Driven by a desire to merge community and creative artistry, Bell Darris created Art & Soul seven years ago as an outlet for St. Louis artists to come together.
A diverse event showcasing some of the best musical, cultural and artistic talent the city has to offer, the Art & Soul Live Exhibit invaded the Third Degree Glass Factory on October 18; filling the venue with imagination, passion and influence.
“I know so many dope artists and amazing people who want to come together no matter what,” Darris said. “I keep this going for the artists because we need this outlet.”
Darris, an award-winning creative and violinist, started Art & Soul in 2013 as a platform for guests to live in the present moment and appreciate the talents of creative entrepreneurs residing in St. Louis. Guests enjoyed an eclectic array of entertainment throughout the night including musical performances from Darris herself, T-Dubb O, Bo Dean, and FiFi Writes, live caricature drawings, fire dancers, and live paintings.
Hosted by Louis Conphliction and Innergy, Art & Soul also provided a space for visual artists to display and sell their art; an opportunity that is seldomly allotted to local artists.
“Art is a slow moving business,” said Anthea Winston, one of the event’s featured artists. “It’s not fast paced. So these events give us a chance to broadcast our products and services and for people to see it and buy.”
Winston’s brand, Art Is Life By Thea, depicts a non-uniformed, anti traditional art style that is infectious to those who embrace it. Although she has been dabbling in art her entire life, she started taking her craft seriously in 2016. Since then, art has become not only a source of income but also self therapy.
Featured artist Jason Berry agrees with Winston, saying that creating art helped him as he battled Stage 4 Colon Cancer.
“Art was beyond therapy because I was able to express how I was feeling without words, because I’m not a very vocal person, but with my artwork, I can tell you a story,” Berry said.
Not only did Art & Soul provide a space for artists to gain notoriety and exposure, but Berry said it also was a chance for event attendees to tap into their inner creativity.
“Everybody has an art side to them,” he said. “It’s just about letting them express it and this is the perfect place to do it.”
A creator of abstract art, Eric Wilson was a participant during the first Art & Soul event in 2013. This year, he painted live throughout the event and was excited to be working with Darris again. Wilson said he is motivated by the growth of Art & Soul over the past seven years and the momentum will continue to grow for local artists if they join together.
“Not often do we have large audiences but collectively, if we bring our smaller audiences together, that definitely will bring awareness to all we have to offer,” Wilson said.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, guests were able to mingle, enjoy great food and take advantage of the incredible art being showcased. There was a sanitation station at the entrance of the venue as well as a basket of free masks so everyone could network while practicing social distancing. All guests were temperature screened upon arrival to ensure everyone’s safety.
In addition to art and entertainment, guests were able to shop with a plethora of locally owned, retail vendors with everything from jewelry and clothing to handbags and skincare products.
Kisha Winston, owner of The WoKE Brand, served as a vendor, performing poet and participated in the fashion show for this year’s event. Like the other participants, Kisha said that community is the lifeline of the St. Louis art community and events like Art & Soul prove that you don’t have to leave St. Louis to find good entertainment and art.
“It all starts with community first,” she said. “And this is the platform where we’re able to share talent, see local talent and highlight local talent right here in our own city.”
What Darris created seven years ago has evolved into a cataclysm of creativity and life. Laughter erupted throughout the room as the witty hosts kept the evening rolling all night long and guests roared with excitement as Darris’ melodic violin solo’s filled the venue. At the end of the night, everyone left knowing that, despite the obstacles this year has brought, art and beauty still surrounds us all.
“There is art out here,” Berry said. “There is beauty out here, creativity and imagination.”
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