Oh, My Landlord! The Luminary Center of the Arts is not a religious organization. But it's housed by one. Mystery solved.
Jennifer Silverberg
The Luminary's James and Brea McAnally

For the past few years, the vast second floor above the former Globe Variety Store at Cherokee Street and Ohio Avenue has been a hive of activity — a jungle of color and clutter and cheap beer, an artists' loft, a music venue/rehearsal space, a shelter for itinerant misfits in need of a place to crash for the night. Ergo the nickname its tenants bestowed upon their ragtag studio space:

Pig Slop.

As of August 1, though, Zak Marmalefsky, Chloe Bethany, Jonathan Muehlke and their fellow Pig Sloppers must vacate the 22,500-square-foot building to make way for a more ambitious and deep-pocketed tenant, the nonprofit Luminary Center of the Arts.

Most members of the Pig Slop crew are accepting of their fate: It is, after all, the time-honored waltz of gentrification, a dance led by starving artists who accept sketchy environs in exchange for rock-bottom rents, elevate a neighborhood's cachet by their very presence, only to be given the bum's rush when the price per square foot exceeds their meager means.

A few, however, see in the current situation a deceitful scenario, fueled by a local-culture rumor mill that casts the Luminary as a religious outfit costumed in artsy garb, led by a missionary whose secret motive is to bring hipsters over to Christ's side.


The Luminary's current home is a former convent near the intersection of South Kingshighway and Arsenal Street, at the southwest corner of Tower Grove Park. The nonprofit group is the brainchild of twentysomething husband and wife James and Brea McAnally — he a deadpanning redhead from Mississippi, she a bubbly brunette from Sullivan. (You may have caught their rock duo, US English.) Together they established the Luminary in 2007, aiming to build a residency program to supply local artists with material and studio space. Within a short time, they'd become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that had reached that goal and then some.

By the summer of 2011, they'd exhibited work borrowed from the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York City. Although their basement performance space accommodates only 299 people, they lured indie-music darlings Of Montreal, who regularly sell out venues more than three times that size, to play a Fourth of July show. And they worked with the civic group Downtown Now! to present a series of concert-art hybrid events on the plaza across Locust Street from the Old Post Office.

They even forayed into print: In March 2011 James McAnally founded the Temporary Art Review, a journal of criticism, profiles and essays, whose June issue featured interviews with the artists at Pig Slop.

Last fall the McAnallys quietly toured the space, accompanied by owner Will Liebermann.

Then, on December 2, James McAnally e-mailed Pig Slop with an announcement: The Luminary intended to purchase the building and move in.

"I can't speak for everyone in the group, but we felt that [the McAnallys] went behind our backs and talked to our landlord," says Jonathan Muehlke, one of ten artists with studio space at Pig Slop.

The announcement was, to say the least, premature. In order to buy the building and commence a renovation, the McAnallys figured they'd need to raise a minimum of a half-million dollars. For an upstart nonprofit with an annual budget under $200,000, that's a big chunk of change.

The McAnallys claimed to have secured funding from well-heeled donors, seven of whom contributed in excess of $1,000 apiece. They also launched a campaign to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter.com, an online fundraising platform that brings eyeballs from around the world to otherwise obscure projects. In the allotted 60 days, the Luminary's proposal netted $22,244 from 341 backers.

Though well shy of $500K, the nonprofit seemed well on its way to carving out a space on Cherokee.

"It was really troubling for me personally because I'd spent two years cultivating that space," says Muehlke, who was one of the first artists to sublease a studio there. "It was really psychologically stressful for a lot of us."

Muehlke had heard through the grapevine that the Luminary was operating rent-free in the old red-brick convent on Kingshighway. With a little online digging, he learned that the space was a donation from a recently established church called the Journey, which is headquartered next door. When he discovered that the McAnallys were members of the church, Muehlke wondered just how deep the relationship went.

On April 1, Muehlke unearthed a video on the Journey's website. Dated November 2010, the video included an interview with James McAnally, whom the host introduced as one of "the men who lead our nonprofit ministries here at the Journey." A 40-minute Q&A followed, in which McAnally fielded questions about how his day-to-day interactions with artists mesh with his mission to communicate the Gospel.

Muehlke says he was so taken aback by the dialogue that he watched it twice. "The first time I thought: 'What is this?' The second time, I thought: 'This is kind of serious.'"

