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Event Description

Please join us Friday, March 24, 6-7:30PM for an opening reception in celebration of the emerging artists selected to exhibit in COCA’s Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response. 

The Harlem Renaissance is credited as one of the most creative and intellectually productive eras in African American history and for its lasting influence on American culture. From its beginning following WWI (1918) and through the early 1930s, as African Americans moved north, this pivotal movement galvanized musicians, writers, and visual artists such as Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Romare Bearden, Eldzier Cortor, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Archibald J. Motley, and Henry Ossawa Tanner, among many others. Themes of identity and cultural legacy were  paramount—as was a commitment to experimentation and a determination to realistically express the African American experience.

Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response consists of an exciting and diverse collection of works representing both invited, established St. Louis artists as well as a juried selection of entries submitted by local emerging artists ranging from high school age to 24—all finding inspiration from the artists and the period.

This exhibit is presented in tandem with COCA’s 30th Anniversary production of Uptown, April 7–9. Created by Matthew Rushing, Rehearsal Director at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Uptown creates a vibrant tour through 1920s Harlem bringing the era to life. First performed by Ailey in 2009, it has been reimagined to include all five of COCA’s pre-professional dance, voice and theatre companies as well as musicians from Jazz St. Louis in a showcase celebration of the power of the arts.

Harlem Renaissance: Contemporary Response is presented with the support from the Whitaker Foundation and the Missouri Humanities Council.

The Millstone Gallery is presented by the Arthur and Helen Baer Charitable Foundation with additional support from the Millstone Foundation and the Missouri Arts Council.

Since 2008, COCA’s Millstone Gallery has brought the community together to share and experience contemporary art, make personal connections to the work and gain a greater understanding of the artistic process. Offerings include gallery talks, hands-on workshops and classes, lectures and demonstrations. The Millstone Gallery is free and open to the public during COCA’s public hours.

Uptown is a collaborative production between COCA’s five pre-professional dance, voice and theatre companies as well as with musicians from Jazz St. Louis

Learn More about Uptown

Special Thanks to our Exhibit Jurors:

Adelia Parker-Castro
Artist and educator

Marnie Claunch
University City Public School District Visual Arts Facilitator and High School Visual Art Teacher

Yvonne Osei
Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum

Robert A. Powell
Founder and Executive Director of the Portfolio Gallery and Educational Center

Presented By


With Additional Support provided by

The Millstone Foundation

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