired by films that portrayed cops and robbers, Guffey tells a realistic story about narcotics policing with Tony Todd in a leading role, who is well-known for his unnerving performance in the 1992 film “Candyman.”
“What really encouraged me to get going and to shoot the movie in St. Louis was a movie called ‘The Ghost Who Walks,’ shot in 2018 and released 2019,” Guffey said. “The filmmakers — producer Dan Gartner, David Johnson, and the writer/director Cody Stokes — they were super encouraging and instrumental and just really open with their time. I peppered them with questions … and it really gave me the ability to believe in myself to try to make it here.”
In 2019, Guffey was awarded the residency through the In Motion Filmmaking Conference and granted access to a wide array of resources provided by the Foundation including vital infrastructure for planning and production.
“For us, we were in the middle of making the movie, so we held an investor event at the .ZACK Theatre and had a reception where people could see the business plan and just kind of hang out and meet us. That got us money to go into post-production,” Guffey said. “It can be very expensive to get locations, and if you don’t have the money, it can be a barrier.”
With his film now “in the can,” Guffey plans to host a workshop for producers and aspiring filmmakers, “to help people and show that it’s a step-by-step thing.”
“Everybody has a voice, but if you can’t express that voice in the way that you desire … And then you see other people who have advantages and the path to expressing their voice through filmmaking is much easier and much shorter, it can be very frustrating,” Guffey said.
From access to venues for planning and production to theatre space for hosting investor screenings and premieres, Guffey mentioned that “you really see the benefit through all the stages as a filmmaker,” in the Kranzberg Arts Foundation residency program.
“I think so many people who are filmmakers still struggle with these parts of the whole process,” Guffey said. “It’s like, ‘here’s one less thing to worry about,’ and then all of a sudden you have more energy to think of how to make it better, rather than just how to make it.”
In addition to infrastructure, the residency also connects the filmmaker to a network of other local artists and entrepreneurs. Guffey recalled a situation in which he needed the help of a music producer to bring a song in the movie to life.
“It just so happened that Owen Ragland, who’s a former musician in residence, was our guy, so it was nice to keep it within the resident family,” Guffey added. “Just amplifying who these artists are … it creates connections. It’s really cool how that went down.”
Despite the hurdle that has been COVID-19, “All Gone Wrong” is in the final stages before it premieres. Guffey said he feels a responsibility to be a good steward of filmmaking in St. Louis, to help others along the way, and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation filmmaking residency feels like a good place for that.
“We need to support filmmakers and give them a platform to create. It’s just like all arts; there are some mechanisms in place to help artists create, and the more we can do that for filmmakers, the better the movies will be.”
“Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll” will open Oct. 29, with full COVID-19 mitigation policies in place.
The popular adage that is often tossed around in show business, “the show must go on,” met its match this year as COVID-19 has practically shut down the arts and entertainment industries for months.
Since we made the decision to close our venues to the public starting March 13, 2020, we’ve been strategically preparing for the moment in which we are able to safely welcome guests back through our doors.
With cautious optimism, starting Oct. 29, 2020, we look forward to hosting The Midnight Company’s production of Eric Bogosian’s “Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll,” at The Kranzberg.
We do not take the decision to host a production lightly, and we have spent hundreds of hours staying up to date with the latest information from public health officials. We recognize the gravity of the current public health situation and acknowledge our responsibility in maintaining the utmost standards when it comes to keeping guests, artists, and our staff safe.
In order for the show to be approved for our stages, The Midnight Company has gone through an exhaustive process including being vetted through our own greenlight plan, receiving certification from Missouri ArtSafe, and finally, approved by the City of St. Louis.
The nature of the production has also been taken into consideration. This one-act, one-person production eliminates potential complications with intermission and social distancing on stage.
The Midnight Company’s COVID plan, which was developed alongside the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and approved by the City of St. Louis, is publicly available on their website so that guests know what to expect when they walk through our doors.
“We’ve taken steps to help everyone — cast, crew, and guests — stay as safe as possible through extensive vetting and work alongside our public health officials,” Executive Director Chris Hansen said. “The Midnight Company is committed to ensuring best practices are in place including staging a one-act, one-actor production.”
Additionally, venue capacity will be limited to ensure proper social distancing of six feet or more between guests.
For organizations and artists interested in producing a show in one of our venues, you must be able to effectively take care of your cast and crew. A plan outlining your COVID procedures must be submitted and approved by the Foundation and the City of St. Louis.
“We look forward to welcoming the show to our stage, and will continue working to support the safe creation and presentation of art,” Hansen said.
