Seeing the Stories of St. Louis
The worst part of being “flyover country” is that the world only turns it eyes toward you when things have gone terribly wrong. St. Louis is currently known for its unrest, and though that image may have some truth to it, the city also has a long history of activism, culture, and community engagement.
Our Conference dialogue this year, inspired in part by St. Louis’ role in the country’s historic and current civil rights movements, is focused on the stories behind the story. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie puts it in The Danger of a Single Story: “I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person.” This year’s Conference field trips will ask attendees to engage as much as they absorb. To participate as much as they “tour.” An most importantly, to make space to listen. St. Louis, like many communities, is rich with complexity and worth exploring from the perspective of its citizens. Whether you choose a tour or a morning workshop steeped in activism and social justice, we urge you to shed your preconceptions and open your eyes to the multiplicity of stories (and possibilities) that exist in this city.
Each field trip takes place from 9am-12pm, and requires you to register via your Conference registration form (if you've already registered for the Conference, no big deal, you can just sign back in to your account and add a trip!).
TCG is grateful to our collaborators in the St. Louis community for helping to make these events possible. The 2018 National Conference Field Trips are sponsored by Edward Jones, with additional support from the TCG Audience Revolution program.
Black History at The Griot
In some African countries, the “griot,” (pronounced “GREE-OH”) is a highly respected member of the community who collects, preserves and shares the stories, objects, and cultural traditions of the community. The Griot Museum of Black History expands upon this tradition by using its collection of life-size wax figures, other art, artifacts, and memorabilia to interpret and share the stories of African Americans who have contributed to our country’s development. The Griot has been a part of the St. Louis community since 1997.
The Griot, and its Founder and CEO Lois Conley, are regular collaborators with the arts community. Most recently, the museum partnered with theatre for social change organization, A Call To Conscience (C2C), to present a multimedia art exhibit “Black Women Speak,” in conjunction with C2C’s one-woman show “A Black Woman Speaks.”
Join fellow TCG attendees for a unique experience at the Griot on Thursday morning, June 14th for a tour of the museum, then join a panel of local artists, moderated by Ms. Conley, in an interactive discussion of how art is used to address social issues.
Thomasina Clarke is an actress, director, musician and writer. She has performed with several local theatre companies – Unity Theatre Ensemble, Metro Theatre Circus (now Metro Theatre Company), Upstream Theatre Company, Hot City, Shakespeare Festival-St Louis and Gitana Productions. She has written, directed and produced well over fifty plays and musicals for children and adults.
Peggy Harris Neely is a versatile worldwide entertainer, songstress and actor whose performing art impacts the lives of people of all ages. Peggy has been a teaching specialist and private coach for various schools, youth organizations and individuals, including the Muny, COCA, and the Missouri History Museum. She taught playwriting skills and was an arts mentor for Viva Vox, a program for at-risk teens. In 2012, Peggy was nominated for Who’s Who in Black St. Louis.
Solomon Thurman is a multi-media visual artist and owner of 10th Street Gallery in St. Louis. Thurman is a “research artist” whose work is created from historical documents, events, and personal heritage. He is among the artists who helped to complete the Blacks in Flight mural at the Lambert St. Louis Airport and was commissioned by the late attorney Margaret Bus Wilson to create the portrait the of the enslaved girl Ceclia. He is the Missouri Arts Council’s 2018 individual Artist of the year Arts Award.
Artist-Activists at Art House
In the minds of many, St. Louis will be memorialized by the violent images of unrest and protest following the death of Michael Brown. Unseen are the thousands of images of community and caring that took place mere feet from those same violent images and continue to beautify the city today.
Art House provides us with one of those images. A collective of artists and activists, active for years but galvanized in the streets of Ferguson, Art House continues to serve their neighborhood, community and city by creating space for citizens of all walks of life to create.
Participants will travel to Art House to meet with community members: they’ll share a meal, hear stories from the community, and see their work. The morning will provide an opportunity to learn about the people of Art House’s work, past, present and ongoing.
Please note: All visitors to Art House will be asked to bring with them an item (or items) to donate to the space, selected from the curated list we’ve received from Art house leadership. In this way, we hope that our group can leave something behind that provides sustainability for this important community force, upending the narrative of the dominant appropriating the stories of the marginalized. It is important that theatre artists don’t just enter spaces and take stories from marginalized communities but also leave something behind that provides sustainability.
Civic Dialogue at the Old Courthouse
In 1857, the Old Courthouse, within walking distance of the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, was the center of the country’s debate on race as the Dred Scott case (in which Dred Scott, a slave, famously sued for his freedom, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court before losing) took the country by storm. Today, it continues to be a centerpiece in the racial dialogue and debate that is integral to the history of St. Louis.
Visit this historic site and learn from engaged St. Louis citizens, lovingly called “the Amandas”, about the rich history of civil rights litigation in the city. Over the course of the morning, participants will broaden their understanding of the historical factors that led to the unrest in Ferguson, and continue to motivate activists and citizens today.
Amanda Clark is the founder of Renegade STL, a tour company that focuses on the hidden and complex parts of St. Louis' rich history. Amanda E. Doyle is a St. Louis writer and author. Her most recent book is "Standing Up For Civil Rights in St. Louis”. Together, “the Amandas” enjoy scheming up ways to bring more attention to St. Louis’ fascinating past and present.
The Life of Tennessee Williams Tour
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) lived for two decades in St. Louis, and elements of the city can be seen throughout his work. Williams worked downtown at the International Shoe Company, where his father was an executive, a clear nod to which can be seen in Tom’s occupation in The Glass Menagerie. While Williams was notoriously hard on St. Louis and its people, he engaged regularly with its cultural offerings: favorite Williams haunts include the Tivoli Theater, Forest Park, the Muny and the Saint Louis Art Museum.
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, founded in 2015 to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic and educational events that celebrate the art and influence of Tennessee Williams, regularly offers tours of the playwright’s path through the city, from his high school to his final resting place (much to his chagrin) in Calvary Cemetery. Join Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis on special, TCG-only tour exploring the history of one of the U.S.’s greatest dramatists.
Please note: Participants on this tour will be asked to move on and off of a shuttle as they visit different locations. The shuttle is ADA accessible.
Cherokee Street Walk-and-Taco Tour
Cherokee Street is a vibrant center for commerce, culture and creativity in St. Louis, bringing together contemporary art, architecture and culture, all within a historic district. Galleries, design studios, art exhibition spaces, public art projects and artists’ studios assemble on Cherokee Street. This tight knit community or immigrants, antique dealers, local businesses, and artists have worked hard to remain committed to each other and fending off the forces of gentrification that so often plague thriving urban communities.
Named St. Louis’ Mexican-food mecca, Cherokee Street has a large concentration of Latinx owned-and-operated bakeries, restaurants, shops and grocers. Plenty of taquerías are located throughout the neighborhood, showcasing a localized styling of delicious Mexican food.
Annual celebrations on Cherokee St. include Cinco de Mayo, the People’s Joy Parade, an expression of springtime celebration to honor the spirit of community on Cherokee Street and the resourceful creations of local artists, and Mexican Independence Day in September.
Join the Artistic Director of St. Louis’ Stray Dog Theatre, Gary Bell, for a tour of the historic district, with plenty of stops (for shopping, tacos, art viewing and more!) along the way.
Please Note: Participants on this tour will be walking six blocks over the course of approximately two hours.