Muehlke interpreted the exchange between McAnally and his interlocutor as evidence that the Luminary's cofounder might be a covert prosthelytizer. He posted the video on his Facebook page and commented: "Pig Slop is getting displaced by a funding organization with Christian roots.... I have nothing wrong with Christians; my father is a pastor. I just have something wrong with passive aggressive forms of religious jingoism."

The video caught the eye of Travis Howser, co-founder of the Transients, a locally based group that hosts collaborative exhibits by local and national artists inside unused spaces.

"I realized that there was more there than just Pig Slop losing their home," Howser recounts, explaining his decision to post the clip himself — on the Luminary's Facebook wall. Within a minute and a half, he recalls, the embedded clip had been deleted. Within a few hours, it had disappeared from the Journey's website as well.

"I didn't get a message from [the McAnallys], or anything," Howser says. "All I saw is that it disappeared. To me that meant they were trying to hide something."


Sipping a bourbon and ginger beer on the back patio of the Royale, James McAnally patiently insists (again) that the Luminary is not a Christian group and that he harbors no desire, covert or otherwise, to convert anyone.

He does, however, freely admit that he has a lot to learn about public relations.

"I don't think we've done a good job of explaining what the relationship is, in part out of the assumption that people would not be all right with it," he concedes.

Avoiding the issue has cost the Luminary financially; McAnally says some current and potential donors have ceased or decided not to initiate their support. (He declines to divulge who has backed off or how much money was involved.) Now he is eager to set the record straight.

McAnally says that about seven years ago, while he was a student at Washington University, he crossed paths with Rev. Darrin Patrick. A former high school "party jock" who'd found Jesus, Patrick earned a master's of divinity at Midwest Baptist Seminary in Kansas City and then, in 2002, founded the Journey. His aim: to touch the souls of athletes and artists — two cultures that he felt weren't connecting with a stodgy religious establishment.

The Journey typified the "emerging church" trend — a loose nationwide movement of young Christians who express their faith via nontraditional means. In the Journey's case, that included pumping Sufjan Stevens and rockabilly tunes through the sound system during services, putting together a series of sermons on atheism and talking theology over pale ales once a month at Schlafly Bottleworks. (The beer drinking rankled the teetotaling Missouri Baptist Convention, which publicly regretted having loaned money to the Journey when it moved in 2005 from its original base in Clayton to the former Holy Innocents Catholic Church on Reber Place, its current home.) By mid-decade the Journey's membership numbered in the hundreds and was doubling every year.

Darrin Patrick says McAnally stood out amid the flock as "an interesting guy," all the more so after the young man with the white-frame glasses sketched out his dream to open a nonprofit arts-resource center. Patrick was sufficiently impressed to offer the convent building free of charge. The Luminary was born.

McAnally took pains to set up his nonprofit as an entity that is completely separate from the church. His annual salary — $30,000, according to the Luminary's Internal Revenue Service Form 990 — is drawn from the Luminary's coffers. The group lists an additional $24,000 in salaries, shared between Brea McAnally and Sarrita Hunn, the Luminary's residency coordinator. (McAnally says most of his and Brea's income is generated by Brea's wedding photography business and her annual wedding-industry event, the Off White Wedding Show.)

Both McAnally and Patrick say the Journey handed over the keys to the convent with absolutely no strings attached — a "wall of separation" they insist has held firm, even as the Journey provides about 25 percent of the Luminary's $190,000 annual budget. (The church donates some cash to the nonprofit, but the in-kind donation of the convent space, valued at $34,000 comprises the bulk of its support.)

"We've never controlled their programming," says Patrick. "We don't even know all that they do."

How, then, might the Journey benefit from the Luminary's work?

"We don't simply want to build a good church, we want to be part of building a great city," Patrick responds. "We know that when the Luminary is doing what they do, we have a better city, a more creative city, a more beautiful city. That's what's in it for us."

Jill McGuire, executive director of the Regional Arts Commission, would seem to concur with Patrick's view. McGuire says she doesn't understand the conspiracy theories hovering over the Luminary.

"I can guarantee you there's nothing nefarious going on," says McGuire, whose group approved a $2,000 grant for the Luminary earlier this month. "People tend to see something connected to a religion and suspect that those religious beliefs are being funded unknowingly. That's just not true in our case."

