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The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis have joined together to create the Contemporary-Pulitzer blog which, for the first time, combines the perspectives of two separate institutions with differing missions within the same blog.

Offering alternating posts each day from the Pulitzer and Contemporary, the blog provides a candid look at the behind-the-scenes workings of both arts organizations.

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Docents Drive Discussion: Thoughts from the 2011 National Docent Symposium

by Courtney Henson, Visitor Services Manager

St. Louis Art Museum docents are amazing.  For two full years the dedicated group has been planning and coordinating a huge effort: Hosting the 2011 National Docent Symposium. Over the past three days, docents from national museums have been in St. Louis and taking notes on the volunteer programs at multiple institutions here. There were guest speakers who rallied the group and breakout sessions that delved into wide ranging topics on how to assist your institution with the visitor viewing experience. “Docent”, “volunteer”, “gallery educator”. These are just a few of the names given at various institutions to the people who volunteer their time to help guests experience art. The Pulitzer had the great honor to co-host a dinner with CAM for about 100 docents and to run a workshop highlighting our Exploring Art program. 

I learned that the bulk of the docents from all over the United States and Canada had backgrounds as educators. They were not always art teachers and certainly not even always a traditional teacher, but their passion for education led them to pursue docenting. It became very clear that the job of a docent has changed over the past ten years, but each docent’s personal desire to encourage learning has evolved his/her process for interaction in the galleries. There seems to be a direct move away from didactic tours that are directly scripted and instead to engage the guests in conversations about the work. This is the approach taken at the Pulitzer. 

For our current exhibition we are trying something a little different. We are bringing together Buddhist practitioners and our PFA docents on the Mezzanine on the third and fourth Saturday’s of the month for a couple of hours in the afternoon. In Exploring Buddhism and Art , there are two minds for our guests to pick, one with expertise on the culture of Buddhism and one with expertise on the art and architecture of the Pulitzer. 

In 2013, the National Docent Symposium will be held in California, and I personally look forward to investigating how that city and the gathered docents have evolved their styles at that time. It was a truly rewarding experience to explain the Pulitzer’s methods as well as share ideas from around the country

Exploring Buddhism, Art and Dance This Saturday

Tomorrow the Pulitzer’s neighborhood, Grand Center, will present one of St. Louis’s most beloved festivals, Dancing in the Streets. “Over 700 dancers and 75 performances on four outdoor stages.” Tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop– Quixotic Fusion will even perform acrobatic-style on the side of the Grandel Theater up to 50 feet high. You too can perform tomorrow evening by learning the steps above with COCA dancers (this is how I will be spending my Friday night).

We hope you will also visit  Reflections of the Buddha, which is in walking distance from the stages. We will be open our regular hours, 10 to 5 p.m. Our current Exploring Art series, Exploring Buddhism and Art, will run from 1 to 3 p.m. A Buddhist practitioner and a Pulitzer docent will be available on the Mezzanine to answer questions about the artwork and how it relates to Buddhism and cultural history.

If you would like to learn a little about the exhibition and its artworks on your own, you may enjoy reading some of our recent press Read the rest of this entry »

Pulitzer Appoints New Director

Van Dyke

Kristina Van Dyke,  Photo by George Hixson | Courtesy of The Menil Collection

August 5, 2011, St. Louis, MO — The Board of Trustees of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts today announced its unanimous decision to appoint Kristina Van Dyke as Director, following an intensive international search.  Ms. Van Dyke, currently the Curator for Collections and Research at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, will begin working full-time at the Foundation on November 7.  Joining the Pulitzer as it prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, she will work closely with Trustees and staff to oversee the exhibitions program, as well as other scholarly, artistic and community-related programming, including the contemporary chamber music series.  Ms. Van Dyke succeeds Matthias Waschek, who served as Director of the Foundation for more than seven years.
Read more

Robert W. Duffy, associate editor at St. Louis Beacon, introduces Kristina Van Dyke and offers a look at the history of the Pulitzer:  ”Pulitzer Foundation names new director

City Studio STL: Somethingness

Theaster Gates and his students talk about Gate’s summer course through Washington University in St. Louis. During the class, students worked with Gates to rehab a house in Hyde Park and devise ways in which the house can be used as an arts hub for the neighborhood.

