If there's an artist in your family seeking a bit of inspiration, they're sure to find it at the Foundry Art Centre, located in the Frenchtown District of Historic St. Charles.
Originally constructed as a train car factory in the 1940s, the 36,800-square-foot building was later renovated and reopened as an art gallery in 2004. Today, the Foundry is home to a vibrant arts scene, and the center continues to expand its kids and family programs and exhibits.
Families will particularly enjoy the foundry's newest addition, the Art Carousel, which includes a Reading Tree Space and a puppet stage. The Carousel, which was made possible through a grant from the PNC Foundation, uses visual arts, storytelling, music and hands-on creation to help children explore literature. The spectacular reading tree in the new Art Carousel is sure to excite even young children, and the size and physical layout of the room provides space for little ones to explore without wandering too far.
The Carousel is housed within the Baue Family Children's Gallery and will continue to evolve during the next nine months, said Laura Helling, executive director of the Foundry Art Centre. The center will host family days as each addition is unveiled.
The Foundry also offers exhibition space — including space for children's masterpieces — classrooms and programming for artists of all ages. Visitors can view juried exhibitions, shop for art and take a peek at work by emerging artists. Visitors also can watch and interact with local artists at work in studios on the second floor; it's an activity that older children and teens will particularly enjoy. Even when the studios are closed, a peek through the windows at the original and varied artwork is worth the trip, and provides visitors a glimpse at different artists' processes and workspaces. "This creative interaction between teacher, student and professional artist is the hallmark of our educational programming and provides a tangible, interactive experience that helps solidify the learning process," Helling said.
The center also offers children's classes to help young artists nurture their creativity. Classes cover everything from the basics of theater to paper-animal making and provide students with the opportunity to learn from a professional artist. During summer camps, for example, students might learn about Van Gogh's wheat field paintings and then visit the studios upstairs to talk with one of the artists about his or her own landscape paintings.
"Children have the chance to learn from a living, working artist who demonstrates the very concepts talked about in the classroom, while answering questions from the children," Helling said. "Armed with the initial introduction by the teacher and the follow-up interaction with the artist, students go back to the classroom where they begin applying the knowledge they have acquired to create their own paintings."
The Foundry Art Centre offers programming for adults as well, including Canvasses and Cocktails, perfect for date night or girls' night out. Classes are $35 and include a canvas, art supplies and guided instruction. Attendees are invited to bring a bottle of wine or their favorite drink.
Little ballerinas also will enjoy kicking off the holiday season with the Foundry's "Mommy and Me Nutcracker Tea" at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17. The event includes a traditional Victorian tea followed by performances by Dance Project STL and Common Thread Contemporary Dance. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under.
"Often young children find it difficult to sit through the entire Nutcracker performance, so ours is more of an introduction to the piece with the most notable parts performed," Helling said.
The Foundry Art Centre is located at 520 North Main Center, St. Charles, Mo., 63301 and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free, though donations are accepted. Call 636-255-0270 or visit foundryartcentre.org.