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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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Becoming One with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ‘Sea of Buddha’

Raheem Thorpe, a Staging actor, talks about Sugimoto’s Sea of Buddha and how he feels about being back at the Pulitzer since being part of Staging Old Masters.

by Amy Broadway, Interim PR Coordinator

One of the main goals of Staging workshops is that the actors personally connect with the artworks in Reflections of the Buddha. The company will craft and perform scenes in the spring based on musings about the stars of the exhibition, such as Prince Shotoku, the giant sculpture of a left hand, or perhaps Oscar Munoz’s La Línea del Destino (Line of Destiny). The works haven’t been officially chosen yet, and it will be interesting to see what gets picked.

Several Fridays ago, Agnes Wilcox, the artistic director of Prison Performing Arts and the workshop leader, asked the actors to pair off, peruse the exhibition, and speculate about the images they saw. Afterwards, the exhibition’s curator, Francesca Herndon-Consagra, led Staging through the galleries, sharing her knowledge of the artistry, cultural history, and meaning behind the works.

In the video above, Raheem Thorpe, a graduate of the Staging Old Masters program, talks about how he and his peers first interpreted Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Sea of Buddha and what they learned from Francesca. The last time I saw Raheem, he was working with teaching artist Jenny Murphy in Urban Renewal, part of the Urban Alchemy series of programs Transformation. You can see him interviewed in 2010 here. He’s great on camera, and I look forward to seeing him on stage (Staging will perform in the galleries alongside the art).

As a side note, many of you may recall that this is not the first time the Pulitzer has been graced with Sugimoto creations. As we celebrate our tenth year–which officially began in October– we’re looking back at past exhibitions and web catalogues. Click here for another blast from the past, a look at our 2006 exhibition Hiroshi Sugimoto: Photographs of Joe.

Practice, Practice, Practice

by Carianne Noga, Programs and Gallery Assistant

Numerous distinct conversations bubble up all around. They rise and fall, in and out of audibility, and they fade through one another interconnected. A woman talks excitedly about the kind of power she wields on a new contract her firm acquired, while a man nearby describes ways to create inexpensive, handmade Christmas gifts. The front door slams behind a girl storming off, spitting into her phone, “You can’t text me things like that!” At a table by the door, an older couple turns back to discussing their evening plans, while their immediate neighbor continues describing to a colleague her convoluted career path from social work to epidemiology.

I’m sitting in a cafe listening back to an interview recorded with the Venerable Sungak Sunim last week, but I’m also listening to the eclectic noise of my neighbors. I am mostly able to focus on the recording, but occasionally I get carried away by the curious chatter all around me. I don’t know these people, and I don’t really know anything about them except the tiny, little bits that float in through my ears. However, as I hear Sungak’s digitized voice, louder than the rest, it’s almost like her voice is giving subtitles to the mostly indiscernible din behind it. “100 Bhikkunis in the same room. We eat the food. You cannot hear any sound..,” then she fades to a whisper, “only quiet.” I can’t help but notice the great contrast between her description and the scene before me presently.

A Bhikkuni is a fully ordained female Buddhist monastic. Sungak is specifically of the  Chogye Order of Korean Buddhism. This past Saturday, October 1st we held the first of a series of seven workshops in our Meditation Series, and we were led by Sungak through a sitting meditation and then a walking meditation that wove around the Pulitzer’s courtyard. She also gave a very thoughtful and informative talk to introduce the group to several key concepts of Buddhist practices. Back in that interview she elaborated as to why the dining hall would be so silent, an idea inconceivable to me. “Eating is also another practice, walking is another practice, speaking is another practice.” Well, if all of these things are practice, when’s the big event?

Read the rest of this entry »

Chanting for the Opening Reception

Monks from the Mid-American Buddhist Association chant on Vesak Day. Listen to them and members of other Buddhist temples at the Reflections of the Buddha opening reception.

As you readers may have noticed, there hasn’t been much to read here recently, but I assure you the Pulitzer staff and its partners have been busy the past three weeks. Much has happened since Dreamscapes concluded with KDHX DJs emitting dreamy sounds throughout the galleries. Everyone has been developing programs, events, catalogues, docent trainings, and community connections as part of our next exhibition, Reflections of the Buddha.

As I write this, senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra is working with art handlers and registrars to configure awe-inspiring statues and thangkas in relation to the Ando building (quite a humbling experience, they might say). These works date from the second to the twentieth century and were created in Afghanistan, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet. If you would like a sneak peek, visit the Reflections of the Buddha web catalogue holding page and download the gallery guide. Witness the works in person by attending our opening reception next Friday, September 9, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Since Reflections of the Buddha showcases  works born from the culture and philosophy of Buddhism, the Pulitzer decided to partner with Buddhism specialists in the St. Louis community and beyond for several programs and events. As a complement to the opening festivities, at 6 p.m., members of the Buddhist Council of Greater St. Louis will share an opening chant, featuring examples of Buddhist traditions living in the St. Louis area. Read the rest of this entry »

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.


Still wondering what a dream matrix is? Watch art therapist Shelly Goebl-Parker’s interview on KPLR today. Join Shelly at the Pulitzer this Saturday to actually experience one.

SHAKE-38 Performance: An Unexpected Change of Scenery

Ronald Gore Jr (middle) reads from The Merchant of Venice with another alumni from Prison Performing Arts last Wednesday.