Community projects at the Pulitzer have always raised questions of sustainability. In understanding our institution’s ever-evolving role within the community arts of St. Louis, we are a catalyst, incubator, and (at our best moments) innovator. We work to enhance the already-impressive, effective, and inspiring work of our colleagues by bringing both the strengths of a cutting-edge arts institution dedicated to promoting the personal experience with all arts and social work practice. This means, however, that we are at risk of violating one of the founding principles of community practice by parachuting into a community then exiting quickly, without sustaining commitment to the communities with whom we worked. In principle, we are keenly aware of this and have attempted to balance our institutional identity with ethical community practice by forging partnerships with institutions that have the potential to carry the innovation forward. As this department is coming upon its fourth year, we are still in the process of learning what it means to “carry the innovation forward” and just how much continued support and involvement it might take from the “catalyst”.

Take Theaster Gates in Hyde Park for example. Theaster entered this community through our project, which was a collaboration between Holy Trinity Academy and Succeeding with Reading, a program that had existed at Holy Trinity Academy for a few years preceding Urban Expression, the Pulitzer-catalyzed program inspired by our exhibition, Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark. He was captured by the community—particularly, the kids—and became committed to arts-infused community development in the neighborhood. While our exhibitions changed (and the programs with it), we were able to stay involved by co-sponsoring the CityStudioSTL (Somethingness: Ways of Seeing and Building) with the Sam Fox School of Visual Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. In so doing, we are figuring out our institution’s role in ensuring that Theaster’s commitment to Hyde Park (through Rebuild Foundation) has a better chance at success. It’s a work in progress, but the brilliant work of Theaster, his employees, and the students of this summer class have provided another huge step toward fulfilling the potential of a beautiful, if neglected neighborhood and doing so by forging partnerships between existing community members and those from the outside. We’ll keep you posted as his work evolves.

Where are they now?: Artist Jenny Murphy Teaches Creative Reuse and Environmental Responsibility


Transformations Still Budding Through Perennial

by Jenny Murphy

When the Transformation: Urban Renewal workshops were over last summer, we rushed to wrap up the program, set up for the silent auction of the participants’ work, and evaluate the artists’ experiences. The shop at Employment Connection, where I led eight ex-offenders and homeless individuals through the process of transforming discarded chairs into unique handmade craft items, was left waiting for another group to begin creating.

While we searched for funding to start another round of workshops, I had time to reflect on my experience with these amazing and inspiring individuals. I realized that the process of creative reuse, in which you take an otherwise discarded item and transform it into something useful, was a powerful expression of creativity, self-sufficiency, and social and environmental responsibility, which I wanted to share with all people. So I hunkered down and got to work actualizing an idea I had been thinking about for the past two years, Perennial.

Perennial is a non-profit social enterprise that offers educational programming in creative reuse to diverse populations and sells creatively repurposed home furnishings and eco-friendly supplies for reuse projects. The big goal for our organization is to open a community workshop to house these activities.

Our workshop will be a place where you can take a class on how to repair a squeaky chair or refinish an old table. Where you can scavenge a storehouse of furniture rescued from a landfill and buy milk paint for your project. Where you can purchase a beautifully handcrafted table to add a unique element to your home. Most of all, it will be a place where you can come to be inspired and work with your neighbors to repair, design, and create the things you need and use. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreamtime Storytime with Jana Harper Tomorrow

This month’s Dreamtime Storytime takes a different turn than in February, as our guest speaker asks participants to think about a specific piece in Dreamscapes. Tomorrow at 1pm, visual artist Jana Harper will ask visitors to imagine stories from the fantastic shapes in Joan Miró‘s Painting from 1953 and share them with one another.


