5 Free Things to Do in the Lou This Weekend

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Backdrop, now on display at the Contemporary Art Museum. - Art by Hurvin Anderson
Art by Hurvin Anderson
Backdrop, now on display at the Contemporary Art Museum.

So what if it's not a three-day weekend? The next three days are still chock-full of fun things to do. Too broke for LouFest? We've got five amazing events that you can attend absolutely free. So text a friend and start making plans already!

1. Hit up the St. Louis Art Fair

Spring has long been seen as the season to refresh — a time of renewal and rebirth. But we think the end of summer is much better suited for these rejuvenation vibes — at least, when it comes to your interior space. Why not freshen up your walls before the cool temperatures and long winter nights keep you indoors? That way, you'll be hunkered down in lovely surroundings with some interesting things to gaze upon. The St. Louis Art Fair offers more juried art than you could fit in your (presumably non-palatial) abode, and you've got three full days to browse. We're talking everything from painting and photography, to fiber works and glass pieces. Plus, there's jewelry — art for the body — along with eats, live music, circus performances and more. The St. Louis Art Fair takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (September 11 through 13) in downtown Clayton (Forsyth and South Brentwood boulevards; www.culturalfestivals.com). Admission is free. — Alison Sieloff

2. View some sobering images of war

We hit the centennial mark of the outbreak of World War I last year, but observances won't cease soon; the war continued on until 1918. And lest you think some fusty old war is irrelevant to your comfortable 21st-century life, consider that World War I underwrites our daily reality, just like all of history does. If you're a young, hip, aesthetically minded cat or kitten, WWI should be of particular interest — its agonies and absurdist pointlessness were what birthed European high modernism. World War I: War of Images, Images of War, the new exhibit at Washington University's Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (1 Brookings Drive; 314-935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu), looks at the Great War through the plethora of images chronicling it. War of Images, Images of War curates more than 150 pieces that illustrate the conflict's bleak trajectory, from exuberant early optimism to trauma-blitzed total exhaustion. Included are works by modernist titans such as Max Beckmann, Georges Braque, Natalia Goncharova, George Grosz and Kazimir Malevich. The show opens with a free public reception at 7 p.m. Friday, September 11, and it remains up through Monday, January 4, 2016. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday. Admission is free. — Alex Weir

3. Get introduced to a great painter

One of the more amazing features of being human is how we create a sense of self. We might be born and raised in one place but move someplace else and decide that the new location is more in tune with who we really are — and yet our point of origin still shaped us in immutable ways. Hurvin Anderson explores these concepts of memory and place and how we internalize them in his paintings. The British-born artist's Jamaican roots and Trinidadian experiences inform his landscape paintings in subtle ways — tropical greenery is viewed through geometric patterns that evoke chainlink fences, or seen in the reflection of a building's glass and steel façade. His portraits of patrons in barbershops recall the shared social experience of the African diaspora in bright hues. Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop is a comprehensive survey of the artist's work — and perhaps his life. Backdrop opens with a free reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 11, at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org). The show remains up through Sunday, December 27, and the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free. — Paul Friswold

Art Outside comes to Schlafly Bottleworks this weekend. - Courtesy of Art Outside
Courtesy of Art Outside
Art Outside comes to Schlafly Bottleworks this weekend.

4. Check out art, music and food at the Bottleworks

Are you an admirer of art best described as "sofa-sized" and/or "Sheraton-approved"?...No? Then you'll welcome the chance to see fantastic, one-of-a-kind, super-local creations at Art Outside. This fabulous fest, which grows larger each year, combines juried art, live music, delicious food and tasty brews over three full days of family-friendly fun. Art Outside takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday (September 11 through 13) at Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-8337 or www.schlafly.com). Saturday's highlights include sets by Rhythm Section Road Show and Big Brother Thunder and the MasterBlasters, among other acts. And bring your cash — this art fair offers so many pieces to wear, to hang, to share and to cherish. Admission is free.

Brooke Foster

5. Learn about a renowned calligrapher

Islamic calligraphy is forever linked to the words of the Prophet; because figurative art was believed to lead to idolatry, early Muslim cultures created intricate and beautiful designs made of words and phrases for ornamentation. Indian-born artist Salma Arastu embraces this tradition in her work. She uses a flowing hand to inscribe beloved passages from the Qur'an, as well as the writings of the poet Rumi and the Hindu saint Meera Bai, atop color field paintings to create visible meditations of peace and hope. Even if you can't read the words, Arastu's paintings radiate a sense of harmonious calm. Painting Prayers: The Calligraphic Art of Salma Arastu, the new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art on Saint Louis University's campus (221 North Grand Boulevard; 314-977-7170 or www.mocra.slu.edu), opens with a free public reception from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, September 13. Her work remains up through Sunday, December 6, and the gallery is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free. — Paul Friswold

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