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C r e a t i v i t y , C o m m u n i t y a n d C o n v e r s a t i o n i n t h e He a r t l a n d

V ISIONA RY A RTIST

Chris Swanson, IN / P O LY M A T H Susan Barrett, MO

Katelyn Farstad, MN / B R E W E R S Aaron Kleidon and Marika Josephson, IL POET

Danez Smith, MN / A R T I S T Amy Stroup, TN


We tell the stories of interesting

people doing remarkable things in the heartland of America.


L E T T E R F ROM T H E E DI TOR I pulled my canvas coat around my shivering body and looked down at the mud on my day-old cowboy boots. Cold water had tipped out of a hanging bucket that precariously swung on the side of a sliding wooden door. It made for a thick puddle that was unavoidable for a thirteen-year-old coaxing an old horse out of a barn stall. I stepped in the wet dirt eagerly, more concerned about solidifying my place as a true rider and less concerned about my cold feet. My boots, the halter around my horse’s head and the crisp saddle he wore were a medley of birthday presents I’d received the day before. My charger stood about 15 hands and had grown a thick black coat to shield him from the January wind. He wasn’t a touchy animal; in fact, my parents had chosen him because he was gentle and not easily spooked. A safe bet for a young, inexperienced horseman. We both shuttered a bit as we walked into the sun and the freezing air nipped us. A light snow had fallen the evening before and was slowly melting away from the frozen grass. But I wasn’t deterred. I grabbed the reins and saddle horn with my ungloved hand and swung my long leg over his back sliding my new, wet boots into the stirrups. We easily trotted out behind my older cousin who had started riding into the field below the barn. We hadn’t walked 100 yards when in the distance an old truck backfired—or maybe it was a gunshot, at this point it could have been an imagined January firework—the horse was spooked. My easy going old steed was at once a startled mustang. He dug in, I held on, and he started sprinting away from the barn, away from whatever danger he had interpreted through his pinned-back ears. I was terrified, freezing from the wind blowing my long hair in front of my eyes, and fearful I’d soon be bucked from his back, or, at the very least, driven into the barbed fence that was growing closer by the second. Through his snorts and snapping bridle I almost didn’t hear my cousin yelling, “Give him his head! Lock your heels down! Stop pulling him back!” But I did hear her, and I released my clench around his withers, hugged his ribs with my legs and dropped the reins so he could do what he was made to do. His speed slowed; he stood straighter. I felt the fear leave him, and he stopped by the safety of a bare tree that grew near the edge of the pasture. Most animals—not unlike most humans—when given respect and left to their own devices, will find the right way out of a challenge they’ve stumbled into. This issue brings us a group of people who we can bet have been frightened a time or two when walking their path. Lucky for us, they kept on. Chris Swanson realized early that his love for music needed to drive his career, and he scraped by, working odd jobs until he could make it happen. Swanson’s wildly successful roster of musicians and labels has bolstered the careers of Grammy winners like Bon Iver (page 48). Writer Eileen G’Sell illustrated Susan Barrett’s jack-of-all-trades approach to work and life, unapologetically pursuing what moves her (even when it scares her) and successfully building her world around not being “just one thing” (page 62). Artists K atelyn Farstad and A my Stroup—while working genres apart—are both mixed-media artists playing in music, illustration and design (pages 14 and 32). Danez Smith is so much more than an award-winning spoken-word poet (page 18), and it’s far too simple to say that Marik a Josephson and A aron Kleidon are simply the proprietors of Scratch Brewing Company (page 22). The vulnerability and occasional fear that a creative life demands is familiar to most. What we can remain confident in, is that when we feel scared or reluctant to take a risk, the best approach is to lean in, trust your gut and hold on tight. Love, Rachel Brandt @RachelEBrandt

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S 14 Artist | Katelyn Farstad 18 Poet | Danez Smith 22 Brewers | Aaron Kleidon and Marika Josephson 32 Artist | Amy Stroup 38 Fashion | “Neutral Good” 48 Visionary | Chris Swanson 62 Polymath | Susan Barrett 80 Poem | Danez Smith

COVER PHOTO

“Joe” by Richard Serra at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. St. Louis, Missouri. B AC K C O V E R a n d R I G H T

Studio of singer and songwriter, Amy Stroup. Nashville, Tennessee. Photography:

Attilio D’Agostino


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LIFE IS INTENSE FROM MOMENT ONE An inter view with Minneapolis multidisciplinar y ar tist Katelyn Farstad. by KEA WILSON / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Orthodontic molds, Technicolor Easter eggs, scrawled graphite, broken toys. It’s hard to talk about the work of Minneapolis artist Katelyn Farstad without talking about the anarchic range of her materials and what they suggest about the mind that assembled them. And that doesn’t just go for her sculptural work. Whether she’s collaging photographs of Bichon Frises or layering synth on drums on vocoder drones to create otherworldly experimental music (see her band, Larry Wish & His Guys, and her solo project, Itch Princess), or gathering work to display in GAS, the “metaphysical gallery” she curates, Farstad is, first and foremost, a collector. But put all those things together and you’ll find you have something more than an attic full of thrift-store flotsam and a basement full of guitar cables. You have a singular artist whose work captures the psychic turbulence of being a sensitive person in the world.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Yes. As soon as I discovered art and music I knew that I wanted to try my best to not outgrow it, but really grow into it. I always pictured being really old, thrashin’ on the drums, in an elderly hardcore band. My friend Sam Cramer and I are going to start a band called P.A.P.W.A.D.O.T when we are 75. The name is super dirty, and I wouldn’t even dare write it all out. It seems like your work is often the result of a process of accumulation—Including your visual art as well as your work as a musician, a video artist and your work as a writer. How do you find your materials?

The objects I use come from a variety of places: thrift stores, alleys, friends giving me things. Most of the time I have no idea what I am doing—I love color, texture and form. I love sounds and words. I think of it as knocking it out, never stripping it down. I am not sure why I have that tendency. Maybe it has something to do with the attitude of working with

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what you happen to have, or with what happens to find you. Or not judging what you are doing while you are doing it. When I make artwork or songs, it feels playful, meditative and illuminating. Maybe even a bit like a ghostly purging. Where do you make your work?