As we enter the seventh consecutive month of venue closures, we are methodically working through ways in which we can continue to steward the vital infrastructure for artists and arts organizations so that we can once again say without hesitation, “the show must go on.”
“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Full disclosure: When I initially came up with the idea for Consider…, my vision for this show revolved around reaching a very specific group of people in my world.
You know these people. I’m sure you have them in your life, too. (Heaven forbid you are them…)
The people who are so nice when you meet them! They would bend over backward to make you feel at home in their space. If you only saw them every now and again, you would think them excellent friend material.
But then, you start to notice the weird things they say half under their breath to you…things that make you a little uncomfortable, cause that’s not quite how you see the world. But you don’t want to offend them.
You notice the things they post on social media. It’s like Facebook’s out to get you because suddenly the only posts you see seem to come from that person and your six mutual friends who think more like them apparently than you. You begin to notice those things they said half-under-their-breath to you at that graduation party last weekend, they are practically shouting now. Like, seriously, don’t they have anything better to do than be on Facebook all day sharing one salty meme after another?
It’s those people. I have a lot of them in my life. They come from all walks of life; rich and poor, suburban, urban and country, Republican and Democrat, gay and straight, male and female, old and young. They have two things in common: they are always right, and they will fight to the death anyone who challenges their views.
Everything they do is driven by fear and pride.
Fear is a liar. Fear is a big, bad bully that comes up and steals your lunch, and then dumps you in the trash can for good measure. Fear takes all the beauty and glory out of the world around us, smashes it up, and then heaves us into the cesspit of suspicion, doubt, and comfort in the status quo. Fear makes sure we don’t ever stray out past the edge of our own worldview, like a dog wearing a shock collar. Should we even think about sticking a toe over the line, fear zaps us back with something that proves leaving our safety net of what we know and understand to be true is just not worth the pain.
I know this because I struggle with fear every day. I’m afraid of all kinds of things, real and imagined. I’m afraid of getting into a car accident on the highway, (which could happen), and I’m afraid there are monsters under my bed (which is a ridiculous fear for someone in their 30s, but here we are…). I’m afraid that people won’t like me, especially if they hear what I think or feel. I’m afraid of crying because I think it makes me look weak. I’m afraid of large crowds and tiny spaces. I’m often afraid of myself, of my own talents, and what my life could look like if I succeed or if I fail at the things I try.
I also know pride all too well…pride makes us feel like we are in charge, and being in charge feels good. Pride tells us that we are right, and anyone who challenges us is obviously either misguided, delusional, or else is a threat to our power and so must be silenced. Pride lets us play the gracious teacher, trying to lead that poor stray soul away from lies into the truth. But more often than not, pride makes us into the bully who will do anything to stay on top. Pride takes all the exploration and joy out of life, and makes everything about status, about appearance, about power and control.
I don’t like living with pride any more than I like living with fear. They are not welcome in my life, and it’s a daily struggle for me to send them packing.
So, when I see friends who struggle to see past the narrow end of their own noses, I understand. I get it. I’ve been there, too. I’m still there way too often. Sometimes things pop up in my Facebook memories that make me cringe. I can hardly believe that 18 or 21 or 25 or even 29-year-old me believed those things with so much assurance. I have compassion for those whose fear and pride keep them from being able to consider another person’s way of seeing and being in the world as valid and equal to their own. My heart goes out to those who look at the world around them and see only enemies and not fellow human beings.
Initially, this show is meant for them.
It’s a love letter to people who probably won’t come. It’s a call to come and consider others in a safe space. This show is a chance to take a deep breath, and then plunge into another person’s world and experience, even if just for a half-hour. It’s a call to come and consider how deepening friendship with people not like you can make you more human, more whole, and ignite a beautiful sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. This show is an opportunity to feel the complex emotions involved in learning to see a new way, to acknowledge it’s scary and hard to change your views, to see in new ways, to accept new understandings of the world, but it’s a beautiful struggle, and you will come out the other side ok.
I created this show with a specific group in mind, and my hope was that because they see me as a friend, they would trust me. They would let me guide them into a place where they could experience the grief and joy, the hurt and healing, the despair and hope, the fullness of humanity of others that they usually can’t see because of the blinders put up by politics, religion, tradition, etc. I earnestly desire to be able to lead them by the hand through each custom number painting, portrait, and collage, and allow them, even for just a second, to consider another person’s way of the world as equal, valid, and worthy of their time.
