Last night I went to my first St. Louis party. It’s the first party I’ve attended since the going away party I threw for myself in Lake County in Northern California at the end of June. This felt like a welcome home party. This party felt like a welcome to the village.
Freida L. Wheaton is a woman with a vision, and such a woman with a vision is unstoppable. She’s supporting the St. Louis black fine art community by creating a private residential art gallery. She even undertook extensive rennovations to expand her home and garden to create a gorgeous space for art and social and creative exchanges. Frieda’s slogan? “Home is where the art is.” She believes that fine art should be in every home.
Salon 53 marked its opening with works of artists who share Freida’s vision:
-Lee Jackson (from Jayess, Mississippi),
-Is’Mima Nebt’ Kata,
-Joy L. Wade,
-Rochleigh Z. Wholfe.
Salon 53’s gallery and garden open house was truly everything a salon should be. Wikipedi defines a salon as a gathering (this was interesting to me since I’ve been referring to my living room as my gathering room):
“A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings, often consciously following Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry, “to please and educate” (aut delectare aut prodesse est). The term is commonly associated with French literary and philosophical gatherings of the 17th century and 18th century, though the practice continues today in many cities worldwide.” You might enjoy reading the longer article on Wikipedia which adds many additional rich connations to the word salon.
Freida is an inspiring hostess and in meeting her guests it was as if the stars came out. This was no coctail party with people mechanically chatting about “what do you do?” Rather, this was a place to engage with one another with “Tell me something about yourself” as the opener and a willingness to stay and converse for a good length of time.
Over a tray of bite-size lemon tarts one woman waxed rapsodic about the importance of texture of food and that it feel luscious and sensuous inside the mouth. When I asked her if she spoke a foreign language and if she felt the same way about the feel of language inside the mouth (something I feel when speaking Spanish or Setwana, say), she came back speaking French and Spanish and said she’d also studied Greek and Latin. Then she went on to characterize both French and Spanish as how she felt speaking them. And how certain names feel when she says them and the memories of kisses they might contain, say.
In addition to the dazzling conversation to complement the delicious catered food and art exhibit, there was drumming and dancing in the garden and an interlude of Freida performing her poetry. Afterwards I sat on a bench on the porch and, mouth to ear, a woman told me some of the stories she performs in public.
When I saw someone I knew there, my happiness was complete. I bought a mask from Joe La Mark and he’s making a pedestal for my “Cattail Corset” paper and cattail sculpture. You’ll be reading more about Joe and his work in coming weeks.
Freida accompanied me to my car, parked a little ways down the block…which was a good thing, because though I’d imbibed no alcohol, I left the salon intoxicated and swooning. 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 an ocassion, an evening, a community, the creative energy of the assembly, and the joy of being there together.
FREIDA FOOTNOTES. As part of her vision of contributing to community and culture:
1. Check out the Sisters-Nineties Literary Group at blogspot. “Sisters~Nineties is a literary group for people of Afrikan descent. We produce a literary review three times annually. The publication includes poetry, essays, book reviews, and short stories by writers of Afrikan descent. Book discussions and writing workshops are conducted each month in St. Louis, Missouri.”
2. Freida is one of four Advisory Commissioners for the St. Louis Art Museum and a member of the museum’s Beaux Arts Council.
3. Freida supports the St. Louis Public Library Foundation.
4. At the national level, she’s been NBI (National Bar Institute) Grants Committee Chair for several years.
And…no doubt too many others to mention. I’m hoping to be able to interview Freida sometime in the future.