My art studio is in an attic. It is a bright, messy and crowded place full of everything I have made in the last eight years. My music studio is in the basement, which is neat and packed into a small space. I like to think about that in terms of the cerebral openness of my artwork and the more compressed intimacy of recording music—highs and lows. You utilize many images of children and youth art supplies in your work—polymer clay, construction paper and foam clocks to learn about time-telling.

You’ve recently secured gallery representation at Luis Campana in Germany, and you’re also a Minnesotan, born and raised, still living in the Midwest. What’s it like being a fine artist in a city like Minneapolis?

Being an artist in Minneapolis is great, but also terrible, like I imagine it is for artists everywhere. It is affordable, and I have the ability to work and experiment outside the pressures of commercial success. That is a joke which is also true. I think there is a really unique flavor in Minneapolis that is a cross between grocery store sushi and a tatertot dish that allows everyone the time and space to actually make interesting work. It is the showing and sharing of that work that is more difficult. And the supporting yourself on art or music—that is very difficult. So, we share and show it to each other. And, I mean, I could always move. But I like it here.

What draws you to that imagery?

I think about my own relationship to art and how it started at a very young age—how I enjoyed cutting colored shapes out of paper, rubbing paint with my hands or painting an acorn with glitter. Being a child represents the time in life when you are more in touch with how you feel and not worried so much about how it makes you look. I love clip art, and I have this great medical clip art book from the 1950s with line drawings of a doctor holding up a newborn baby by the heels. It’s featured in one of my pieces. The piece is called “Slap To Life, Slap To Reality” because you get slapped the second you escape your mother. Life is intense from moment one. And that image—everyone can relate to it.

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I want to ask you about sincerity. You work occurs largely in a non-mimetic space, using materials and sounds that might feel ironic or a little snarky, or maybe deliberately weird to a certain kind of viewer or listener. But there’s something deeply sincere and certainly emotional about it, too. How do you negotiate that balance?

I feel that irony and snarkiness are two of the main ingredients of sincerity. To be free from hypocrisy, one must admit they are a hypocrite. I feel it is good to work within that grey, ambidextrous psychological space, because it represents the futility of attempting to defend a subject like sincerity, which does not need to be synonymous with seriousness. You can be serious and playful all in the same room.


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DA NEZ SMITH A MINNEAPOLIS-BASED WORDSMITH ON THE AMERICAN POETRY RENAISSANCE. by JACQUI GER MAIN / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

“It’s not that poetry is dead. It’s that a kind of poetry is dead,” says 28-year-old poet Danez Smith, a clever response to the question that surfaces in mainstream media every few years: Is poetry dead? “It’s a kind of poetry that’s dying,” Smith repeats before clarifying. “A poetry of privilege is dying, a poetry that says poems about our Black, our women, our queer, our brown lives aren’t real poetry.” For the Minnesota-born writer, that specificity is key. The kind of poetry with “a lack of urgency, interested in reflecting a world that none of us actually live in” is fading, finally making room for what Smith calls “a new renaissance” taking place across the poetry landscape. It’s a fresh viewpoint; a welcome alternative to an otherwise dull and unimaginative conversation about the uses for poetry in our contemporary world. The idea that poetry might be insignificant seems like a silly thing to even suggest to a poet with Smith’s list of accolades: 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow; winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry; fellowships through the Poetry Foundation and the McKnight Foundation—and most recently, a 2017

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National Book Award Finalist for their newest collection of poetry, “Don’t Call Us Dead.” Raised in historic Rondo, a majority-Black St. Paul neighborhood, the Minnesota-born Black, genderqueer poet, who goes by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” and “them,” found the world of slam poetry and spoken word thrilling from a young age. It appealed to their competitive nature and background in theater—early signs of what has become a successful spoken-word career. While attending the University of Wisconsin as part of the university’s inaugural First Wave program—a hip-hop and spoken-word scholarship program—Smith began shifting their literary focus to the written word, soaking up the “validation and wild possibility” of writers like Carl Phillips, Jericho Brown, Tracy K. Smith and others. Fast-forward through seven poetry collections and countless poetry slam competitions, Smith is now a full-time poet with a packed tour schedule that has taken them across the globe. A two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, Smith is known for delivering exceptionally compelling performances, leaving audiences captivated with a performance style as mesmerizing as the poem itself. Their poem, “Dear


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White America,” has been viewed on YouTube more than 300,000 times, a testament to their laser-sharp talent, both in language and performance. Their most recent full-length collection, “Don’t Call Us Dead,” has been widely celebrated for its inventive approach to the experience of Blackness and queerness in the U.S., animating history and mortality. The title of the volume itself is an important declaration, a meaningful place from which to begin. “That title is a way to automatically, from the very beginning, trouble the idea of what death is and what mortality is. I wanted to attempt some type of reclamation of grief, or build something beautiful for the lives of these people we’ve mourned so publicly and so digitally,” Smith explains, in reference to the series of recorded police shootings documented on social media. The book was a way for Smith to lean into the idea of Afro-pessimism—or, “the idea that Black people are always existing a couple moments away from death, or existing in constant fear of this oppressive, murderous country”—while rejecting it at the same time. The poems struggle with the reality of injustice and mortality for Black and queer people, reckoning with its weight while refusing hopelessness. Unlike their other collections, “Don’t Call Us Dead” was the first time Smith began the writing process by making the conscious decision to write a full-length book of poetry—rather than piecing together a manuscript with poems written here and there. The completed text explores poetic form with rigor, mirroring the structure of sonnets and hip-hop verses and relying on the grace and power of lyrical, sound-inspired lines. The poems are also characterized by a mix of both formal and colloquial language, switching syntax and vocabulary seamlessly. With this collection, Smith wanted to dive into the “magical possibilities about what it means to take something back from death and continue a story beyond death. And also how Black folks, and queer folks and Black