Representatives from three other Luminary benefactors — the Missouri Arts Council, the Arts and Education Board and Downtown Now! — all say that not even an overt religious affiliation would disqualify the Luminary Center of the Arts from receiving grants. [Editor's note: In 2011 Riverfront Times presented the McAnallys with a MasterMind Award in recognition of their work at the Luminary.]

McAnally says he did nothing deceptive in establishing the Luminary as a secular nonprofit.

"It would only be deceptive if we then turned around and were doing religious work, and we don't," McAnally says, adding that to his knowledge, none of the Luminary's past resident artists have joined the Journey.

Would he like to see it happen someday?

"I think that's irrelevant to what we do."


And yet there's that 2010 video, which James McAnally confirms the Journey took down at his request.

"We were, like, 'If this isn't important, we'd prefer that this not be up, because someone is using it to criticize us and to affect our capital campaign.'"

Riverfront Times has obtained a copy of the Journey video and posted it on our news blog, Daily RFT). While it does show McAnally addressing an interviewer's questions about his ministry, his responses don't support the inference that he intends to use the Luminary to spread the Gospel. If anything, they imply the contrary.

For example, the host asks: "For you, James, how does the Gospel connect with artists?"

Replies McAnally: "A lot of what we do is almost on this tightrope, to the extent that the people we work with are really culturally savvy, they're in the know. They're watching, almost, for: 'What are you going to do to slip up this relationship?' ...[But] these people are [on the premises] day to day, so we're working with their day-to-day lives."

The host recasts his question: "So, your relationships and your resourcing have opened doors for you to have clear communication about the Gospel with the population you're serving?"

McAnally: "Yeah, it doesn't always happen. But so many people have [unclear] a close family member dies and we're who they call. And based on our professional relationship with them, that wouldn't make any sense. But it's this ongoing, intentional 'we're here for you to help you however you need it.' It starts off with this 'we're helping you in this specific area of your artistic practice,' and then it spreads out from there.

"We've set it up intentionally [so that] it's long-term," McAnally goes on, "so people have a studio for three, six, twelve months. So they're there for a while to give time for an actual, meaningful relationship to develop."

McAnally's explanation echo what he told the Baptist Standard back in 2009. He told the Texas-based magazine he considers the Luminary to be "a way to serve the people around us.... By showing them we care about them and what they do, we are serving where it is most personal; it's a tangible way to speak of the Gospel." RFT interviewed three former Luminary artists-in-residence. All say they never sensed any religious agenda on the part of their hosts.

"I was fully supported as an artist without any religious undertones from them," says Amy Reidel, who spent nine months as a resident in 2010 and retains nothing but positive memories.

Carlie Trosclair was awarded a six-month residency that same year. She says she never felt any religious pressure but that the scuttlebutt about the Journey has made her uneasy in retrospect.

"Knowing now about these videos and him speaking about religion and that mission — it feels like something I should've known [in advance]," Trosclair says. "I'm anti-organized religion. I always knew it was affiliated, but the more it's come out, I'm just, like, 'OK, gross.'"

In an effort to clarify what he says in the video, James McAnally sent RFT an e-mail on May 15.

"Myself as an individual and The Luminary as an organization are two separate things," he writes. "The organization itself is not religious, was not formed to be that and is not accomplishing a religious goal.... I understand the reflex to wonder about our motives. It is murky; it is difficult."

In the video he was speaking as a Christian to a Christian audience, McAnally says. He goes on: "It has always been uncomfortable and little confusing on how we are supposed to address the church about why they allow us to use the space, year after year."

Taken solely in and of themselves, his recorded response "represents us incorrectly [because] our...staff, our volunteers and advisors — very few have ever interacted with the church."

Concludes McAnally: "We have misspoken, but I don't think we've misstepped in the way we program and run the space."


On a recent evening at Pig Slop, Chloe Bethany pauses and sits down for just long enough to sum up her take on the looming Luminary takeover.

"Ultimately, spaces like Pig Slop are not permanent," she says, flecks of dried paint visible on her fingers. "That's just the nature of DIY spaces." She disagrees with her studio-mate, Muehlke, who feels the Luminary is "displacing" them.

Last summer landlord Will Liebermann offered Bethany and her fellow tenants a two-year lease, she says, but they only wanted to commit to one. Over the past few months, she adds, most of her colleagues haven't shown a strong interest in staying. They were having trouble scraping up the rent anyway, she says.