I was anxiously awaiting the start of our first SHAKE-38 reading: scenes from The Merchant of Venice. As it turned out, we started what seemed to be a great atmosphere in front of the Watercourt, where the audience was all sitting around in front of us on the stairs and in chairs. Once we started reading, a tornado warning went off, and I had to take my Shakespeare hat off and get in gallery assistant mode to lead everyone to our emergency spot in the building, the hallway in the lower level. Once everyone was safe, we decided to finish the reading. It was going great at first, until you could hear the hail hit the building, and I didn’t know whether to read or run! But I let my knowledge of this building not only calm me but the guests as well (there are few safer places to be during a storm than the Pulitzer building with its sturdy, concrete construction). We finished the reading and everyone forgot about the storm and loved the reading.--Ronald Gore Jr, Gallery Assistant and actor in Prisoner Performing Arts Alumni Theatre Company


The actors and audience continue in the hallway of the lower level post-tornado sirens.

StudioSTL Returns to Dreamscapes for Dreamtime Storytime

The Staircase of Doom 

This past Saturday, Nicky Rainey (StudioSTL Workshop Coordinator) and I took young authors and their parents around Dreamscapes, as the group wrote stories inspired by artworks and the Pulitzer building. This is what Kyle imagined while looking at Do Ho Suh’s Staircase–Pulitzer Version. View more photos from this session of Dreamtime Storytime on the Pulitzer’s Flickr page.

Dreamscapes Web Catalogue Has Launched!

The Pulitzer’s web catalogue for Dreamscapes launched last week, and we’re really excited about it. The catalogue serves not only to give a glimpse at the works in their temporary habitat, but it offers a  background to the exhibition, artists quotes, and documentation of our events and programs. Here’s an overview of

Introduction: Read introductions from Emily Rauh Pulitzer and senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra about the exhibition. Download a checklist of all the works featured in Dreamscapes.

Exhibition: Explore the works in Dreamscapes, beginning with a beautiful mosaic of installation shots. Click on works to see additional images and artist quotes. Click on “The Space” for a map of the galleries, and see how the works are placed within the Ando building.

Events & Programs: Stay up to date on what’s happening at the Pulitzer and see what has already happened in conjunction with this exhibition.

Community Projects: Learn about the social work programs related to Dreamscapes. The Pulitzer is partnering with Beyond Housing, an organization that offers an array of services to the St. Louis community.

Exhibition Blog: Click on categories to see blog posts related to what you want to know about, whether that’s programming, particular artists, or social work projects.

A Love Letter from the Rust Belt

The Heidelberg Project

Regina Martinez and Emily Augsburger, from the Pulitzer’s Community Projects department, stand in front of The Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI.

Two weeks ago we traveled to Detroit to attend the Rust Belt to Artist Belt III conference. The mission of the conference was “to create the foundation for a sustained dialogue that connects an entire creative supply chain; from creative practitioners such as individual artists and designers, to creative sector business owners, to advanced manufacturers and prototypers”. The mission alone piqued our interests, and once we glanced through the panel topics, we knew we had to go. The conference started two years ago in Cleveland, Ohio, a city also grappling with its post-industrial identity. The conference moved to Detroit as the city has some words to offer on the matter. As native St. Louisans, we have witnessed a similar identity struggle here. But as we learn to address the challenge and what it means to be a post-industrial city, we are provided an amazing opportunity for transformation.

Rust Belt to Artist Belt provided a framework in which we could view the myriad of issues facing rust belt cities and how these issues can be addressed by using the resources within the creative community.  As conference participants we were asked to re-think artists and the creative community by acknowledging their very active role in our future-making. We agree that artists play an essential role in the revitalization of landscapes and the vibrancy and cultural connectedness of a place. The conference, however, focused so heavily on building the creative community by calling for new individuals to cities, that we feel it did not fully recognize the creative assets already present. We must recognize, support and connect the creative assets already alive in our cities.

Individuals participating in a panel discussion entitled “The Power of Race in Placemaking and Community Development” shared our sentiments. Not only was this particular panel discussion vital to understanding a community, the conversation is key to many Rust Belt cities. We all have prejudices.  Art is a means of facilitating conversations and social issues that have destroyed and isolated us in the past.  Artists express, artists can be anyone, and art has the capacity to build bridges across all divides.  Art and life are not so separate, and it can be through our collaborative storytelling that we grow to greater connectedness and understanding of one another. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Frame of Reference This Saturday

In this video, Lisa Harper Chang, Community Projects Director, talks about her personal connection to Do Ho Suh’s Staircase. She was a speaker for Frame of Reference in March. The next Frame of Reference is this Saturday, April 2 at 1pm. For a list of speakers, visit our main website.

Frame of Reference was developed in the context of Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta Clark, when we invited non-art specialists (e.g. architects, social workers, patissiers) to talk about individual works in the context of personal experience.  The idea was born out of our docent program Exploring Art.  One pitfall of Exploring Art is that it is a lengthy time commitment for some guests, so we wanted to find a way to bring the diversity of our docents to the forefront in a bite-sized portion. 

We are continuing this program in conjunction with Dreamscapes, every first Saturday of the Month.  In March, talks were given by a curator from a lending institution and focused on the historical relevance of Max Beckmann’s work.  After his 15 minute talk, Lisa Harper Chang, Community Projects Director at the Pulitzer spoke about her personal connections to Do Ho Suh’s Staircase-Pulitzer Version.  In each talk, guests were able to understand the speaker’s interest in the work and possibly relate to the art in a different way than they might have already seen the work.

In future presentations, there will be multiple guests speaking on the same work.  In this way, in 15 minutes you can have a completely different impression of a work of art.  We invite you to attend and see how artworks’ meanings change through the lens of others.

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