queer folks continue to live and live well, even while riding so close to that line.” “Don’t Call Us Dead” is a deeply personal reminder as well. “The book is just as much about my own mortality dealing with being H.I.V. positive,” the poet admits candidly. “When I first was diagnosed—and this is the state of mind a lot of the poems about H.I.V. exist in—I did kind of pronounce myself dead, even while I was still alive.” In the years since, Smith worked hard to make room for vulnerability and honesty around the daunting diagnosis, giving birth to incredible poems that add an intimate layer to the collection. Smith’s sense of self is most wholly nurtured in their hometown of Minneapolis, where many of the matriarchs of their family still reside. As a full-time artist, the city’s uncharacteristically high amount of grant opportunities and arts funding make it a community rich with opportunity and inspiration. The city’s arts focus has given rise to publishing staples like Coffee House Press, Graywolf Press, and the famous Guthrie Theater. “Everybody and they mama in Minneapolis got a grant to support artistic work!” says Smith, chuckling over the phone. “That sort of support, even if it’s on the smallest of scales—knowing that your city has not only art, but artists, on its mind, is comforting.” There’s a lightness in Smith’s voice when the conversation turns to Minneapolis, family and community. It’s the same visibly defiant joy that sneaks into Smith’s poems time and again, regardless of topic or tone. Perhaps that’s part of their brilliance. “Joy is what tethers my work. And I know as long as I keep the arrow pointed towards joy, I can dive as deep into the darkness as I want to,” declares the poet. “I try to have that in my work: the idea that even in the worst of it—even when justice doesn’t feel possible, even when the self doesn’t feel possible—if you can hold out for joy, then maybe it will come.”

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FROM SCR ATCH THE WILD WORLD OF MARIK A JOSEPHSON AND A ARON KLEIDON. by HEATHER MCPHERSON / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

There is a mesmeric quality to the Interstates that traverse stretches of the Midwest—the stubbled fields in early November, the trees stippled in shades of amber and gold—such that, if you’ve successfully quieted your GPS to better enjoy this meditative state, you can sail right past your exit. And should this happen three times in a row on a stretch of Highway I-64—as it slides across southern Illinois so you eventually arrive an hour late to your destination—one can only hope that destination is Scratch Brewery, to meet proprietors Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon. Once exiting the highway, the remainder of the drive will be mindless: a few winding miles and sharp turns beyond the nearest town of Ava, Illinois (population less than 700), the tiny brewpub doesn’t bother much with signage despite its being, if not in the middle of nowhere, very much in the middle of farmland. (Non-local patrons enjoy the allure of being “off the beaten path,” Kleidon admits, but mostly, Josephson shrugs, “Street signs are expensive.”) If you’re coming on a Tuesday morning when Scratch is closed, you’re coming to taste the farmhouse beer, brewed with ingredients almost exclusively foraged (oak leaves, chanterelles) and locally cultivated (chocolate mint, hops)—very much, from scratch. This is beer with terroir: beer that doesn’t just change with the

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seasons, but according to last week’s weather. Not “weird beer,” Kleidon insists, but beer that simply tastes like where it is from—and it’s been drawing visitors from just up the road to across the country for nearly five years. For you, preoccupied traveler, Scratch’s offerings unfold more subtly. First, there’s the smell of the surrounding woods, wet and fecund in its decay. Then there’s the firm handshake of Marika Josephson, the co-founder who, though already hours into today’s brew and overseeing a concrete delivery, seems unconcerned with—maybe unaware of—your tardiness. There’s the Tupperware full of lavender she urges you to sniff before it fulfills its boozy destiny in one of the kettles, which, perched in the narrow passageway that doubles as the brewery’s kitchen, look more like overgrown stock pots than commercial brewing equipment. And there’s the little sprig of berries clinging to the sock cap of the other co-owner, Aaron Kleidon, a stowaway from the acreage behind the brewery, perhaps, where Kleidon has built a tiny house for himself. These homespun details seem accidental at first; enchantments, borne of a need to be enchanted. But much about this business is a happy accident of


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sorts, from their location—those wooded acres were bought from Kleidon’s family when all other potential rental properties fell through, despite the necessity of building this place from the ground up—to their inherently mercurial product, whose heavily foraged provenance almost precludes duplication. Even their origin story centers on a chance meeting. Josephson, originally from San Diego, was finishing her dissertation for a Ph.D. in philosophy when she followed a boyfriend (now her husband) to the Carbondale, Illinois, area. Fascinated by linguistics and a lover of literature, she’d been reticent to leave her burgeoning career in publishing, but now she figured, “When in Rome.” Or, as she’d learned years prior as

a college study-abroad student, “When in Bologna.” She’d enrolled in a year-long program in Italy that required students to find their own apartments and take regular university courses conducted entirely in Italian—despite her being so shy that merely making conversation with strangers seemed like an impossible challenge. But she flourished, and the experience taught her the value of fully committing to herself and her community, wherever it might be. Dropped into the foreign terrain of southern Illinois, Josephson got some rock-climbing shoes, went on float trips down the Mississippi and explored the forests around her new home. When she couldn’t find the craft beer she’d taken for granted elsewhere,

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she decided to make it herself. Cue Kleidon, a photographer who’d just returned to his hometown of Ava. He’d spent a couple years working in a darkroom in Chicago printing artist portfolios before the call of the wild—specifically fly-fishing and snowboarding—had drawn him to Colorado. There, he’d worked at an airport and used his standby privileges to fly around the world. But back where he most belonged, back in the beloved woods he’d trolled since childhood, mushroom hunting with his family and collecting medicinal herbs as an annual summer job, he couldn’t help but wonder: why was it that the special, the well-crafted, the artisanal, seemed reserved for big cities, while rural places like his home had to make due with the commercial and mass-produced? So when Kleidon walked into a weekly gathering held at a nearby liquor store with a concoction he’d infused with wild persimmons and sassafras, Josephson—also in attendance—thought, “That’s what I want to brew.” It wasn’t long before they’d independently created wish lists for a theoretical brewery, and their vision overlapped almost completely: to create a spot that was simultaneously the combination of everywhere they’d loved from their travels and uniquely grounded in place—this place, these woods. It would support the local economy—sourcing their building materials from nearby junkyards and farm auctions, crops from neighboring farmers and art from local painters. Scratch would be a showcase for Kleidon and Josephson’s talents: his knowledge of local flora and her skill at recipe development naturally divided their primary roles into forager-in-chief and brewmaster. His photography and her writing later culminated in a 2016 book called “The Homebrewer’s Almanac,” in which Kleidon contributed portraits of paw paw fruit