Fortuitously, some of Harper’s own artworks are showing in a collaborative exhibition (with Gina Alvarez) right next door to us, at the Sheldon Art Galleries. Read a review  of the magical Poems by Bobby Thiel in the Riverfront Times. My suggestion for your Saturday: see Jana’s show, then walk a few feet and meet one of the minds that created it.

Jana Harper and Gina Alvarez, 2009, Title Page for Poems by Bobby Thiel, digital print, monoprint, collage and hand embellishment, 22 x 30 inches, courtesy of the artists. Photograph by David Johnson. Jana Harper and Gina Alvarez, 2009, Title Page for Poems by Bobby Thiel, digital print, monoprint, collage and hand embellishment, 22 x 30 inches, courtesy of the artists. Photograph by David Johnson.


Dreamtime Storytime is every fourth Saturday at 1pm for the duration of Dreamscapes. Admission is free.

Swoon Installs Mural in Grand Center

Find out more about Swoon and this video on Saint Louis Art Map.

Hello, Neighbor, also known as Powell Symphony Hall

Concert-goers in the Grand Foyer at Powell Symphony Hall

Working in Grand Center, or the “the intersection of art and life,” I inevitably pal around with other arts institutions, and experience different forms of art. Friday, November 12, was the fifth annual “Bloggers’ Night” at our neighbor/partner in crime Powell Symphony Hall. Eddie Silva, the St. Louis Symphony Publications Manager, invited me and several other St. Louis bloggers to attend a concert in exchange for online digests of our experiences.

Let me first say that I love Powell, and if you haven’t been to the Symphony in a while, go. You’ll immediately feel more cultured, happier and as if you’re really living, even if you know nothing about classical music. Pronouncing the names of composers is intimidating, and I’ve wondered if I’m not refined enough to touch Powell’s red velvet handrails, but you don’t need to be an art major to enjoy the Pulitzer, and you don’t need to be a classical musician to enjoy a concert. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is Urban Wave?

Left to Right: Chloe Bethany, Emily Task, Regina Martinez

From left to right: Chloe Bethany, Emily Task, Regina Martinez

For each exhibition, the Pulitzer experiments with how Social Work and Art can benefit each other. It’ll be interesting to see how Urban Wave, made up of two social work students and an artist, combines their skills for the project this fall. Now that you know the general idea about the pasting project, we’d like to give you some background about this interdisciplinary team.

Chloe Bethany is a multi-media artist and writer from Charleston, South Carolina whose work in drawing, painting and installed objects investigates the abstraction of language through manipulations of color, form, space and syntax. In May 2010, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St Louis and has since been exploring the role of the artist within her community. She is a founding member of a small-scale collaborative art space, Pig Slop Studios, located in South City, St Louis, an enthusiastic member of the Pulitzer Foundation’s outreach team, and a recently-hired after school art teacher at the Most Holy Trinity School in North City, St Louis.

Emily Task is completing her MSW at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, with a concentration in Urban Education, Youth Empowerment, and Community Development. Emily served as the Program Director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership from 2007-2010, and currently is the Co-Chair of the Community Arts Initiative, in partnership with the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. She is a 2009 Community Arts Training Institute Fellow from the Regional Arts Commission in Saint Louis.

Regina Martinez is currently working on a Masters of Social work at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. She is concentrating in Social and Economic Development with a special interest in utilizing the arts to strengthen communities. For the past year, she worked as an advocate for the educational rights of children living in East St. Louis with the Education Advocacy Project – a pilot program established in collaboration between Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc., and Griffin Center after-school programs. She is currently working with the community outreach arm of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, with a focus on planning, implementing and evaluating community arts programming tailored to the St. Louis region.

First Wave

Urban Wave pastes the hand from stylus on a building in Old North St. Louis, for the first time.

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St. Louis, MO 63108
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