GO! Cover Story in St. Louis Post Dispatch
The Luminary Center for the Arts
The chapel is now an installation space. The basement hosts art shows and indie rock concerts. And the bedrooms where young novices prayed store canvases and cameras.
“Can you imagine? Everything they owned was in this one room,” said Luminary Arts founder Brea McAnally, peaking into a printmaker’s workspace. “Each of them had a small sink and a closet which, when you think about it, is ideal for an artist. Really, these rooms couldn’t be anything else but studio space.”
Room by room, Brea McAnally and her husband, James, are converting this old convent on Kingshighway into a destination for local art and music lovers. The upcoming exhibit “Cause + Time” will showcase work that can be altered by outside forces, from rain to onlookers.
The Elevator Music Series takes place in the center of the Luminary’s gallery and merges music and the visual arts. Last month, experimental band Califone performed the score to the movie “All My Friends Are Funeral Singers” while the film played. Next month, Album Leaf and Sea Wolf perform.
But the Luminary’s main mission is to serve as a home to artists who need studio space, access to equipment and — this is the best part — patrons. Through its innovative residency program, the Luminary pairs artists with patrons for three-, six- or 12-month terms. A patron pays $100 a month to support a local artist; more for a national or international artist.
The artist gets studio space and access to the center’s growing resources: an art library, a woodshop, a variety of technical equipment. The patron gets a work of art.
“It creates a more personal connection,” Brea McAnally said. “The buyer gets to watch the process of the artist, and it minimizes the distance between artist and artwork and buyer and gallery. You’re paying what you would normally pay for one piece of art, but you’re allowing an entire body of work to be created.”
And St. Louis holds on to another artist.
“There are plenty of spaces you can rent that are affordable, but we’re more interested in providing a resource,” James McAnally said. “What we want to do is help recent grads who are transitioning from student and try to connect them to galleries and help with their professional development and really work to keep them in St. Louis and thrive here.”
The McAnallys may seem an unlikely pair to offer career advice. Neither has formal visual arts training or, for that matter, a business education. Brea, originally from Sullivan, is 22 and a self-taught photographer. But she has turned her hobby into a thriving commercial venture. James, originally from Mississippi, is 27 and studied music and English, but he developed a knack for the painstaking work of writing grants.
“We have very different people personalities — she’s a problem solver, and I always have 100 ideas and I would never be actually be able to see them come to light but she is great with details,” James McAnally said. “But at the same time, if we go into a gallery at a different time, we pick up …”
“The exact same things,” finished Brea.
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