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and Josephson, ever the philosopher, quoted Plato to argue against industrialized food processes. Kleidon’s handiness means that he is forever adding to the property, de-constructing an abandoned late 19th-century log cabin, for example, and rebuilding it as what will likely serve as a gazebo when he’s done. Josephson’s high GRE math score means that she always has one eye on the books, figuring out how to maximize their brewing efficiency, and overseeing the day’s concrete delivery that will expand their brewhouse operation. All of which suggests, of course, that there’s nothing particularly accidental about Kleidon and Josephson’s co-creations—from their beer to the community they’ve fostered—aside from the wild, creative impulse that drives any artistic endeavor. The urge to make something they can be proud of, for and from the place in which they’ve found themselves, extends in every direction, from the enormous stained glass piece on the ceiling that, when pressed, Josephson admits she made herself, to the smokehouse they converted from an old icehouse to cold smoke grain, bread and even coffee beans, just in case it might turn up something useful. You never know. After using nearly every part of the cedar tree in probably 50 different beers, just last night Kleidon picked some cedar berries that were, Josephson reports, shocking in their sweetness. To still be surprised almost five years into operations—by nature, by what they can make with what’s available—that’s the allure. Because although they’ve achieved nearly everything on their lists, there’s one goal they’re still chasing: to make a beer that tastes like the woods smell. “I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” Kleidon admits. “But we’re moving in the right direction.”


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Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Sourdough Starter All-purpose Flour Whole Wheat Flour Salt

Stir together 15g sourdough starter, 20g all-purpose flour (we use King Arthur Sir Galahad) and 20g water. Let it sit for six to ten hours, depending on ambient temperature. Add 165g of all-purpose flour and 165g water to this first levain; stir well and let sit overnight. The next day, knead 250g whole wheat flour 50g all-purpose flour, and 214g water for five minutes then allow to sit for 20 minutes. Add levain from previous day to this mixture, and 14g salt. Knead for five minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, then knead for five minutes again. Add more flour during the kneading process until the texture is relatively firm but still quite malleable. Use about 100-150g all-purpose flour, depending on the humidity and time of year. We also like to use freshly ground whole wheat flour from a local farmer in our bread for the whole wheat addition. If using fresh-ground flour, we add an extra 20 or so grams of water for balance. When done kneading, turn the dough into a container that will allow it to rise to twice its original size. This bulk proofing stage takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature and time of year, (longer in the winter and shorter in the summer). The dough should be fluffy and filled with big bubbles. Punch down and let rise again for half the time of the first bulk proof. After the second bulk proofing, turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a ball. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes, and then shape again into a tight ball. Place in a linen basket, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Bake the next morning in a 500-degree oven. We use our wood-fired brick oven, which is between 550 and 600 degrees on a bake day, and we usually spray a fair amount of water into the oven to add extra humidity. The temperatures and humidity may be difficult to recreate in a home oven, but bring the temperature as high as possible. Try also using a Dutch oven within the oven to trap the humidity of the bread and give it more spring. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A MY STROUP A NASHVILLE MUSICIAN, ARTIST AND IDEATOR. by KEA WILSON / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

You might not know the name Amy Stroup just yet. But go to Spotify, click through her decade-long discography and there’s a good chance something about her sound will feel a little familiar to you: a poppy handclap on the chorus, an earworm melody, a reminder of something you may have heard before but can’t quite place. Her music has accompanied hundreds of commercials and films, as well as more than her fair share of TV shows—think the big, emotional powerhouse moments on primetime blockbusters like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “This Is Us,” shows that Stroup herself says she once watched the same way she used to listen to college radio, trawling for a new favorite song. But that’s not the only place you’ve heard—or seen— Stroup’s work. And once you recognize her, you’ll start seeing her influence everywhere. Stroup resists categorization—the kind of artist who slithers out of your grip the moment you think you’ve got her pinned down. Sure, she’s the woman behind that

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string arrangement that made you well up during your prestige TV favorite last week. But she’s also half of the gritty indie rock band who your best friend blares in the car on road trips (they’re called Danger Twins, if you’re curious), and she has a few other side projects up her sleeve with a sound that will further surprise you (Sugar + The Hi-Lows, Ten Out of Tenn). And, oh yeah—she’s also got an entire parallel career as the co-owner of Milkglass Creative, the creative firm that designed Chris Stapleton’s latest album art and conceptualized the cover for that new novel you read last week. “I’m an artist, you know?” Stroup says. “I think about music in terms of sound, but also in terms of what it takes to reach someone with the whole package.” And seemingly vice versa. Stroup’s business partner at Milkglass is also her songwriting partner, Mary Hooper. “Her default mode of expression is design,


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while I definitely default to song,” says Stroup. It’s no surprise, then, that when Stroup talks about writing a song, she talks about giving each track the color or tone that it needs, arranging music like a vector image until every element shines. Stroup is a musician by training, likely helped by a genetic bent. She grew up hearing stories about her great-grandfather, a pianist who played live accompaniment at silent-movie houses in the south during the 1920s. But she says she’s always had an awareness of what her music might go on to do in the world, whether as the soundtrack to this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”—a modern-day version of what her grandfather might have composed for a screening of “Nosferatu”—or transforming it into a physical album, with every bit of its packaging as carefully designed as the songs themselves. “I naturally bend towards things that draw you in, that make you pay a little more attention.” Stroup chased that inclination out of the town where she was raised in Texas—she credits a Loretta Lynn documentary with the inspiration for the move—and landed at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she continued her childhood study of classical piano and guitar, picking up degrees in business and marketing. But her real ambition was always to “really figure out this music thing,” as she says. And she wasn’t alone. “In Nashville, you go to the grocery store, a bookstore, a restaurant—and everybody around you wants to be a songwriter,” Stroup says. “There are so many talented people who go unheard.”

Even as she says this, Stroup sounds steady and shockingly cool. While her particular elastic, high-pop sound situates her firmly in a corner of the music world often associated with overnight teenage stars, she hasn’t felt a need to chase that particular version of success. Instead, she’s tried to walk a longer path. “This is definitely an industry that worships the young. I always knew I wanted a career that lasted a long time,” she says. “I grew up on Patty Griffin, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks—and not just their first albums, but their whole careers. It’s this question of, ‘How do you stay in the game, but not only be about the game?’” Stroup’s upcoming album, “Helen of Memphis,” is a kind of answer to that question. On the album’s first single, “Magic,” Stroup’s sound takes on a raspy, laidback indie-pop drawl that’s spiked with something pleasantly sour thanks to a beat from Taylor Dexter and Wesley Singerman, two producers part of the L.A.-based SuperCookie production team. The song is wry, smart and slyly aware of the sounds driving the forefront of our current indie pop environment—fans of Santigold and Sylvan Esso will love it. But there’s something about Stroup’s new music that’s coasting pleasantly above the trends, too. She seems more interested in pushing her own voice forward than keeping up with the crowd. Turn your back, and she might just decide to morph on you. “The song you want in your teens, and your twenties and your thirties—it’s always going to be different,” Stroup says. “You’re changing. As an artist, changing with your audience is so important. I want to be people’s life soundtrack.”

