Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Connecting Art and Good Times at Freida L. Wheaton’s Salon 53—Home for the Holidays in St. Louis—Savoring a Holiday Party—“Home is where the art is”…Freida’s is a place where old friends meet…and everybody knows your name.

In September, my first private party in St. Louis was at Freida L. Wheaton's Salon 53 opening for her private residential art gallery.

Now, in December, my second private party in St. Louis---and my only Holiday Party this season---is at Freida's Salon 53, whose slogan is "Home is where the art is."

In September I wrote: "This felt like a welcome home party. This party felt like a welcome to the village." You can read the entire post on that welcoming party at Freida's Salon 53 and the "Freida Footnotes" by clicking here.

Although I carried my camera with me...although cameras were clicking all night long as if I were part of a Broadway Opening...I have no photos to share with you, more's the pity...only the images of my words. Come join the party.

I came early and stayed late to fully savor my Party of the Season. Sitting near the doorway it was like being on a Red Carpet walk on opening night as artists, poets, pastors, professors, and the folks from the pages of "Who's Who in Black St. Louis" came through the door...the artistic director for St. Louis' Black Repertory Theater Company...Eugene B. Redmond ("Happy birthday, again!" someone called out when the poetry king and elder entered...referring to Redmond’s birthday and retirement celebration Nov. 28 at the Missouri History Museum...Howard and Vickie Denson, the forces behind St. Louis' Black Pages...and a steady stream of other really fun guests.

One of the pleasures for me was chatting and catching up with several of the artists I've featured on Riehlife in the series of profiles I've been published on African-American fine artists and leaders of cultural organizations in St. Louis. I was delighted to see Rene Dimanche Jr., Joseph LaMarque (profile coming soon), Edna J. Patterson Petty and her husband Reggie, and Rochleigh Z. Wholfe. (Look at the category ART MATTERS on the sidebar of the web home page to view all posts on this subject.) Meeting these people and getting to know them as we worked on these profiles has been a big highlight of my first six months in St. Louis as they shared their company and comfort.

I met Charlene, an art patron who loves portraits. For her, it's the eyes that have it. She has some portraits in her home whose eyes have presence, and can follow a body around the room. We've seen this before, and it's magic when it happens.

Amidst good food (I got there early enough for the tequila-lime shrimp!) a story-telling feast flowed. We got into a riff of Our Wild Youth and I haven't laughed so hard all month, I'm telling you...the clubs, the carding, the revelations about how the world worked. I told my Bad Girl story of tailing a fellow orchestra member for fun as a teen when Alton had a 10 o'clock curfew in the 1960s and getting into a mishap my father showed up to dig me out of. One of the joys equal to listening to a good story is having your own story echoed back. I felt as if I were at home being teased by my family and I loved the embracing laughter. This is community storytelling, of the type I've known mainly around a campfire or a family dining room table.

When Freida came to top up the nut bowls, I tried to catch her up on a story about where to hold the line in mentoring students; she said to tell it to y'all here. I said, "Now, I run a G-rated blog." Hmmmm....I think you had to be there to catch that particular bit of repartee.

Freida has created a gorgeous space for art and social and creative exchanges. Whenever there's art on the walls and people who love art...and even the artists there who made the art, you have a sure-fired recipe for spirited discussion. Katrina Shannon displayed a cloudscape over the mountains that looked like a seascape. As she explained her process of making these prints, we all flocked around her to learn more about the strong image she'd made.

Freida, like me, is a Frog Woman. All over her house there are marvelous toys, sculptures, prints, and paintings of frogs...from the comic to the transcendent. Me? I keep my collection of frogs corralled in the corner of one bathroom.

Salon 53 is truly everything a salon should be..."a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring hostess, to amuse one another and refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation" (Wikipedia) or, as Freida's brochure says, "A periodic gathering of people of social or intellectual distinction...a hall or gallery for the exhibition of works of art." And, in this space of homey-ness, Salon 53 remains a place to engage with one another and a willingness to stay and converse for a good length of time that can be rare in our age of decreasing intimacy. Salon 53 is all about connection.

I drove home filled with good talk and images of elegantly-dressed people at ease in their skin, willing to laugh and have a good time. We’d joined together to celebrate the re-birth of the sun on Winter Solstice, an evening, a community, the creative energy of the assembly, and the joy of being there together.

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1 Responses »

  1. What a fun party...I'm glad you have a community in St. Louis.

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