Liebermann says he and the McAnallys are negotiating the terms of a lease that will likely include the right of first refusal if he opts to sell.

James McAnally confirms that negotiations are ongoing. "We'll be moving to the neighborhood and hope to be there to start out next year," he says. "There's a chance it won't be that building; we're looking at all our options."

In the meantime, Bethany hopes to throw some kind of event co-hosted by Pig Slop and the Luminary. She says she has no hard feelings toward James or Brea McAnally.

"I don't like the idea of hating on somebody that's religious just because I'm not," she explains, citing her own day job as an art teacher at a parochial elementary school. "The rent I pay at Pig Slop comes from my job working for the archdiocese," she says. "I don't see myself as that different from Brea or James."

The feeling is mutual, says McAnally. "We support what [the Pig Slop artists] do and have tried to maintain open dialogue," he says. "We basically told them that if they wanted to continue as an entity, we'd help connect them with other options and we wanted to talk through it."

Travis Howser, who posted the McAnally interview on the Luminary's Facebook wall last month, says he's pleased that dialogue about the Luminary has finally opened up, going as far as to say he almost wishes the nonprofit and the church were publicly joined.

"The idea of a church funding contemporary art in a non-censored, non-structured way is actually a really cool concept, because churches have not historically done that," says Howser, noting that some artists whose work the Luminary has exhibited are avowed atheists.

"I don't have any interest in the Luminary failing," Howser says. "I'd love to see them continue to grow. My main interest in this thing is that I want them to be open about their involvement and their purpose with the church, because if they're not open, that makes them seem dishonest — even if they're not being dishonest."

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Rodney Strothcamp
Rodney Strothcamp

I am upset the way this story has been written. I have known Brea and James for awhile now and it makes me sick how stories can be twisted around. They are good people with good values they do not judge people and St Louis should be proud that they call this narrow minded area of the united states home. I am a gay male and they have never judged me in any way or even talked about religion.If everybody had the energy and ambision that they have this world would be a much better place. Good luck with the move and never change who you are....

Chris
Chris

Too bad all Christians aren't attractive artsy hipsters who put on killer indie rock shows.

I hear that's what they're like in Portland.

RonSwanson
RonSwanson

The Luminary has done some amazing shit, and if it's fueled/funded by Christ or whatever, so be it. Some of the shows these guys have put on such as Mount Kimbie or Phaseone in the Old Post Office Plaza have been nothing short of legendary. Divinely inspired, even.

If anything, these guys are ushering Christianity into modern times and hopefully disregarding all the anti-gay/fire-n-brimstone bullshit while adhering to the good parts about love and tolerance and what have you. I'm no fan of organized religion but I am deeply thankful to the Journey for providing this venue and the McAnally's for using it to put on some incredible shows.

For the record I briefly spoke to them once and they were cool and not Jesus-y at all. And let's just put it out there -- the chick is smoking hot. Praise the lord for dat ass.

Reeeny
Reeeny

Come on! Are you "creeped out" by atheists? By buddhists or muslims? By the fact that Luminary's board and staff and volunteers and supporters are incredibly diverse in ethnicity and belief systems? Is it creepy that Brea and James give up a lot to then pass stipends on to artists? Is your preference that people do not serve people who have different belief systems? This world would be a hateful place if you ran it.

Yojimbo
Yojimbo

Disappointing that a venue with such close financial and emotional ties to an evangelical church felt the need to mask these ties, and to remove publicly available evidence of them. Disappointing too the blindness of their supporters in the arts to this failure. I'd encourage people to lend the gift of their support and participation to other art organizations -- there are many in StL -- free from evangelical endorsement. The disingenuousness, the failure of transparency, makes the place creepy. "The Luminary." Yeah.

minardi3030
minardi3030

I participated in a trivia night at Luminary under the understanding there were no ties to the Journey. The point of the trivia night was to help the Luminary move.... I feel duped. There are clear ties to the church. I live within a few houses of Journey and view them as poor neighbors. Here I thought I was helping an independent body escape the Journey...ugh.