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NEUTR AL GOOD A COLL ABORATION WITH HACK WITH DESIGN HOUSE, WAI MING AND YORO JEWELRY. Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

MODEL:

Sof ia Milo @ The Industry Model Mgmt

Trudy Fogarty-Hayden

ST YLIST:

HAIR AND MAKEUP:

Sharday Johnson

HACK WITH DESIGN HOUSE

hackwithdesignhouse.com WAI MING

waimingstudio.com YORO JEWELRY

yorocreations.com

OPPOSITE: Hackwith Design House Lapel Wr ap Dress in Auburn + Yoro Bowswana Earrings

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ABOVE:

Hackwith Design House Lapel Wr ap Dress in Auburn + Yoro Bowswana Earrings + Shoes stylist’s own Hackwith Design House Oversized Coat in Gr ay + Yoro Sangria Earrings + Shoes stylist’s own

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OPPOSITE: Hackwith Design House R aw Finish Denim Jacket in Cream + Wai Ming Knit Dress + Yoro View Earrings + Shoes stylist’s own ABOVE: Hackwith Design House Swing Dr awstring Dress in Black + Yoro Concave Ear Bob Earrings

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OPPOSITE:

Amanda Valentine Taupe Monument Dress + Wai Ming Evelyn Wide Leg Pant + Yoro Orb Rings + Shoes stylist’s own ABOVE: Wai Ming Cape Dress

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ABOVE: Amanda Valentine R ays Maxi Dress + Shoes stylists own in Gr ay + Yoro Sangria Earrings

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OPPOSITE:

Hackwith Design House Oversized Coat


NOT SO SECR ET THE WINDING PATH OF PREEMINENT RECORD-L ABEL EXECUTIVE, CHRIS SWANSON. by JORIE JACOBI / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

Picking up a beige landline handset, Midwestern record-label executive Chris Swanson leans back in a desk chair, scratching his head with the pad of his left index finger. He sits in front of shelves upon shelves containing hundreds of CDs and vinyl records at his office in Bloomington, Indiana. He has taken up residence here in an apartment above two local shops which sell comic books and videos, respectively. “Yep, approved,” he says, thrusting the receiver back into its cradle. “All right. Sorry about that.” Swanson then returns to an anecdote about how he used to sell his own plasma to pay for records, back when he first moved to Bloomington to attend Indiana University. “It was gross. But I’d take the money and go directly to the CD store. I just loved the experience of buying albums. Browsing is half of it. Then buying it, taking it home and poring over it. Everything about it, I love. I just knew I wanted to be part of that process.” Swanson had long been bewitched by the world of

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music—its culture and its rapture, culminating in the formation of label Secretly Canadian, which he cofounded in college with his brother, Ben Swanson, and friends Eric Weddle and Jonathan Cargill. At the time, none of them knew what would become of it. “We were all trying to find a way to do something practical with our passion for music. It’s a tough industry,” he says. Secretly Canadian has since grown into the record-label empire Secretly Group, which now also encompasses labels Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar and Numero Group, as well as publishing company Secretly Publishing. Artists include some of the most influential artists of our time, among them Bon Iver and Yoko Ono, as well as new voices like Major Lazer, The War on Drugs and Angel Olsen. Secretly Group and affiliated labels also have offices in Bloomington, New York, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and London, as well as additional staff in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Denver. “You can have those more cosmopolitan experiences, but it’s always so nice to come back to Bloomington,


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where you can recharge your batteries. The quality of life is just so high,” says Swanson. “I love it here. People who are drawn to Bloomington—it’s a different type. When I’m away, I miss it.” Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, Swanson remembers going to shows and absorbing the art of local and touring bands at all-ages clubs. Fargo-based noise-rock band godheadSilo comes to mind, which is one of his favorite bands from the early stages of his youth. “I loved going to their shows. They were so cathartic, messy, beautiful and passionate. I remember thinking, ‘Man, they should do a CD.’ This was back when we were in the CD era. That was probably the first time I knew I was watching something important that wasn’t being documented that should have been.” Swanson was onto something—godheadSilo ended up releasing a handful of albums beginning in the early ‘90s. Several years later in college, Swanson became ensconced in Bloomington’s music scene. He worked as a DJ and eventually became music director of the university’s college radio station, called WIUS at the time. He then began forging connections with professionals in the music industry. “The walls started to break down between who I thought I was and who I thought they were. I discovered we’re all just music people, and maybe I could do what they do,” he says. “My friends and I started promoting shows locally in Bloomington, and we began connecting the dots. It was then that we thought, ‘We could put out a CD for a band.’” When Swanson’s brother also came to Bloomington for college in 1996, they began assembling the pieces of their guiding philosophy and what they wanted to create together: tasteful, beautiful music, a mix of established artists with a fan base and those they’d discover together alongside everyone else. “We weren’t ever thinking, ‘We’ll still be doing this in five years, or ten years.’ We were looking one or two years ahead, at most.” Swanson met Weddle through WIUS, and Cargill ran the dorm cafeteria where Swanson worked. They’d

sort silverware, fill milk containers and lay out assortments of baked goods. “We would pass the time talking about records,” Swanson remembers, smiling wryly while pulling at his beard. “Jonathan ran the cafeteria, but he’d come sort silverware with me and we’d get lost talking about albums—bands like The Grifters, Palace Brothers, Mule. A lot of stuff that was either directly coming out of Chicago, or based there.” A turning point came when Secretly Canadian partnered with Darius Van Arman of Jagjaguwar, a label Van Arman had started in Virginia, in 1998. Van Arman moved to Bloomington in 1999, which opened a new world of possibilities for both labels. Around 2000, the team decided to commit the next five years to creating what would become Secretly Group. “That was a big step. It was an empowering moment that gave us the courage to really treat it seriously, where we said to ourselves and each other, ‘We are committed to this, together, and we want to do it here, in Bloomington.’ We wanted to keep it a little weird—not just follow in the footsteps of our heroes. We wanted something more punk rock, very modest and anti-New York, Los Angeles, Nashville—the things we assumed those cities were about. That was really the turning point for us.” The very first artist they signed was June Panic, a prolific singer-songwriter from North Dakota. Swanson heard him play for the first time back in Fargo at a strip mall, when he’d visited home on a holiday break. At 78 minutes long, Swanson looks back at their first release with both fondness and amusement, full of the innocence of their early days. They next signed indie-rock and alt-country singersongwriter Jason Molina, whom Swanson admittedly ambushed after hearing his music. “I fell in love with the first 45 he put out on Palace Records. I’d listen to it over and over and over. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. A friend mentioned that she knew Jason, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Can you introduce me?’” Swanson notified Ben, and they drove 15 hours from

