History of the St. Louis Artists’ Guild

Since 1886, the St. Louis Artists’ Guild has been the regional center for artists and people who love art. Today the Artists’ Guild is an extraordinary organization with over 800 members whose mission remains: “To be a resource and advocate for creative expression, serving the Midwest as a center that exhibits, supports, and promotes the visual arts.”

The history of the Artists’ Guild is the history of art in St. Louis. For over a century, most professional artists in St. Louis achieved their first recognition through its competitive exhibitions.

The Artists’ Guild has always been a significant contributor to the cultural environment of the greater St. Louis area. In 1995, its move to a beautifully restored 1920’s mansion in the heart of Oak Knoll Park in Clayton provided the perfect place to expand programs, classes, and exhibits.

Current Location

The Artists’ Guild holds primarily local and regional competitions with cash awards. It also hosts national exhibits and participates in collaborative and exchange exhibits with other art organizations. And, because of the limited opportunity for young artists to compete and exhibit work in a professional gallery, the Artists’ Guild holds the annual Young Artists’ Showcase for high school students with cash awards and scholarships. In addition, special exhibitions of the artwork of elementary school children and children and youth with special needs are held monthly at the Guild’s second floor Monsanto Children’s Gallery.

As a well-established network for all the artists in the metropolitan area, the Artists’ Guild is a communication center where artists can learn, share ideas, and test their talents among peers and professionals.

Members are a unique blend of professional and commercial artists, established and emerging artists, architects, photographers, educators, and students. Through the dedication of members and their special talents, our volunteers make it possible to offer the programs, exhibitions, and activities that make the Artists’ Guild unique.

Because the Artists’ Guild is a non-profit organization, it depends on memberships, fundraising activities, generous support from the community, grants from the Arts and Education Council, Regional Arts Commission, Missouri Arts Council, and Angels of the Arts.

St. Louis Artists’ Guild Timeline

1886

In the winter of 1886, a meeting was called at the home of Joseph R. Meeker for the purpose of considering the formation of a new art organization. The group was small and was drawn from the membership of the St. Louis Sketch Club, originally founded by male art students attending Washington University School of Art. The newly proposed art organization was a group committed to the idea of admitting women. After several meetings tackling the issues of gender, an organization was created, and the name, “St. Louis Artists’ Guild,” was adopted. Of course, the old St. Louis Sketch Club was quietly laid to rest. The St. Louis Artists’ Guild was formed to develop a high standard of art appreciation; to promote and stimulate expression of its members and artists in the community; to present the work of artists and craftsmen through exhibitions, competitions, and lectures; and to encourage excellence and understanding not only of painting and photography but also other visual and performing arts.

1905

The new organization grew, incorporated, and adopted a constitution. Meetings were originally held in artists’ studios and homes, and in the basement of the Museum of Fine Arts at 19th and Locust Streets in St. Louis. The exhibitions were held in the Museum galleries. Later, meetings and exhibitions were held in various rented quarters such as the Odeon Building at Grand and Finney in St. Louis.

1907

On July 6, 1907, a trust was signed between Mr. & Mrs. F. W. Lehmann and Officers of the Artists’ Guild to buy land for the purpose of building a structure for the arts. The building and improvements would become property of the trustees.

1908

The St. Louis Artists’ Guild moved into its own specially designed building at 812 North Union in St. Louis. The architect was Louis C. Spiering. The galleries were built through the efforts and generosity of members, art patrons, and civic leaders such as William K. Bixby, head of the St. Louis Art Museum Board.

1916

The Guild doubled its gallery and meeting space and added a theatre. Playwright Tennessee Williams produced many of his plays on the Guild’s stage before moving to the “Great White Way” on Broadway.

1973

The Artists’ Guild sold the building on Union and purchased a large three-story residence at 277 East Lockwood in Webster Groves. The Guild remodeled the house into its new headquarters.

1986

The St. Louis Artists’ Guild celebrated its Centennial Year with a Retrospective Exhibit of the works of renowned Guild artists of the past.

1989

On May 22, 1989, the President of the Board of Governors, Marilynne Bradley, signed a lease prepared by the City of Clayton for the occupancy of Two Oak Knoll Park. Between 1989 and 1995, the Guild raised over $700,000 for major renovations to the 1929 stone building.

1995

The first phase of renovation to the mansion was completed. The Artists’ Guild moved to the new facilities at Oak Knoll. The building included four floors renovated for the use of expanded gallery space, public art library, studio space, offices, and conference room.

2000 – Present

The Artists’ Guild is a nationally known Arts Center recognized for exhibitions and programs that educate and enlighten, bring art to all segments of the community, and serve as a resource and network for community artists of all ages and interests.

  1908 Location
1908
812 North Union
St. Louis, MO
 
1973 Location
1973
277 East Lockwood
Webster Groves, MO
 
1995Location
1989
Two Oak Knoll Park
Clayton, MO
   

 

A Proud Past

A partial list of distinguished artists who have been associated with the St. Louis Artists’ Guild reads like a Who’s Who of American Art.

Kent Addison
Max Beckman
Thomas Hart Benton
Oscar E. Berninghaus
George Caleb Bingham
Fred Green Carpenter
Mildred Bailey Carpenter
William Merritt Chase
Katherine E. Cherry
Fred Conway
Paul Cornoyer
Belle Cramer
Fred Dreher
Werner Drewes
Richard H. Duhme
Charles Eames
Ray Eames
William Fett
Emil Frei
Alexandra Galston
Charles Franklin Galt
Graves Gladney
Gostav F. Goetsch
Philip A. Gronemeyer
David P. Hares
James W. Harmon
Louise Horwitz
Kenneth F. Hudson
Halsey C. Ives
Joe Jones
Takuma Kajewara
Viola Miller Longmire
Paul Marquis
Martyl
Carl Miles
Richard E. Miller
Tanasko Milovich
Frank B. Nuderscher
Arthur Osver
Sarah Miriam Peale
Jane M. Pettus
Charles F. Quest
Siegfried Reinhardt
Jessie Beard Rickly
Charles M. Russell
Aimee Schweig
Wallace Herndon Smith
E. Oscar Thalinger
Ernest Trova
Charles F. Wimar
Rodney Winfield
Grant Wood
Edmund H. Wuerpel