Jeffvstl
Jeffvstl

You should not feel duped, but you should feel foolish for your completely uninformed comment. Read the comments. Just about anyone who knows the McAnallys or has lived in, exhibited in, performed in or collaborated with The Luminary has said there is absolutely ZERO religious influence in what they do. Have you ever bothered to check out any of their exhibitions or concerts? Seriously, you are pulling bullshit out of your ass. No one has ever been preached to, directly or indirectly at The Luminary. You must believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim just because some idiot says he is, huh? Ridiculous.

minardi3030
minardi3030

Thank you CS for a simple reply and not throwing in veiled attempts at calling me a racist like Jeff. I'm sure the McAnally's are fine. Whatev's.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

that's fair if you don't want to support the Luminary because of their ties. It's your prerogative after all.

minardi3030
minardi3030

CS, You are missing the point. Are they members of The Journey? As a resident of the neighborhood who has endured several encounters with extremely rude attendee's of that church, I did not want a single dollar of my money going to ANYONE affiliated with them, period. Sorry that's just the way it goes. Yes, yes, you are all right. I should have done my homework and looked into the backgrounds of the McAnally's.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

hi minardi3030, just wondering what clear ties to the church did you observe during trivia night? just curious.

minardi3030
minardi3030

Yeah Jeff you have zero idea what you are talking about. You are blinded by your friendship. (or any other ties you may have to Luminary) Clearly you are the one pulling things out of your ass. I am a neighbor, participate in many aspect of the Southwest Garden Neighborhood including random events at Luminary and I'm super freaking liberal. (I will let your lame Muslim comment slide..I get it..you are grasping at straws.) That being said.... 1. It's not an uniformed comment. I was told prior to going to the trivia night (by an organizer) that it was a way for them to get away from Journey. 2. If they are members of that "church" one would assume they share same mission and goals. If they don't, then why the hell are they part of that church? Look at The Journey's website and look at their mission and tell me how you think its a stretch that the McAnally's couldn't POSSIBLY use their venue as a way further that goal. The point is not everyone is so enamored with The Journey and their flock. it must be nice to sit in an ivory tower. i didn't call anyone names or insult anyone. However your response to me was abusive and a sad attempt to try and support fellow hipsters.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

can you explain why it's disappointing if they kept their religious ties separate from the work that they do?

 _
_

It's good to see that common sense is beginning to prevail in the comments. The article is unfounded and the Luminary is a great venue. Also, no small children, animals or hipsters were harmed in the discussion of the promotion of art by the Luminary.

Thank you Brea and James.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Once again, people are crying 'gentrification of Cherokee' once again. Despite all of the cool and interesting businesses down there, it's still a dicey and fairly dangerous area. Don't kid yourself. It's a good 15 years away or more from anything RESEMBLING gentrification. Drive down the side streets and see if you don't agree. You'll see people openly dealing drugs and more.

On a different note--thanks for the...er...illuminating article. I've been hearing rumors about this for a long time and wondered what the true story might be.

Michael R. Allen
Michael R. Allen

The Luminary's move to Cherokee Street will not bring gentrification, but it might bring some stability to a corner that will a.) reduce crime and b.) encourage investment in surrounding buildings. The bottom floor of the building housing Pig Slop is large and vacant. Vacancy in a business district always is discouraging. Cherokee Street won't even come close to gentrifying until all of its empty storefronts are full. Take a short walk and count the vacant storefronts -- there are a few. The Luminary plans to reduce that count by one very large space, and Cherokee will be better because of that.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

After thinking it through, I think I can clearly articulate the foolishness of this article and why it bothers me so. Even though I already aired out my thoughts earlier yesterday, I feel I need to reiterate my thoughts here in a clearer fashion.

Note, I am not personally connected to the Luminary or the McAnallys but have enjoyed their various programs, especially the amazing concerts that they have hosted. Hence why I am frustrated by the accusations brought forth in this article, since it will only serve forth to bring down an institution that I like and want to support.

1) The whole premise of the article is that the Luminary might be proselytizing its patrons. This premise comes from the accusation of one person - Jonathan Muehlke (it states so in the article). And the only reason why Muehlke started accusing the Luminary is because he didn't want the Luminary taking over his studio at Pig Slop. This here already raises red flags - the whole premise of the article is based on the accusation of one person who has an outside agenda. If the Luminary wasn't looking to take over the Pig Slop studio, would Muehlke still be as vigilant in discrediting the Luminary? I don't think so.

2) There is no concrete evidence backing up Muehlke's accusation. The author of the article wasn't able to find any Luminary patron who felt he was being proselytized to. If the accusation were true, this would be an easy enough task to do. The only evidence that article came up with is a video linking the Luminary to the Journey church (to be discussed in point 3), not any actual proselytizing. So whole article is just based on accusations and conjectures. Accusations of a person with an agenda, I might add. This is bad journalism.