But, even as much as I want to bring them in, I also wanted to challenge them, or really anyone who comes to see my work. Last spring, shortly before I sent in the proposal for this show, I spent some time reading about the Impressionists in France during the later bit of the 1800s. They often tried to get pieces into the Salon, but the art world and society of their day mocked and ridiculed their work, and most often denied it entry. Even when they could get a piece in, it was often lambasted in the strongest possible terms by the crowds who came to see the shows. Claude Monet and the others who started the movement decided to have their own show, but those early attempts were no more successful. For quite some time they were written off as hacks who couldn’t paint.
It’s not the first time (nor was it the last time….Piss Christ anyone?) artists have caused an uproar with their work because it goes against what is considered appropriate and artistic by the not-so-silent, silent majority. But it got me thinking; what would it look like to create work that would cause uproar amongst all the “nice” and “civilized” people in my life? What would it look like to take risks that didn’t try to sugar coat reality, but would call people to action? What would it look like to ask people to empathize and try to understand people they often actively speak against? And how willing would I be to face their ire if they decided they didn’t like being challenged and turned on me?
This tension hounded me all through the creation of Consider…; trying to strike a balance between wanting to help friends out of their fear and pride, but also wanting to slap them about the face a bit with the boldness and beauty of human beings they often seek to forget or deny. You’ll notice each painting features many layers of articles in the background. I choose articles from all the sides I see presented on Facebook and Instagram every day. There are conservative views, liberal views, progressive views, even the occasional anarchist or fundamentalist thrown in for fun. But, at the end of the day, people’s opinions on things don’t mean as much as their actions, which is why the articles are mostly covered over by paint and other pictures.
My mom is a wealth of catchphrases, but one, in particular, undergirded the work of every piece in this show. I first heard this phrase as a kid when fighting my brother for a toy, but it’s proven to be one of the most helpful reminders in my adult life, especially when battling fear and pride. She says people are more important than things. As a kid, it meant my relationship with my brother needed to be more important than my getting to play with some toy. She wanted me to see him as a human being, as my brother, as someone I love and care about, not as competition for something I want, and certainly not as my enemy. As an adult, this phrase took on a similar, but perhaps more nuanced meaning.
People are more important than things…things like national security, things like pride and tradition, things like religion, things like borders and walls, things like money and status, things like power and politics, things like the status quo or the desire to return to an old way of doing things.
Focusing on things will never allow us to consider others.
Focusing on things traps us, and allows fear and pride to wreck our connections to the world.
Focusing on things means that even when we try to be altruistic or generous to others, our actions will be hollow and meaningless.
Who cares if we packed a shoebox with toys for a kid halfway around the world when a kid just like him is sitting alone in a detention center on our doorstep? Who cares if we send money to build houses in third-world countries if we blame the poor in our own country for their poverty and make fun of them for trying to get assistance? Who cares if we voted for the right candidate if we spend all of our time demonizing our apparent opponents? Who cares if we are committed to being anti-corruption and pro-morality if we don’t listen to women who say they have been abused by men (or even other women) we like to have in power? Who cares if we invested in children’s education if the moment that they try to have a voice, we mock them, call them snowflakes, or tell them someone needs to give them a good spanking?
When what we believe, think, know, or understand about the world is driven by things and not by people, we lose our ability to have compassion, to be curious, to expand our knowledge of the world…we lose our humanity when we strip others of theirs and make them less important than objects, ideas, or beliefs.
I created this show with a few people in mind. They are the people who I prayed for daily and desperately, that they would come, they would see my work, and they would for even a second consider that there is more to this world than what they know and are familiar with.
As the pandemic descended, a lot of those people rediscovered that empathy muscle they don’t use often. When George Floyd was murdered, and the protests began, I saw an unprecedented number of them post sympathy and seem to actually seek to understand race in America.
For like two weeks it seemed that my show would land on hearts and minds open to the world, ready to be challenged to grow past their rhetoric and instead choose to love and embrace others as equal and human and whole.
But, like a dog returning to its own vomit, they went back to their old positions and diatribes. It felt like holding a bunch of marbles in my hands, and then someone jostled my elbow, knocking all the marbles out of my hands, and being unable to do anything but watch them scatter and roll away faster than I could possibly scoop them up. They quickly settled back into deeply held beliefs and trolling Facebook, thinking that will fix the world.
I say I created this show with one specific group of people in mind, but that’s not quite the whole truth. I also created this show for the people who I knew would listen; whether that’s because they can identify with one of my paintings because it represents some of their lived experience, or because they are like me, with a curiosity and a desire to know the world around them without the lens of fear and pride warping things.
Even as I thought about, prayed for, and mused on the first group, I thought about, prayed for, and mused on the second group. I considered how they would receive my work, I worried about telling stories that weren’t mine to tell, I obsessed over choosing imagery and symbols that could be triggering. I thought about those who are represented by the various paintings in my show, and I found the courage to not pull punches, but to also not lose my compassion in my frustrations with people who don’t want to listen and to learn. I prayed for those who would try to listen, to look at my work and understand it, that they would have open eyes to receive, and that the work would do mighty things in them.