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Bloomington to New York to see Molina play. “It blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how good he was,” says Swanson, who was 21 years old at the time. “He gave us a cassette, and we put it out. It was one of the first things we were able to hold in our hands that we’d made. It sold out within a couple of months.” They would go on to put out 17 records in total by Molina, including the acclaimed “Songs: Ohia” and Molina’s last full-length album, “Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go.” “You’ve got to listen to this song, ‘Hold On Magnolia.’ It’s really something. I’ll send you a link,” says Swanson, typing wildly. Its beauty warrants every bit of dramatic keyboardtyping Swanson offers, as Molina sings, “Hold on Magnolia, I hear that station bell ring/ You might be holding the last light I see/ Before the dark finally gets a hold of me.” “Some of his songs have a real Bob Seger working-class, blue-collar vibe. He also had love songs about his wife, Darcie. We just wanted to do right by him. He was doing so well. We learned so much from putting out music with him.” Molina’s success unbarred the potential for something much larger, requiring what Swanson calls 500 60hour work weeks in a row. “That was the first 10 years,” he says. At first, each co-founder touched every record and every process until they were able to streamline and make additional hires. “We each needed to find our lane and take it up a notch. We started to get more comfortable with the positions we were creating and the people we were bringing on. It’s been the last ten years—or maybe even the last five—during which we discovered that we don’t really have to be in charge of everything.” In an emotional space of nostalgia, Swanson pulls up the first email he ever received from Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, now a Grammy Award-winning artist. In

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the email, Vernon was following up to see if Swanson had received the demo he had mailed over, which had gotten misplaced in the pile of demos they’d begun receiving from artists. Consumed by the email chain of the past, Swanson pulls at his mustache and beard while intently sorting through his inbox, reliving the correspondence that began ten years ago. “Sorry, I’m getting lost in this. This is so funny. Anyway—one of the first Bon Iver songs I ever heard was ‘Blindsided.’ The lyrics, the texture—we just fell under the spell. He was not well-known at that point at all. They were just great songs.” They’d become skilled at connecting artists to audiences. But the scale of Vernon’s success was unprecedented. In the process of writing the first album, Vernon had contracted a debilitating case of mono, broken up with his girlfriend and hit yet another dead end in the labyrinthine road to professional musicianship. He spent a winter isolated in a cabin in Wisconsin, where he wrote his debut, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” released on Jagjaguwar in 2007. In 2011, Vernon released “Bon Iver, Bon Iver,” which won Best Alternative Music Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards and garnered Vernon the award for best new artist. “We try to have artists reach as wide an audience as possible without compromising their values. When Justin put out his record, we knew it was going to be good. But we had underestimated how many people it would resonate with. People trusted his voice,” says Swanson. Swanson has developed a closeness with artists and their respective processes over the years, and has observed that the intense dedication and focus required to make music gets spent on not only the art, but the musicians as well, with painful, acute self-scrutinizing. Perhaps few know this better than artist and musician Yoko Ono, whose record re-releases appear on the Secretly Canadian label, and who also happens to be one of Swanson’s favorite artists. “I’ve been a big, big, big fan of Yoko’s for 20-plus years,” he says. He calls her the original auteur, DIY


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rebel girl, commenting on the confounded, harsh anger that came at her from much of the free world and seemed only to intensify as time went on. “The world was not ready for Yoko,” says Swanson in admiration, citing his favorite Yoko Ono song of all time, called “Why.” The song is a cacophony of bizarre, possibly genius, uninterrupted caterwauling. After nearly a decade of labor, Secretly Canadian crafted an artful re-release of her music from the years of 1968 to 1985, in 2017. To discuss details, Swanson met her at her apartment—located in The Dakota in Manhattan, on the west side of Central Park—the same apartment where she lived with John Lennon. “When we were putting together art for the re-release, we were looking at original Polaroids of her that he’d taken. It’s insane. It’s been a dream,” he says. The trajectory has also been rife with challenges. Jason Molina, who had released what would be his last album in 2006, had been suffering from the deteriorative effects of late-stage alcoholism. After several attempts at rehab and sobriety, Molina had stopped touring and performing. “He was a terrible alcoholic, and eventually succumbed to it. His body just gave out,” Swanson remembers. On March 16, 2013, Molina was found dead in his apartment in Indianapolis. The cause of death was ruled organ failure brought on by alcoholism. “It was crushing, when it happened. But honestly, it was more difficult watching him in those last years of his life. He was in rough shape. We tried to help him, and he tried to quit—he just wasn’t able to. Sometimes it felt like it could happen, but he was never able to sustain it,” says Swanson, who remembers so much more than Molina’s inner demons. “He had a darker side, but he was also the funniest person.” Secretly Canadian released a statement, which contained the sentence, “Without him, there would be no us—plain and simple.” Swanson, who has spent innumerable hours tracking down original vinyl, going to shows and frenetically discussing music at every turn, still draws upon the same fascination with what was once an impenetrable world fed by the college kid who sold his own plasma to pay for records. Every time he finally found an original and held it, it felt like he was holding high art. “Once you hold the artwork, it all makes sense.”