3) As the video clearly shows, there is a connection between the Luminary and the Journey church. But there is nothing disingenuous or wrong about that as long as there is a distinct separation between their beliefs and the work that the Luminary institution does. And from all evidence so far (as the comments show), there IS a separation. Just because the McAnallys are christians does not mean they cannot engage or support the arts. This is almost as stupid as me saying that atheists cannot engage in the arts just because they are atheists

4) All the article does and accomplish is build up gossip mongering and mud slinging against the Luminary - without any real evidence to back it up. And it uses the easy crutch of using religion-baiting (the McAnallys are christians, therefore they must be bad) to start flame wars (which brings out the idiots like hitch).

And that is why this is such a foolish article.

guest
guest

100% agreed CS. What more would you expect form the biggest muckrakers in STL "journalism"? I mean seriously... one wanna-be artist with a severe social disorder and a barely-off-the-ground co-organizer of an experimental curatorial collective complaining on Facebook to their friends does not constitute a four page story. You got what you wanted RFT. You brought the drama as you seem to have a knack for doing. This is tabloid journalism at best. RFT goes out of their way to throw hurdles in front of the artists trying to make a difference in this town. Perhaps a Rush Limbaugh style boycott campaign could be helpful to get their attention. Hit them back with some drama maybe?

chocolate alaska
chocolate alaska

This is the debate we need to be having. I'm saying that by embracing and expanding the facilities Luminary has to offer, which are similar to ABC No Rio (artist's tools available at an astoundingly reasonable price, a concert & events space, open forum for communication & neighborhood involvement, etc.), it could similarly have a positive effect on the surrounding community, to the benefit of local artists.

Not looking for a flame war, just pointing out the potential of supporting something ather than throwing stones.

Reeeny
Reeeny

Interesting to note: the photos used were taken by the RFT for when the McAnallys received THE RFT MASTERMIND AWARD LAST YEAR. Hmm... I don't get the premise of this article.

Jessica Herberts 'Deceptor' Pr
Jessica Herberts 'Deceptor' Pr

I have been fortunate enough to get to know Brea and James in the past year and a half in a personal and professional atmosphere. While I am aware that they are Christians I have never felt as though their faith has been pushed on to me. In fact, it may be more the opposite. The fact that they are caring Christian people who are giving a large part of their life to supporting local arts does not merit such criticism. It is a shame that positive efforts in this city are hampered by people who like to spend their time spreading negativity for the sake of hearing their own voice.

e terpsichore
e terpsichore

This article seems conveniently oblivious to the historical fact that many religious institutions and facilities have long had strong ties with progressive contemporary art communities. Judson and St. Marks in NYC have, for decades, been major supporters of the most progressive contemporary performance/visual artists. Just because this isn’t common-practice in St. Louis doesn’t mean it is a crazy unprecedented conversion conspiracy. Of course there are times when church-sponsored galleries are veiled attempts to re-brand their missions, but this is clearly not one of those instances. Brea and James are making so many great things happen to shake up the community. While I am not a religious person, I respect their operations and offer my full support, just as I would support any fellow artist trying to make and bring interesting work to St. Louis.

RobinHood
RobinHood

So the Luminary might be a vehicle for a secret church organization? Doesn't bother me one bit.

So they're taking over Pig Slop's space and the people there feel slighted? Well, sorry, but that's how it goes.

So they run a rent-free, tax-free business and they get donations from a church and their rich friends and family? Good for them. No problem there. We should all be so lucky.

Here's the problem: they STILL have the balls to ask the community for a half a million dollars.

No. Go fuck yourself. Pay for your own toys. There a ton of local people struggling harder and doing way cooler things than the McAnallys. So they book one decent show once a year- so what? If you're desperate to give away your money there are much better (and more trustworthy) places to invest it.

guest
guest

Hey "RobinHood", name one other organization in STL with a larger residency program or more free outreach. Much of the money is directly re-distributed to artists in residency, acquisition of equipment and space for artists free of charge. In most cities, larger grants and resources for these types of spaces abound. Financial opportunities for artists in this town are few and far between. Everyone has to beg borrow and steal. Additionally, the kickstarter was for $20k, not half a million. What are you even talking about?

e terpsichore
e terpsichore

Referring to their work as “toys” and evaluating their success based on their relative “coolness” disparages the role that art can and should play in this community. If you truly think that art is important, that the dialogue surrounding these practices is a valuable source of knowledge and progress, perhaps you should reexamine the content of the work they are producing rather than focusing the counter-culture-caché it either carries or threatens.