I dedicate and give this show to anyone who will come and consider. Let those who have eyes to see come and see. Let those who have ears to hear, come, and hear. Hear stories that are not your own. See ways of being in the world that may be different from you. Hear the cries, the joy, the pain, the determination. See the love, the fear, the courage, the need. Come and consider what it feels like to be passed over and forgotten about. Consider what it feels like to be denied your full humanity. Chances are you already know what that’s like…we’ve all had experiences where we are new in a strange place, not unlike refugees who flee to uncertain shores looking for a new home. We’ve all have times when no one listened to us when we were gaslit into thinking our emotions or needs were ridiculous, not unlike victims of sexual assault. We’ve all had times where we just needed to be loved and accepted for who we are, like folks who are in the LGBTQIA community.
We are all human, and at the end of the day, more connects us than separates us.
So, if you come to my show, welcome! I’m really glad you’ve come. I’m glad that you took the time to consider my work. But what I hope is that you take even more time to consider the people in my work. I hope you approach each work with the question, “What don’t I know about….” and fill in the blank. As one of my favorite U2 songs says, “We thought we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” So, start with the place of not knowing, of being curious about another person, of genuine desire to learn, to listen, and to understand. Don’t let fear or pride keep you from discovering something beautiful in someone not like you.
But, consider not stopping there. My hope is that at least one of the pieces in this show will grab you by the heart as well as the mind and that it will prompt action.
The simplest action we can take is to approach everyone we meet with a willingness to listen; a willingness to see a friend and not an enemy. Not everyone we encounter will allow for this; there are some people out there who we may not be equipped to listen to safely. But, if we start with considering others as equal to us, as valuable as we are valuable, as worthy of our time and attention, we’ve made a huge first step towards healing our communities and our country. This is why, though that first group of friends frustrates me, I refuse to see them as my enemies. They may not listen, they may lash out in their ignorance, their fear, or their pride. But, at the end of the day, they are people too. Until we can see all people as our brothers and sisters, as our neighbors, as humans, we will continue to polarize and divide.
Perhaps you are ready to do more; in which case, I would highly encourage you to look up resources for the particular painting you are interested in. In the coming weeks, I will be posting a resource list to my website with books, podcasts, Instagram accounts, documentaries, and other types of resources I found to be helpful in my journey. These are just a starting place, but they might help you focus your search and your journey into understanding others.
One resource I highly recommend if you loved the painting What She Has Done Is A Beautiful Thing is the Netflix documentary Athlete A. Rachel Denhollander is one of the ladies interviewed for the documentary, as well as being the central figure in my painting, and her work and words both in the documentary and in her memoir, What is a Girl Worth? are impactful and incredibly helpful at understanding victims of sexual assault and what we can do to make sure no one has to live through that sort of trauma. If you were interested in my painting Love Your Neighbor, then I highly encourage you to check out the documentary 13th, which is currently on Netflix and is free on YouTube.
Perhaps you are ready for action and are looking to connect personally with people. In the resource list, I will be posting, there will also be organizations, local, national, and international, that I have found to be reputable and who have a variety of ways you can practically get involved with listening, loving, and knowing your neighbor, be they in your city, your state, your nation, or the world. Most of these are continuing to innovate and find ways to safely serve others even in an age of social distancing, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. Again, it’s not an exhaustive list, so please feel free to do your own research, and find something or someone who is doing work that you can get excited about and participate in.
By way of getting you started, if you loved Fishers of Men, you should definitely check out Welcome Neighbor STL. They work with local refugee populations here in St. Louis and provide some awesome ways to connect people so they can learn about each other’s cultures, including a supper club that they now do as a drive-thru event in this season of pandemic and social distancing. Another group that I found (and whose members inspired the painting I Thirst) is No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes. They are an organization that provides aid to migrants along the border, and they have dozens of ways for people to get involved in helping migrants. Their Instagram account is also full of lots of helpful information and opportunities!
In the coming weeks and months, both before and after the election, our nation is going to need us to be the kind of people that can say no to fear and to pride, and instead consider others and create moments of connection and community even with people we disagree with. Our world needs us to be willing to know something beyond our view of the world and to be willing to love people before things. It won’t be easy…in fact, it will probably only get harder as we go along. For whatever reason, loving our neighbors as ourselves is a more revolutionary act than it should be. You might get called names. You might have tough conversations with people who think your priorities are crazy. You might feel all alone.
