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I was recently in Palm Springs and went to a production of "The Follies", where the members of the cast of this wonderful variety show must have been 55 or older. The chorus line consisted of women from their 50’s into their 80's doing high kicks and intricate dance routines. They were terrific, but no matter how great of a shape one is in, the body only holds up to a certain degree.
The experience made me start to think of aging and creativity in the arts. Bob Bennett of Jazz St Louis reminded me that Toots Thilemans is approaching his 90th birthday and is blowing away on the harmonica and packing the house and that Lou Donaldson, who's also "getting up there" is also doing the same on the saxophone.
Rich O'Donnell, a now retired member of the St Louis Symphony, is in his 70's and is still composing new music that is being performed worldwide. His wife Anna Lum,a published poet, is still writing and performing as well. Jeanne Sinquefield, a musician herself and a promoter of new music, says three senior citizens stole the show recently at the Columbia Civic Orchestra in Columbia, Missouri with their compositions of new music. Sinquefield says, "Experience does count. When you've been composing for forty or fifty years, your work often gets better!"
Michael Utoff, Artistic Director of Dance St Louis, reminded me that Paul Taylor, who founded his own dance company many years ago, is well up in years and still is actively choreographing his works. Zandra Rhodes, world renowned dress designer, is still very active in her 70's and is still designing sets for dance companies and opera theatres.
Many of us have heard of Grandma Moses, but we have our own cadre of visual artists right here in St Louis. Lynn Hamilton recently curated an art exhibition entitled “Maturity and Its Muse” at the Sheldon Art Galleries, featuring artists who are still actively working in their 70's. Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, the director of the Sheldon Art Galleries, says, "When Lynn Hamilton came to me with the idea to curate an exhibition of work by St Louis area artists over 70, I enthusiastically found space for the show in our Galleries. I understood that this would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the finest artists working in our metropolitan region, many of whom have national careers."
In the show curated by Ms Hamilton, there’s a quote from Carl Purcell, which says, "We are all aging, but what a way to go." Robert Duffy, associate editor of The Beacon, our online newspaper, said, "I encourage you to go and see the show because of its bounteous variety and the grace with which it is endowed, as well as for the very important lesson it provides which is chronology is bunk!” Duffy also reminds us that Louise Bourgeois, who was born on Christmas Day in 1911 and died on May 31 of last year, died pretty much with her boots on. She worked until the week before she expired producing her inspired and inspiring sculpture. Even Pablo Picasso, that great bull-genius of an artist, continued working with a vengeance until a year or so before his death at age 91.
Don't assume that seniors are ready for the rocking chair. Look around our own city and don't be surprised if a play, concert, or art opening was made possible by a vibrant old master of the arts.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.