Benton Park
Benton Park

Everyone has the right to present their work and needs to the community and ask for support. If you do not feel like supporting them, then that is your decision. Their work is aimed at the arts community and community at large, and that is how they focused their fundraising. Pretty basic development strategy, if you are familiar with such things. It is their job to convince everyone it is worthy cause, and our decision to support them. I made my decision to support them based on their work, as I base my decision to support other community efforts.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

No one's asking you to give your money to them. What part of donation don't you understand. At least, the Luminary backs it up with projects they have done for the artistic community. What have you done for the community lately?

bluestockings
bluestockings

wait... you're comparing ABC No Rio to The LUMINARY! unbelievable laughable. Not even close, not even in a million years.

SLENGEL
SLENGEL

How ridiculous. Anyone who knows the Luminary and its programming knows it has no religious agenda whatsoever. Must be a slow news day at the RFT.

chocolate alaska
chocolate alaska

Gentrification, ha! The Luminary could be to Cherokee what ABC No Rio is to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. A non profit art space owning their own walls is about the best artists who fear paying rent can ask for. The gossip and name calling is our biggest danger right now. Maybe if Muelke plays his cards differently he could be the next resident artist, save some money on rent, and decide to buy his own space on the same street. As contrary as it is to a lot of our artistic philosophies, becoming a land owner is the best way to contribute to establishing a concrete community. Let's not bring up the "G" word again until we see the diverse Cherokee community falling prey to the real enemy.

chocolate alaska
chocolate alaska

And generous, community building, liberally minded, non pushy houses of worship are not the enemy

Wert
Wert

This is a but of a tangent, but I wouldn't call The Journey "liberally-minded".

chocolate alaska
chocolate alaska

nope, I meant what I said...liberally: defined in Merriam-Webster as "marked by generosity...broad minded, not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms"

occupy nilbog
occupy nilbog

libertarian-minded is probably more accurate. unless you're sure they're collectivists. and we're completely sure they're not republicans.

chocolate alaska
chocolate alaska

The Journey is not only allowing, but funding, the operation of a secular arts organization with board members comprised of drastically differing belief systems. Musicians they have welcomed to perform without any binding censorship requests range from the macabre in Zola Jesus to the sexually taboo in Of Montreal. Quite liberally minded for a church, I'd say.

letrab
letrab

Nothing but respect to the McNally's, but two years ago when I toured the facility as a potential artist in residence, I ask very pointed questions about how the Journey was 'tied' to the Luminary and I was told that there was absolutely 'no involvement' between the two entities. I went further to ask who owned the building and how did they find such a fantastic space. They said they 'rented' from the Journey. Pretty opaque responses considering I was acquaintances with members of the Journey that had confirmed that there were in fact ties between the two entities. It's just bad business practice for the Journey and the Luminary. To end... I never pursued the opportunity because of the obvious contradictions.

letrab
letrab

In all great story, glad they are finally being open about funding, rents and missions.

Angelo Olegna
Angelo Olegna

I adore the Luminary and fully support their drive to bring a bunch of sources together to invest in Cherokee. I also love Pig Slop. Both are critically important to the development of Cherokee and Saint Louis. I don't believe hateful gossip or comments should be directed at either groups.

I think we can all understand that people at Pig Slop might not like having to leave before they really want to. Even though their lease will be up soon. Hopefully Pig Slop or something like it will spring up in another space on or near Cherokee.

Additionally; I hope everyone can appreciate what everyone else is trying to do and handle these transitions and changes in a civil, productive manner. We can all achieve what we want so long as we work together.

Emily Haight
Emily Haight

Nonprofit organization must look to multiple sources to remain sustainable. Typically, those funders do not have authority over the mission and operations of that organization. That is certainly the case with the Luminary. We are lucky to have an organization with a mission to strengthen our region by cultivating emerging artists and establishing St. Louis as an arts destination on the national scene. We need more funders (religious and non-religious) to support that vision.

Stephen Houldsworth
Stephen Houldsworth

Two issues that really have nothing to do with each other are combined in this article.

