Black Creatives Build a Brighter St. Louis for All

How do we build a stronger St. Louis? Is it through education, economic development or civic engagement? According to some, creativity plays an integral role in building strong, thriving communities. St. Louis has no shortage of creatives, with a bustling underground arts scene, non-profit organizations known for incorporating design thinking and innovative methods into civic and public health work, young professionals changing the way we approach communications and audience building, and a long list of multidisciplinary artists who are unapologetic in their work and uninhibited in their potential. As our region’s leadership looks to the future, we encourage them to bring young thought leaders into the mix.

Tom Borrup and The Partnership For Livable Communities collaborated on the book “The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook: How To Transform Communities Using Local Assets, Arts and Culture.” According to their research, civic institutions like museums, public galleries and community art organizations have the rare opportunity to lead significant change by engaging specific groups to help devise and carry out creative community-building neighborhood programs. The work outlined in Borrup’s book could be looked to as a model for bridging St. Louis’ many divides.

Jon “Chill Season” Alexander, a local St. Louis photographer and videographer, believes providing a space for Black creatives is vital to the growth in St. Louis. It’s something people outside of the Black community can use to start seeing the world through the eyes of African Americans, Alexander explains.

“Black creatives are those alumni students who learned culture change in high school or college, and decided to use a similar blueprint for their backyard,” says St. Louis creative Winne Caldwell. “For example, we have a State Representative who is well versed in poetry/hip-hop. Black creatives are innovative and forward thinking.”

One place this community is being supported is social media. After 64 posts, a St. Louis-based Instagram account titled @AllBlackCreatives has gained a following of more than 4,500 and a reputation for spotlighting innovative and inspiring artists of color. Taking a cue from @AllBlackCreatives and its founder, Danielle, we are sharing part one of our spotlight on additional local Black makers, artists and musicians making waves in the creative realm.

Latoya Thompson: Latoya Thompson is the owner Heritage 1933, a natural skin beauty line helping women achieve their own personal beauty goals. However, being in business for herself and providing women with essential hair and skin care needs isn’t all that Thompson has done. With each purchase of Heritage 1933 Thompson will donate hair care products to women and children in need. Thompson wants to celebrate natural beauty for all women while improving the lives of others.

Mvstermind: St. Louis hip-hop artist and producer Mvstermind is rising to the top with his thought-provoking lyrics. The music video for his song Mali Moolah made it to BET Jams and fused multiple genres including soul and electronica. He was named the 2017 Artist of the Year at the St. Louis Underground Music Awards.

Winnie Caldwell: Winnie Caldwell is an entrepreneur and the owner of The Wire Hanger, an online media entity. Caldwell is focused on helping others’ business ventures through business card design, resume review, social media management and printed tees. Caldwell lives by her mantra of giving inspiration to help someone reach their purpose successfully as an entrepreneur.

Jon Alexander: A visual artist who has contributed his talents behind the scenes for the Nine Network’s documentary Gentlemen of Vision, Jon Alexander is the artist behind Vess’ popular St. Louis Made miniseries. The three-part documentary highlights some of St. Louis’s hottest eateries, and local breweries.

Eric ‘Prospect’ White: Like a true Renaissance man, White is an artist of many mediums. Lending his time to St. Louis Reclamation Arts, White works in underdeveloped neighborhoods to help them renovate overlooked objects and areas by turning them into high art. He also works for Cherokee Street Reach teaching youth to practice actionable social change through art.

Tia Payne: Tia Payne is a St. Louis painter and writer whose artwork has been featured at local galleries such as 2720 Cherokee for the Year of the Woman exhibit. Her most recent work draws inspiration from astrology.

Kayla Thompson: Local author Kayla Thompson recently published her latest project, Of Magic and Madness. This book of short poems was created to inspire those coping with hurt and loss.

Bloom: Bloom, a St. Louis vocal artist, combines the genres of soul, electronic and psychedelic into her own unique, signature style. Her first release, Raindrops, has more than 94,000 plays on Soundcloud. Her work is also available on Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.

ArtCultureKing: Cameron Williams, the artist behind ArtCultureKing, is a local creative specializing in graphic illustration. His latest creations can be seen at the upcoming Clothesline 314 event at Blank Space.

Kas King: Kas King is originally from the other side of the bridge, but made St. Louis home in 2006. King, a painter himself, owns his own art gallery located just outside Downtown. His art gallery, M.A.G.N.I.F.Y, an acronym standing for Manifesting Artistic Gifts and Nourishing Ideas for Youth. M.A.G.N.I.F.Y is a space for local artist to showcase their artwork, but also a space for youth who come from underdeveloped communities an opportunity to a safe haven and express themselves through art.

These individuals make up a small sampling of the creative community here in St. Louis. Lift up the Black Creatives you know making waves using the hashtag #mySTL to nominate individuals for future features.