You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not the only ones in this world who are willing to come and consider. I hope the artwork I have created for this show inspires you, challenges you, and gives you the opportunity to consider others, to find your neighbors in a variety of places, and gets you pumped to love your world a little more. And, if you are someone who identifies with one of the paintings by number I created, I hope you know how loved you are, how worthy you are, how gloriously human you are, and that we need you! I hope you are encouraged and energized to keep speaking your truth, to keep looking for those who will embrace you, and that you don’t get discouraged by the haters out there.
And, if you are one of those people I initially set out to create this show for, if you somehow managed to set aside the fear and the pride for a moment to come and consider, I praise God for it! I’m so glad you came too. This is a safe space for you to try to understand, to be challenged. I hope you consider how you can make a change in how you see the world, and in so doing, help make this world a more loving and less violent place for all of us.
I created Consider… as a way to try and shake us up, to challenge all of us (myself included) to change how we see and how we know, to bridge the gap between those who see enemies everywhere and those who just wish to be seen. I tried to honor the vision I received for this show, to make it a place where people from all backgrounds and persuasions can come and consider, and find each other, even if just for a short moment. In the process, I learned how to better listen to, love, and forgive my neighbor. I learned how to lament with those who are still weeping. I learned how to not make people a monolith, and to take the time to listen to individuals and try to understand. I learned how to find joy, even in the midst of hardships. And, I learned that to be a peace-maker means dealing with the violence that resides in my own heart first before I attempt to bridge the gap between people, to be truly able to look at others not as enemies but as human beings like myself. I remembered daily the wisdom of my mother; that people are more important than things, and I looked for ways to root fear and pride out of my life. It’s been a crazy journey, and it is my joy and honor to share it with anyone who is willing to come and consider.
I dedicate this show to those who have the courage, the creativity, and the conviction to consider others as just as important as them, who are willing to look past differences, who are willing to listen and to learn, and who are willing to take steps to make this world a place of real peace and true joy, where everyone is welcome, and no one is unloved.
So please, come and consider.
Peace to all,
Megan Kenyon is an artist and grad student living and working in St. Louis. Her primary medium is oil, but she loves to dabble in everything from pen and ink to ceramics. Her work focuses on making space for empathy and understanding between disparate groups and/or ideas, looking for common language in both words and pictures. Her work draws on religious and cultural imagery to create pieces that are accessible and yet complex, allowing the viewer to set aside presuppositions and prejudice to experience something new. She has shown work with Webster Arts, being one of the selected artists for the Connecting Communities: Meacham Park show, as well as in their Small Works XII show. Megan also leads The Makers Art Group and helped to host its first art show at Crave Coffeehouse, MADE TO GROW, in 2019. Megan is a graduate student with Fuller Theological Seminary pursuing a degree in Theology and the Arts. You can check out more of her work on her website, or on Instagram and Facebook @servantscrystudios.
High Low‘s “Caffeinated Curation” series of books paired with beverages from Blueprint Coffee is back for another work-from-home edition, this time from the general manager of The Dark Room, Abbie Finley.
“My mornings now as they always have, start with coffee. The Norikori is something unexpected. I eyeballed the pour-over at first, causing it to be under-extracted and sour. Then, with intention and patience, I repoured for the sweetness and balance.
“I bought this book as a means of escapism — the story that Rudy tells is a travel guide of Southeast Asia, as he and his wife try to cope with the immeasurable weight of loss. He is trying to find truth in the Buddhist scripture as they remove themselves from their own chaos, mourning through Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia.
“More than ever, I find solace in the thought of patience right now. The world is changing; my world is changing. It is easy to want to rush and to push forward out of the unknown. I think of the sour pour-over, that held the tropical notes back, and one of the Buddhist quotes:
Be stirred by things which may well move the heart, And being stirred, strive wisely and fight on! – Nyanaponika Thera
“I paired it with an Organic King Crimson from Kilogram Tea (purchased from Blueprint Coffee). A hibiscus tea, it mimics the book, balancing tart and sweet flavors. Perfect for times like these that require an exploration of both the hard truths of life and the joy of the present.”
This duo is the epitome of working-from-home. Not only is this instant coffee the perfect pick-me-up while social distancing, but also its sweet and earthy qualities reflect the driving mission of the magazine; that St. Louis’ artists, communities, and cultural experiences represent the heart and soul of our city.
Recommended by @riverstyxmag Managing Editor Shanie Latham, lattes were her go-to when it came to fueling up during the final production stages of issue 102.
Since 1975, River Styx has published an international, award-winning journal of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and art. The non-profit organization recently joined the literary arts community that works out of High Low‘s office suites on the second floor.