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Friday, January 7, 2011

Artists' Resource Library at the Luminary

Posted By on Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Making great art often requires more than just inspiration -- sometimes you need power tools, or expensive video equipment, or someone to show you where the "on" button is.

Brea and James McAnally, the folks behind the Luminary Center for the Arts, are working to create an environment where St. Louis artists can collaborate, share expertise and have access to equipment that might be out of reach for an individual. Starting in March, the center will be opening a resource library called AV, where members will have access to a wide range of equipment.

"We started the Luminary as an artists' resource organization, to help people go from one level to the next in a community-oriented way," Brea McAnally tells the Daily RFT. "Immediately we realized we needed to step it up."

The center, which initially began as an open studio where artists could work communally, started offering studio rentals and then residency programs. The library idea, McAnally says, was the next logical step.

"We're huge fans of the library. We love that you're sitting in the same room, pooling your research," she says. "If we want to listen to a CD, if we can possibly get it from the library we think that's really rad."

The couple researched the idea of equipment sharing, and saw lots of community groups forming tool libraries: not everyone on the block needs their own lawnmower, so why not share one or two?

James McAnally paid a visit to 3rd Ward, a member-based art and design center in Brooklyn where artists pay for access to a drool-worthy collection of tools, studio space and classes.

"That seemed like the perfect way to provide access to people," she says. "With a small fee, we can keep building our library and organization."

The fee structure is still being worked out, and the initial opening will be a testing period, but McAnally says for the lucky first 20 members who'll get to be guinea pigs, it'll be $30 for two months -- an absolute steal compared to the for-profit 3rd Ward's $50 a day fee for members and $100 daily for non-members.

"People lose momentum for these really beautiful ideas. The excitement kind of drips from them," she says. Young artists just out of school face a particularly stinging irony: "As soon as I left school, I lost access to everything I went to school for," she says they tell her.

Right now, the couple is gathering equipment, cataloging it and working out the details of how the library will work. They've got an HD video camera, a digital SLR camera, photo and video studio equipment, frame-building and wood shop equipment, a sewing machine and some printing materials. A modular runway/stage is in the works, and they've got a wishlist full of other goodies.

Ideally it won't be just hardware that's on offer, McAnally says.

"We're all learning, no matter what," she says. "We want it to be this really comfortable atmosphere where you can be like 'I don't know what I'm doing, can you help me? This project is really good for people who are early in their careers and for people who are further along."

There will be workshops and classes, and members can run seminars if they like. In the past, the Luminary has collaborated with the Firebird to help musicians learn to navigate things like booking shows, and to find out what resources they need. McAnally hopes to foster more knowledge-shares like this.

"The goal is to say 'St. Louis supports you.'" she says. "We want to see St. Louis pooling our resources."

So, you want in? The Luminary is having their first exhibit of the year, the work of all their past residents, on Feb. 4, which also includes a tour of the open studios. That's when they'll accept 20 people into the beta launch for the library, and those 20 people will have access from March 15 to April 15.

After that, and with the feedback from those folks, they'll figure out how many members the library can support and how much it will cost, and throw open the doors.

If you want to make a tax-deductible equipment contribution (which also gets you a free month's library membership), email the Luminary for their wishlist at

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