COCA’s mission is to enrich lives and build community through the arts.

COCA uses the power of the arts and education to build a vibrant St. Louis that is creative, connected and inclusive.

A national leader in innovative arts education, COCA provides meaningful arts experiences in our own studios, gallery and theatres, as well as in schools, community centers and corporate settings around St. Louis.

The fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the country, we annually serve more than 50,000 people of all ages, backgrounds, and ability levels—from enthusiastic amateurs to emerging professionals—all taught by a faculty of more than 250 distinguished teaching artists.

Through dance, vocal music, theatre, art and design, and beyond, we nurture the artistic and creative potential in our students—and our community.

COCA is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools (ACCPAS).

COCA serves:

  • Dedicated students in dance, voice, theatre, and art and design
  • Recreational learners across arts disciplines
  • Area schools through our COCAedu program
  • Business leaders through our COCAbiz program
  • Community members through our performances and exhibitions

The creative potential of everyone and the transformative power of the arts to change lives

Both the artistic process and the artistic product

Diversity and serve as a bridge to connect people

Inclusiveness and remove barriers to make the arts accessible

Collaboration

Innovation and deliver thought-provoking, relevant programs and experiences to the communities we serve

The people who work and volunteer to support our mission

Our unique St. Louis home and the community that is created when people learn together through the arts

Throughout our history, a commitment to equity and access has shaped our programming – and our passion for our work. To honor that commitment, we provide nearly $1 million every year in scholarships and free arts programming throughout the St. Louis community.

COCA’s History

It’s a story that starts with a small group united by friendship, idealism, and an entrepreneurial spirit – Richard Baron, Dorothy Dubinsky, Mark Twain Banks, Robert Orchard, the Sachs Fund and Trivers Associates. Together, they transformed the recently vacated historic B’nai Amoona Synagogue into a community-based visual and performing arts center. The idea: through the arts, COCA would serve as a bridge to connect people.

COCA began as an arts incubator with studios, a gallery, and a theater in the synagogue’s former sanctuary. More than 30 small arts groups moved in, but much of the building remained empty. Enter COCA Founding Executive Director Stephanie Riven whose first task was to develop classes in the performing and visual arts—programs that would eventually become the core of the organization.

Since its humble beginnings, COCA has grown into the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the country. Under the leadership of Executive Director Kelly Pollock since 2010, COCA has expanded its reach and impact through innovative new programs that push boundaries, all aimed at building St. Louis’ creative capacity.

In January 2017, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, COCA’s Board of Directors announced the Create Our Future Campaign – a $45 million, multi-year effort to fund the capital renovation and expansion of COCA’s historic building in University City and build its endowment and reserves. The ambitious project ensures COCA will be able to serve St. Louis for years to come.

2016–2017 Annual Report FY17 Audit FY17 990 Form

COCA broke ground in June 2018 on a transformational expansion to its historic University City home. The Create Our Future Campaign—a multi-year effort to fund this expansion as well as build endowment and reserves—ensures COCA will be able to serve St. Louis for years to come.

COCA Executive Director, Kelly Pollock, with COCA Founder, Richard Baron, and Founding Executive Director, Stephanie Riven.

In 2004, COCA renovated the Mendelsohn building and built an 11,000-square-foot addition to meet COCA’s growing educational and operational needs. Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world-renown dancer and choreographer, and Edward Albee, the late Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, were among the arts luminaries who attended the expansion’s dedication in 2005.

Designed in 1950 by internationally renowned architect Eric Mendelsohn, COCA's building is on the National Register of Historic Places. COCA received the 2012 Legacy Award from The Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation for its stewardship of the historic structure.