Requiem for an Unwritten Memoir

Opera aficionados and many St. Louisans already knew about her. Somehow, I did not. Being in Bumbry’s presence magnified my own desires to pursue the creative arts, travel the globe, and know more than one language. Very much like another famous St. Louisan Josephine Baker, Grace Bumbry’s life and story shattered the limitations of what is possible for Black Americans.

The Black Women of Gee’s Bend Work Hard and Easy

Mothers sewed these quilts when everyone else was asleep, so there was no time to fuss over the details. For batting, they beat the dirt out of trash cotton or swept the floor of the cotton gin. Quilts were women’s work, therefore practical and unquestioned. How were these women to know, tucked into a paper-clip curve of the Alabama River with scant access to the rest of the world, that their quilts echoed the best and most daring modern art?

Prince, Goldsmith and Warhol

Fair Use or Brazen Theft?

Appropriation art has not only outraged artists over the unauthorized and lucrative exploitation of their artwork but has been the subject of high-stakes lawsuits for decades. Appropriation artists defiantly operate under the flag of “fair use,” which some have described as a copyright lawyer’s full-employment act.

How St. Louis Admen Sold the Nation Its Spirits

How did our bland city become a hot spot for national ad campaigns? Overhead was low, flights were easy in any direction, and smart, creative talent was abundant. Between the two world wars, Winston Churchill himself, speaking at an international advertising conference, pronounced the St. Louis Ad Club “far ahead of other cities.” By midcentury, the Midwest was the obvious place to study middle America.

How to Paralyze Someone with Laughter

Might this be a way of coming to terms with feeling so unmoored from my birth country: journeying on a cultural tugboat up the largely English comedy river in search of the TV shows and comedians that had once influenced and shaped me? If I dipped my toe in the dimly remembered comedies of my childhood and youth, would I discover who I once had been?