It’s been five years since my sister lived on Cherokee Street. I remember visiting her on trips to St. Louis; she was in the middle of writing her graduate thesis and I was in the middle of junior high. Now in college, I revisited her old neighborhood. What was once very rough around the edges is now gentrified — and, for better or worse, has changed drastically. One element of the neighborhood that remains is its arts scene, perhaps more vibrant than ever. Here are just three of the many galleries you can check out if you’re in the area.
The outside is like any other historic brick home in St. Louis, but the one-of-a-kind ambience within separates the Reese Gallery from others. The building dates back to the 1800s and was abandoned for more than 20 years before being refurbished and opened in 2014. A mix of traditional gallery light fixtures paired with vintage Edison bulbs illuminate the exhibition with a warm, inviting glow. Contemporary canvas paintings—each so stunningly intricate that a gallery goer must spend several minutes devouring detail—rock you awake and captivate you until exit. Divided into three rooms, the Reese Gallery typically features six shows a year.
VISIT IF: you have a refined appreciation for contemporary art, are intrigued by Edison bulbs or just like historical St. Louis architecture.
If you’re looking for a traditional art gallery, The Luminary is not the place for you. Truth be told, I had a difficult time figuring out which door was the correct entrance. From the exterior, the gallery has an apocalyptic, urban wasteland type of aura (comparable to your neighborhood Kmart), and that atmosphere continues throughout the vast, stark interior. The art on display includes tattered cloth hanging from an entry wall, abstract floor-mounted sculptures, and a video gallery. Perhaps it was an artistic choice, but harsh fluorescent lighting paired with seemingly nonexistent air conditioning made the gallery quite uncomfortable. So, in short, it looked cool but certainly didn’t feel it.
VISIT IF: you are always freezing, enjoy highly abstract artwork, or miss visiting your recently boarded-up department store.
Panorama Folk Art
Take everything I just described about the Reese Gallery and flip it on its head — that’s Panorama Folk Art. Just a step inside and I was already immobilized by sensory overload: black-and-white checkered tile floors, brightly colored canvas paintings, bizarre light fixtures, bicycles hanging from the ceiling and a hodge podge of knick knacks. Featuring pieces from Mark Sheppard and other folk artists, this gallery-meets-Cracker Barrel store certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of entertainment. A little nuance might not hurt, though.
VISIT IF: you are accompanied
by bored children, enjoy sensory overload or appreciate the aesthetic of your grandfather’s favorite restaurant.
Story by Isaac Knopf
Photo by Wil Driscoll