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MINDING THE G A P(S)

Meet St. Louis’s Susan Barrett: macro intellec tual, creative heav y weight. by EILEEN G’SELL / Photography by ATTILIO D’AGOSTINO

“Art should not be limited to the art world. Art is much broader, more complex and full of possibilities. That is what really energizes me, and is what we’re really trying to understand…” Susan Barrett is an “and” person. Rarely in conversation will she qualify a claim with a caveat, or pause to review and solemnly reflect. Rather, she tends to string one possibility onto another, her voice rising in excitement with each conjunction in the air. As an artist and founder of projects+gallery and Barrett Barrera Projects, plus a wife and mother, Barrett is, above all, a master of addition, of cross-pollination, of a process that pushes the boundaries between genre and vocation. “I tend to understand things from a higher perspective, instead of getting bogged down by details,” she shares from her St. Louis, Missouri, office. “I don’t care how things are done day-to-day. I’m more interested in the end goal.” In person, Barrett is statuesque, her expressions constantly moving. Geometric earrings dangle against her auburn curls. Seated against a white wall, she resembles a Modigliani model—minus the gloom. Her smile is

easy, her cheekbones high, her eyes a bit mischievous, as though she’s in on some awesome secret, waiting for the perfect moment to spill the goods. “I’ve changed my career so many times that a lot of people can’t pinpoint me,” she jests—or half-jests, really. “I’m constantly pushing. As an artist myself, I’m always challenging the concept of what is art. Developing my business is just another form of creation.” A native St. Louisan, Barrett earned her bachelor of fine arts in visual art at Washington University in St. Louis before pursuing a master’s in architecture. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. “When I was an undergraduate, you had to be very specific about what you did. I studied painting—but added a bachelor’s in comp lit, and another in French.” Filled with wide drawing tables, bold contemporary photographic prints and an assortment of antique Asian icons, Barrett’s office itself indicates a mélange of creative collisions—a cross between studio, gallery and professional workspace. Her own desk in the corner is covered with books, figures and plans in progress, a small bowl of well-loved crayons burrowed toward its edge. Though,››› the office isn’t messy, or even

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particularly chaotic. Instead, it seems to represent the mind of a fiercely macro thinker who has long dismissed the sense of containing things in categories that only nominally exist. “When I went to architecture school, I had a little bit of a meltdown in terms of understanding space,” she explains. “All of the sudden I realized, ‘I don’t understand space. What is space?’ For me it was always the same, whether I was painting or creating. Suddenly there were all these dogmas—what is space, and how do you flow through it? But my inspiration in architecture school was always artists.” Unsurprisingly, as a designer, artist and entrepreneur, Barrett’s inspiration has ranged from modernist architecture to hip-hop music to Japanese haute couture. “For as long as I can remember I was drawing house plans, the people who go in them, and then drawing what’s on the wall and what everyone was wearing. There were never divisions between what was art, architecture and design. You create.” Launched in 2014 in the wake of the phenomenally successful “A Queen Within” fashion exhibition at the World Chess Hall of Fame—which Barrett hosted—the projects+gallery vision means pairing Dolce & Gabbana stilettos with art by the likes of Marilyn Minter and Kehinde Wiley; or, this past fall, portraits by Hassan Hajjaj, the “Andy Warhol of Marrakesh,” with quilted sculptures by St. Louis artist Basil Kincaid. Under the directorship of Bridget Melloy, the global gets local, and the local goes for broke—with a cross-disciplinary focus at once fabulous and ambitious. “I think the whole notion of being pigeon-holed is changing,” says Barrett, swift to relate this broader shift to her own personal experience. “When I was growing up, I was never satisfied. I think that my parents were quite alarmed that I was a jack-of-alltrades and a master-of-none. Time has caught up

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with those of us who have multiple interests and can hold them at the same time. I think that is where, collectively, societally, that’s where we are headed.” A roving maximalist, Barrett makes no apologies for coloring outside the lines, in philosophy or presentation. And why should she? “With projects+gallery, initially people didn’t know what we were,” Barrett recounts with an air of amusement, “and some people still don’t understand. We don’t look the same every time, and that’s very intentional. For us, it is important to give the artist the entire voice. We are not the ones curating it; we invite the artist to come curate their own work.” Hence, artists themselves translate the meaning of their work—sometimes through other artists sometimes through those who aren’t called artists, but whose work is just as creatively robust. As such, the hermeneutical hierarchy goes gleefully jettisoned. “We’ve always thought of projects+gallery as a lab,” she says, briefly acknowledging and then dismissing the term’s recent trendiness. “We see it as a place for artists to experiment and contextualize their own work. If they want a white box, that’s fine, and if they want to do something else, that’s also fine.” Openings at projects+gallery lasso in everything from internationally renowned deejays to cabaret in the form of a drunken cowboy—the gallery packed with a spectrum of people as spectacular as the artwork. “One of the things I’m proudest of is the diversity of the crowds we draw,” says Barrett, “I love that I don’t know everyone who shows up to our openings and that it’s different every time.” Barrett, of course, is in the middle of it all—usually dressed in something both luxe and a touch zany, a sartorial rejoinder to any “white-box” mentality one might expect. But don’t let that image fool you—as she is aware it very well could. “People probably think I’m such an


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extrovert, but I’m much more of an introvert. I think of myself as an outsider looking in.” For a self-perceived outsider, Barrett has a way of conveying a certain insider status—from her breezy confidence to her lead role in bringing international stars like Peaches and Charlie le Mindu to the heartland. In the same vein, she seems the first to admit a sort of naiveté and then bask in its liberating potential. “I thought, ‘If you can’t do these kind of collaborative shows in the art world, then where can you do this?’ It turns out that the art world isn’t as open as you’d think. In the national galleries, there’s no room for experimentation unless it’s contextualized.” And what does she mean by such a jab? In place of “if you can’t beat em, join em,” it’s more like “if you can’t beat ‘em … who cares?” Barrett’s bemusement with the art world’s compartmentalism clearly serves to feed her ardor. “The art world is going through an identity crisis. There are so many ‘isms’ and platforms that are starting to topple,” she explains. “It’s a great time to be here, to be shaking it up. But there’s still resistance to it. The more we pushed our idea—and the more pushback we were getting—the more we thought, ‘There’s something here, in order to get that kind of resistance.’” If the triumph of “The Queen Within” proved a catalyst for projects+gallery to develop organically as a forum, consciously refusing staid artistic categories, then projects+gallery cast a line for an even bigger fish: Barrett Barrera Projects, the consulting firm that has extended Barrett’s vision beyond St. Louis’ borders. Directly across the tree-lined street from the gallery, Barrett Barrera resides on the second floor of an elegant retail plaza. The window aside Barrett’s desk looks out at projects+gallery, as though an invisible mental zipline links one to the other. When asked what Barrett Barrera Projects is all about, Barrett waxes at once abstract and animated. “Barrett Barrera is more indefinable than projects+gallery. Over here, we play with understanding how to navigate the art world—taking chances, challenging what it is in the first place. We have the understanding that art is a verb. It can be a product, but I’m more invested in the process. How does inspiration go through an internal or external battle? It’s not just what hangs on the wall.”

