UrbArts Opens Northside Arts Venue

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SAINT LOUIS, MO. – May 22, 2014 – UrbArts expands their programs-based operation by opening a 2,300 square foot storefront arts venue in the revitalized Crown Square business and residential district of Old North Saint Louis on the city’s Northside. Located at 2600 N. 14th Street, UrbArts will host its grand opening on June 21st with an opening reception at noon with remarks from UrbArts President Aireez DaRychuss and other members of the Board of Directors, a writing workshop with Freeman Word, a presentation at 4:00 pm from UrbArts founder MK Stallings linking the Black Artists Group’s efforts to the organization’s current programs and 13 year history, gallery talk at 5:00 pm with visual artist Billy Bill, a book-signing at 6:00 with SpokenVizions publisher Floyd Boykin, Jr. and an evening ticketed event at 8:00 featuring two VerbQuake Youth Poetry Slam champion teams: Gateway STEM and K-Word of Kirkwood High School.

Known for their weekly Friday night open mic and poetry event at Legacy Books and Café, UrbArts views opening the venue as an opportunity to establish itself as a multidisciplinary arts organization, capable of offering a variety of special events.

“Our grand opening is a sampling of some of the events we’ll offer at UrbArts,” said Stallings before adding “from art exhibitions and talks to special evening performances, this is our way to expand how we serve Saint Louisans throughout the region.” Some of the events include their popular poetry slam that will start its fourth season August 30th after the UrbSLAM team returns from national competition in Oakland, California.

Beyond producing art that entertains, UrbArts intends to continue producing art that empowers. “We plan to contribute to the revitalization efforts within the neighborhood through community-building programs based arts and culture,” said Aireez DaRychuss, UrbArts Board President, in a statement.

Rise, formerly Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance (RHCDA), extended the opportunity to UrbArts by leasing the space to the grassroots organization. UrbArts is among several private and nonprofit corporations that Rise has enabled to serve the community.

While Rise opened the door for UrbArts, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group invited them.

“Sean Thomas has been a champion for us” Stallings said, referring to the Executive Director of ONSLRG. “He remembered my interest in establishing an arts venue in Old North from when I was an intern at the Restoration Group. I don’t think UrbArts expands to the Northside without his effort.”

Although appreciative of this opportunity to serve Old North and the Northside, generally, Stallings acknowledged UrbArts is taking a tremendous risk by opening a venue.

“We are a grassroots organization that has no endowment to cover operational expenses, hence the reason we currently have zero employees,” said Stallings who is likely to be UrbArts’ first employee when the organization has capacity. “We’ve been fortunate to win grants for programs like VerbQuake from the Missouri Arts Council and Regional Arts Commission, but we’ll need funding to cover operations. Furthermore, there are lessons to learn from BAG.”

The Black Artists Group, formed in 1968 and sustained by foundations, folded in 1972 after key funders ended their support.

UrbArts is launching a 40 day fundraising drive they call “Rent Party” that runs from June 1st through July 10th. Like the rent parties during the Harlem Renaissance where artists lent their time and talent to maintain housing, UrbArts plans to host their own rent party to raise $12,000 to cover rent and related expenses for one year. They plan to use their social media following to drive donors to their Indiegogo campaign. The campaign will be capped that Thursday by a special event featuring performances and a final push on social media.

“We are at the beginning stages of institution building,” Stallings said. “Our success depends on the abilities of artists to engage the public and the public’s willingness to support our events.”

Operating Hours:

Temporary summer hours (June 21-Oct 4)

  • Tuesday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm and
  • Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm.
  • Closed Sunday and Monday.

Regular operating hours (beginning October 6th)

  • Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 7:00 pm.
  • Closed Sundays.


Upcoming Events

  • May 31st: “Saturday Night Slam: Loohavull Lip v. UrbSLAM,” Doors open at 8:00 pm. Tickets: $10. June
  • June 20th: “Rebirth of Billy Bill: art exhibition” opening reception 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Tickets: Free
  • June 21st: “Grand Opening”
    • Noon: Opening Remarks by UrbArts President Aireez DaRychuss and others
    • 2:00 pm: “Write for Your Life: workshop” with Freeman Word
    • 4:00 pm: “From BAG to UrbArts: a presentation” by MK Stallings
    • 5:00 pm: “Rebirth of Billy Bill gallery talk” with visual artist Billy Bill
    • 6:00 pm: Book-signing with SpokenVizions publisher Floyd Boykin, Jr.
    • 8:00 pm: VerbQuake Youth Poetry Slam Champion Bout: Gateway STEM and K-Word of Kirkwood High School. Tickets: $10.
  • 27th: “Saturday Night Slam: Soup Slam (Kentucky) v. UrbSLAM”. Doors open at 8:00 pm. Tickets: $10.00
  • July 10th: “Rent Party”. 6:00 pm to Midnight
  • August 30th: Saturday  Night Slam: UrbSLAM opener. Doors open at 7:00 p. Tickets $10.00. Free to compete.

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