The Luminary Center for the Arts
How is the project operated? For-profit, nonprofit, artist-run, etc.
The Luminary is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
How long has it been in existence?
The Luminary started as a collaborative artist resourcing organization in 2007 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2010.
What was your motivation?
The Luminary’s vision has always been to provide the practical opportunities and resources needed to further the development of contemporary art in the St. Louis region. Seeing a gap in support for the work of emerging and midcareer artists, we sought to address some of the most pressing needs articulated by artists in the region by creating a sustainable platform through which to support their work.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Currently, there is 1 full time and 2 part time staff, along with a number of interns, volunteers and contracted staff.
How are programs funded? (membership fees, public funding, sponsors, etc.)
The Luminary takes a diverse fundraising approach that aims to make each program self-sustaining. The majority of our support comes through a combination of cash and in-kind donations, including a membership program that offers editions from resident and exhibiting artists. We also host a wide range of programs and events that provide ongoing revenue, such as the Elevator Music Series, the AV Equipment Library and our primary annual fundraiser, the FORM Design Show. We also receive funding from the Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council and the Arts and Education Council and a number of other grants.
Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
James McAnally is primarily responsible for organizing exhibitions and concerts. Brea McAnally oversees public programming, manages staff and events and is responsible for the FORM Design Show. Sarrita Hunn manages the Residency Program. All staff initiate new programs and are involved in the continuing refining of our process. As with many small nonprofits, everyone does everything when necessary.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We typically host 4-6 thematic group exhibitions and 6 site-specific installations that range from 4 to 6 weeks in duration, as well as 4 large public installations that are on view for one day each at the Old Post Office Plaza.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Group exhibitions, site-specific installations, public installations and an annual architecture and design show. We also host approximately 15 concerts per year in our gallery space along with many artist talks, panel discussions and workshops.
The Luminary’s programming is determined by a curator and, at times, a panel or outside curators. We typically set out a framework we are interested in pursuing, which can develop from a particular artist’s work, a magazine article read in passing, a major museum retrospective, or an interaction on Twitter, and then organize an exhibition in response to that initial trigger.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
Our interest is to create meaningful intersections between social concerns and contemporary practice by presenting challenging, conceptually driven work by emerging and established local, national and international artists. As an organization, we are interested in the full life-cycle of an artist and connect the sites of production, critique and dialogue with that of presentation and public reception. We initially developed as a studio program and have always pursued engagement with a diverse audience, which informs our curatorial approach in meaningful ways as we attempt to organize exhibitions that encourage interaction and conversation. We strive to be conceptually rigorous while maintaining an approachability to an audience not necessarily familiar with the history and theory at work in much of contemporary art.
What’s working? What’s not working?
We have seen significant support for our programming in the St. Louis community and have continued to grow quickly with an increasing national and international presence. St. Louis is becoming an extremely active art community and I think that our organization developed at the right time for the needs of this community. We’ve been able to evolve and experiment with our organizational form and initiate new projects that further our vision. Our biggest challenge, like many small arts organizations, is to continue growing with our current bandwidth as individuals and as an organization.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
Our vision as an incubator for new ideas in the arts is to help develop opportunities that alter the cultural fabric of our community. We aim to promote St. Louis as a compelling community in which to experiment with new forms of artistic organization, sustain a career in the arts, and establish new projects and initiatives with meaningful impact both locally and nationally. We use the terms ‘incubator’ and ‘platform’ often because we think that what we help make possible is more important than what we ourselves are able to accomplish.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are in the process of securing a new location on Cherokee Street that will provide expanded gallery and performance space, housing and studios for our residency program, and workshop space with a woodshop, fabrication studio, and equipment library. We will be able to have on-site housing for visiting artists-in-residence for the first time as well as a significant amount of public space dedicated to supporting artists working in the region. We think that the expansive 22,500 sq/ft space will be a unique hub for creative activity in the city and plan to move in stages over the next year.
We are also working on an exhibition series in collaboration with some of the most exciting arts organizations around the country that will present models for how artists sustain their practice in times of economic and social uncertainty and their role in the broader contemporary ecosystem. It will be our first series of exhibitions after the move and will help re-articulate our commitment to exploring innovative ideas in the arts and opening opportunities for collaboration with St. Louis and other active art communities.
James McAnally is the executive editor and co-founder of Temporary Art Review. A graduate of Washington University, James McAnally is a founder, Co-Director, and Curator of The Luminary Center for the Arts, a nonprofit artist resourcing organization based in St. Louis. In his personal practice, he works as part of the artistic collaborative US English.