Washington University art professor Pat Schuchard coaxed his institution into renovating one of its vacant downtown buildings for artist housing back in 1999. Besides providing low-income housing to a working class that got pushed out of Washington Avenue after the urban zone they pioneered turned loft-space trendy -- the plight of artists everywhere -- the building at 1627 Washington has one of the finest gallery spaces in town, the Des Lee Gallery. Lee is a philanthropist who has been endowing chairs at Wash. U -- Schuchard has one -- and the University of Missouri-St. Louis, as well as putting his wealth into places throughout the city to better St. Louis civic life. It's only fitting that his name adorn such an open, inviting and attractive space. An opening at the Des Lee Gallery is usually one of the most enjoyable the local art scene has to offer. Phil Slein has been serving as director, and he's an effusive and welcoming host. When Wash. U. students show here, there's something downright pleasant about the mix of students, faculty, friends and parents. We'll not get all moony with words such as "community" and "cultural impact," but on those occasions when people are flowing out onto the sidewalk with beers and plastic wine cups in hand, the Des Lee Gallery makes St. Louis more of a place we like to be.
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