Fire. Hammers. A pottery wheel. Some of humanity?s most elemental and primitive tools, yet into the 21st century they remain. And Craft Alliance Program Director Susan Donahue Yates attests that they?re some of the coolest. With each season?s catalog of classes, some of the most popular, according to Yates, let students play with fire, hammer metal into jewelry, or shape a lump of clay into something as fundamentally beautiful as a baby seal mimicking the Mona Lisa?s wry smirk.
At Craft Alliance, the focus is art in all its forms. Whether the tool is the raw flame fusing cut copper or a Mac loaded with Photoshop image-editing software, the intention to inspire and to create remains the same. Its two locations schedule seasonal terms with four- to six-week classes, as well as intensive workshops and children?s classes. Guiding each student along his or her adventure, skilled faculty instruct from experience. Most are working artists who exhibit their work and who have reaped their experience from the trenches of the art world.
Craft Alliance is not just empowering people with knowledge; they are also helping people make mugs, bowls, wooden spinning tops, rings, rugs, and digital photo albums. Many of these things are practical and serve a functional purpose. But many do not?they?re just beautiful things, like vestigial tails. A good number of these pieces are created by hand and are meant to remind us, as Yates remarked, that everyone can do something different from their everyday, workaday lives by adding beauty to a world that truly needs it.
The student and faculty artists backbone the Craft Alliance community, which in 2014 celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Grand Center location represents a regeneration of an arts district already pillared by the Fabulous Fox Theatre, Powell Symphony Hall, and St. Louis University.
The Vino Gallery—located in a renovated police substation in the Central West End—houses an impressive selection of small-production and artisan wines, beers, and other libations amid an ever-evolving collection of local art. The staff guides visitors to the tasting bar or the outdoor patio, allowing guests to sample selections and avoid pouring wines they don’t like into a roommate’s humidifier. Rachael Buehrer, wine enthusiast and educator, and coowner Alex Head, promote informed wine consumption with complimentary tastings after 5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and all day on Saturday. One-hour wine classes lend imbibers further wine expertise, and the wine-of-the-month club helps customers branch out from go-to varietals.
The artists behind Art Monster set their sights on all sorts of blank canvases—from hoodies to sports cars to biceps—and transform them into eye-catching pieces of artwork. Owner Chris Sabatino keeps the modern studio in pristine condition all week long for his staff to decorate bodies with intricate tattoos. They also infuse wardrobes with a bit of attitude by custom airbrushing illustrations of their clients' favorite sports teams, animals, or Pantone swatches.
Studio Altius’s owner, photographer David J. Cerven, drew on his background in theater to create a new approach to portraiture. Like directors and actors, or producers and theater critics who owe them a favor, Cerven’s photographers and clients work collaboratively to create defining moments. Along with fellow photographer Shawna Ventimiglia's background in fashion design, Cerven creates personal, compelling images of children and families, high-school seniors, brides, and couples, as well as professional headshots and sexy boudoir images. Clients can pose in either his 3,000-square-foot studio or outside the studio in a picturesque outdoor setting. In addition to working with clients, Cerven teaches his methods to other photographers in portraiture workshops and classes, and maintains an on-site art gallery.
After a decade getting her hands dirty with clay, artist Donna Schreiter swung open the doors of The Painted Pot in 2001, determined to bring the art of ceramic creation to all ages and skill levels. Inside the open studio, adults, kids, and families dabble raw bisques with glaze-soaked sponges, assemble mosaic works, and shape wet clay on spinning wheels. Kids' classes guide little hands to shape and paint their own pieces, and grown-ups-only evenings throw in margaritas for sipping and instructions for weaving baskets out of old utilities bills.
At My Handyworks, the team specializes in turning handprints into art. They can transform a set of acrylic-paint handprints and footprints on a tile into a custom painting, perhaps of a duck, or dyed wax molds of hands into keepsake statuettes. Their art classes, meanwhile, cover a wide variety of skills, teaching kids to decorate pumpkins and adults to recreate masterpieces by Monet and Van Gogh.