I knew when it opened that the Luminary was somehow connected with The Journey. However, in the years of seeing shows, attending art openings, chatting with James and Brea, and generally just hanging out at the Luminary, I never felt that the free rent was influencing the artistic or policy decisions of the organization. As a gay atheist, I am always on high alert for any type of religious proselytizing by supposedly secular organizations. I have felt nothing like that from the Luminary. The Luminary is a secular arts organization.

However, I do think there is a separate issue of displacing Pig Slop. As someone who supported the Luminary Kickstarter, I would have like the discussion of displacing Pig Slop to happen as part of that process. I felt like it was a surprise. The architectural renderings and discussion of the space in the Kickstarter and the articles related to the Kickstarter did not make it clear that Pig Slop would be displaced. I think Luminary will be a great addition to Cherokee Street. I just wish we didn't have to lose Pig Slop to get it. Pig Slop is my favorite concert venue on Cherokee.

URIEL BAMNOLKER
URIEL BAMNOLKER

For anyone who has actually met or even spent time with Brea or James, this article is LAUGHABLE! I am Jewish, on the Luminary Board and have never EVER felt that they were trying to prosletyze me. Ever.

To begin with, James is the most unassuming, quiet, live and let live kind of person you could ever meet. And Brea is one of the most open, accepting, kind, non-judgmental, non-agenda pushing person you could ever meet. The only agenda they have, and it is right there out in the open, is to make this city a better ART city. They have worked their tail ends off to that end and all of their good work is going to make our city so much better in the end.

The Luminary deserves St. Louis' full hearted support! Ursula Bamnolker

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

Reading the comments section, I'm glad to see so many people coming to support the Luminary. The premise of this article is ridiculous, basically trying to create an issue based on the sour grape complaints of one guy - Mr. Muelke (it looks like even the rest of the Pig Slop crew didn't have any issues with the Luminary).

God forbid, an institution like the Luminary comes in, develops, and renovates ("gentrifies") Cherokee into a more nationally prominent space (instead of being just vacant and empty storefronts)! Quite your bellyaching Mr Muelke, the rest of Cherokee artistic community welcomes the Luminary.

Nick Phillips
Nick Phillips

Thanks for reading. I must ask, though: If the premise is "ridiculous," then how do you explain the current and potential benefactors who -- citing the religious question -- have decided not to fund The Luminary? Are they ridiculous, too? Clearly, the confusion was a lot more widespread than one artist at Pig Slop. At the very least, it's been a PR crisis.

Michael R. Allen
Michael R. Allen

Who are these potential benefactors? Would not one of them come forward for the story?

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

Whether the benefactors decide to fund the Luminary or not based on the Luminary's affiliations with the Journey church is based on their own prerogative. It has nothing really to do with the Luminary's right to purchase a building in Cherokee. And that's why it is a non-issue.

The conflict the article is trying to create is if the Luminary is somehow proselytizing the people who attend their exhibitions, concerts or functions, which as supported by the various comments around here show that it is not true. And that's what makes it "ridiculous".

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

Thanks for the offer but I would rather keep the dialogue public. Cheers though.

Nick Phillips
Nick Phillips

Now we're getting into some inside baseball. If you would like to continue this conversation, feel free to email me at nickp at riverfronttimes dot com.

Cherokee Supporter
Cherokee Supporter

okay, I just watched the video in question. According to the interview, all the Luminary's "ministry" consists of is providing resources and support to the local artists in the area. Nowhere in the interview did he state that their job is to explicitly or implicitly convert people to religion.

And Nick, I agree with Michael Allen. As a journalist, your job would be to get a follow up to who these potential benefactors are and why they withdrew their funding. I also thought it was disingenuous of the article to not mention that it was actually someone (most likely Muehlke) secretly mass-emailing the benefactors the video in question and asking them to stop their donations (this was mentioned in the video article).

I would also hardly characterize the Luminary moving to Cherokee as "gentrifying" the area. They are not some private commercial enterprise but rather are a nonprofit organization.

Nick Phillips
Nick Phillips

Right - I agree that you can view the Pig Slop issue and the religion issue separately. However, one of the Pig Slop artists posted The Journey video on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/6upfkqs) which was then distributed (somehow) to benefactors, some of whom then shied away from financial support. So to me, the two issues might not be related by substance, but they're clearly related by the course of events. That makes them both part of the whole story, which we always try to tell.

 
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