Those commercials are right: Cotton is the fabric of our lives -- or, more broadly, textiles are. We often reflect upon items like upholstery and slipcovers, bed linens (clean, dirty, matching or not), and clothing especially, from too-revealing to unbearably outdated and the whole spectrum of concerns in between. But typically we're far less concerned with textiles as art, and often we don't even think of fabrics in that way. The Craft Alliance-begun, community-wide -- sixteen gallery spaces, in fact -- biennial event, Innovations in Textiles 6, aims to change that by offering up two full months of exhibits, lectures, demonstrations and workshops regarding "contemporary fiber art," all beginning on September 16. But why not celebrate textiles now? This month, the Gallery at the Regional Arts Commission (6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or www.art-stl.com) gets the party started early with the exhibit Textiles as Emotional Landscape, which opens with a free reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 19 (the exhibit has another reception in September coordinating with the kickoff of Innovations, before coming down October 2). At RAC's reception (or afterward), check out the works of thirteen local artists, including those of Jane Birdsall Lander, whose Ancestor is pictured. This show, with its sheer variety (small and large pieces featuring techniques like machine-sewing, embroidery, photo transfer and more) will give you the perfect mindset to begin enjoying all the activities planned for fall -- and it should make you look at the fabrics all around you in a whole new way. -- Alison Sieloff
What About Bob?
Bob Smith, U.S.A. tells us
Who is Bob Smith? Why, he's a yoga instructor, a repairman, an evangelical Christian who ministers as a clown and an evangelical atheist who dabbles in sadomasochism and film reviews (check out www.normalbobsmith.com for proof -- if you dare!). Neil Abramson's documentary, Bob Smith, U.S.A., introduces seven men who share nothing but their name and nationality. As each Bob Smith reveals the details of his life, the realization that any of us could be Bob Smith becomes startlingly clear (visit www.smith .mn/bobsmith.html to determine if you are in fact Bob Smith). Bob Smith, U.S.A. screens at 8 p.m. at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-698-7487) Friday through Sunday (August 19 to 21), and Abramson answers questions after the Saturday and Sunday showings. Tickets are $5 to $6. -- Paul Friswold
Quest for the Best
Missouri Black Expo returns
Quest-seekers invariably turn to Odysseus and his twenty-year journey home to Ithaca for inspiration. There's no doubt Odysseus was a determined man, and after facing monsters on land and sea, evil sorceresses and even the underworld, his quest was successful. But perhaps the fourteenth annual Missouri Black Expo's "Quest for Success" is a more timely example. This year's Expo at America's Center (Broadway and Washington Avenue; Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21) includes an African-American entrepreneur showcase, a speaker series and a panel discussion with Dick Gregory, Bonita Cornute and Freeman Bosley Jr. (among others). There's also a music festival both nights -- Faith Evans is scheduled for Saturday, and Big Daddy Kane and Whodini are scheduled for Sunday (musical performances are included in the $8 admission to the Expo). For those truly seeking inspiration, a kickoff benefit gala featuring Najee takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, August 19, at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; tickets are $29.50 to $100). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.missouriblackexpo.com or call 314-361-5772. -- Amy Helms
Certain people can't be trusted, like those who say history isn't fun. What liars! These people obviously haven't attended one of the Decades Dances at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; www.mohistory.org). This time, the dancers will hustle on back to the '70s from 7 to 10:30 p.m. So for only $8 (call 314-361-7229 for tickets), you can have a bitchin' time in your groovy gear while you learn the Hustle for the first hour. Then, put your Hustlin' skills into practice when Boogie Chyld funks it up for the rest of the night. Fun (and funky) indeed. -- Alison Sieloff