Across our conversation, the term “we” launches Barrett’s sentences more than not, even when tackling “you”-directed questions, honoring the extent to which her ambitions rely in part on a multidimensional staff. Recently joining the Barrett Barrera team as Associate Director of Curatorial and Program Development is Jessica Baran, a distinguished curator, art writer and poet who has long defied easy classification. Raised in Indiana, then earning her BFA in visual art at Columbia prior to earning a MFA at Washington University in St. Louis, Baran brings a unique ability to bridge the gaps between regional concerns and national exigencies. And the timing couldn’t be better. A century ago, St. Louis was America’s fourth-biggest city, an international hub for the cultural and artistic avant-garde. With the economic decline accompanying decades of deindustrialization, the city has been shrinking for a long time. It can be tempting to feel—as in many rustbelt centers—that the glory of the past is long gone, that the present cannot ever prove as creatively exuberant, glamorous and relevant as it once was. But it’s hard to feel that cynicism at projects+gallery or the Barrett Barrera headquarters. Here, amid the books and crayons, it seems almost anything is possible. Barrett’s tenacity, in part, lies in assuming the opposite when it comes to who’s paying attention to what she and her crew are up to. “As far as St. Louis, no one’s looking at us,” she says, “so there’s nothing to prove. And I love that! There are fewer pressures here, there’s more space and there’s more acceptance, because people will let you do what you want to do. It’s much easier to experiment. You can actually build things here.” In June of 2017, Barrett Barrera announced its first St. Louisbased residency program, during which interdisciplinary artist Paul Soileau (aka “CHRISTEENE”) and award-winning filmmaker PJ Raval were the inaugural artists-in-residence. Working out of the historic Lemp Brewery and a former pharmaceutical warehouse in south St. Louis City, their collaboration culminated in a series of pop-up events across the city with both local talent and visiting artists like New York City’s “trans-genre artist” Mx Justin Vivian Bond. Performance proceeds went to the Metro Trans Umbrella Group and PrideCenter STL. “We’re asking, ‘How can we showcase new ›››experiences

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as a form of art?’” says Barrett. “When people have gone to some of our events, they have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you. This is just like New York in 1982.’ And I’m like, ‘But we’re in St. Louis.’” Which is part—but not all of—the point. Recently opening a New York office, Barrett Barrera Projects has sponsored arts events on both coasts—like “The Charlie Factory” this past October, a three-day performance act at the iconic The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. For this exclusive rooftop soiree (at which costumes were, of course, required for attendees), Barrett Barrera artist Charlie Le Mindu (who makes fashion pieces out of human hair) collaborated with musicians like Black Cracker, Peaches, Princess Vitarah and The Voluptuous Horror Of Karen Black & Kembra Pfahler. “I love being underestimated,” Barrett confesses. “That’s always been my weapon of choice. I can go ahead and do whatever I want to do, and no one’s bothering me and I have nothing to prove. It gets the ego out of the way.” As far as the challenges facing projects+gallery and Barrett Barrera, she takes a leap of faith that her inclusive philosophy will be rendered accessible to the public. “As the leader, I have to be careful,” she says. “I personally love living in that ambiguous state, but it takes the right combination of people to make it happen—a process of relationship and trust-building.” Future-wise, Barrett mentions “serious negotiations for a big project in China” involving a “basket of celebrities.” Meanwhile, “A Queen Within” will be traveling to the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a collaboration with New York painter and sculptor Christine Corday is in the works. In March of 2018, Barrett Barrera will participate in the exhibition “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom,“ at the Oakland Museum of California.

Barrett and her team are also considering how to encourage limited-edition works by their artists for a more affordable retail price point. “We are trying to adapt our company to both the needs of the artist and the needs of the public. Fortunately, we have a team of people who like challenges, and figuring things out.” “One of the most fun things to do is to bring artists to St. Louis and watch their reactions. Everyone I’ve brought has ended up loving this place. We have the best of the Midwestern aspect. One, we’re nice, and people like to work with us. But there is also that surprise element. We specialize in the unexpected.” Listening to Barrett express her passion for such a wide variety of artists—specifically a dual love of contemporary portraiture and more conceptual work—tensions between the emotive and cerebral seem to readily dissolve. “Head and heart both have to be at stake,” she says. “In a collective consciousness now, we can hold head and heart in the same realm. Humanity has evolved to that. Our systems haven’t. How do we curate our internal selves? What will change and challenge us? In the best-case scenario, art does that. There’s something transformative.” The late artist Gordon Matta-Clark, another of Barrett’s heroes, once said, “Here is what we have to offer you in its most elaborate form—confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.” It’s hard not to get swept up in her idealistic gusto. But then, how much is idealist when so much has been realized? Later that afternoon, following a visit to the Hassan Hajjaj and Basil Kincaid show at projects+gallery, I spot Barrett about three cars down outside a local St. Louis auction house, hauling a statue almost half her size into the back of an SUV. Once one is safely laid inside, she squats to scoop its taller sibling. For all her lofty talk and playful self-abasement, this woman is also a heavy lifter.

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ra n t h r u by DANEZ SMITH

to receive him was to be his homies’ too their fable country’s sudden gate let them glee raid we ran a train on that nigga i be the event trained, surely willing tunnel able grave host the kick back the house party hospital after set

we took our pills for this

follow, he says open, say another he nigga, another i say to me: i know what i’m supposed to be porous & siren, bridge of their brotherhood empath, table, text a sight door of beads barely a door

so i blur

lose my edges

just loose color & sound

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Selected as a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts fellow and 2017 National Book Award Finalist, Smith is the author of “[insert] boy” published by YesYes Books and “Don’t Call Us Dead” published by Graywolf Press. They have had their work featured widely on platforms such as “The New York Times,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and “The New Yorker.”


VOLUME 17 ISSUE 1

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ALIVE Magazine Issue 1 2018  
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