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St. Louis Artists’ Guild Timeline
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The St. Louis Artists’ Guild celebrated its Centennial Year with a Retrospective Exhibit of the works of renowned Guild artists of the past.
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.
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.
The St. Louis Artists' Guild is honored with the Clayton Chamber of Commerce's Cornerstone Award, which is "designed to recognize individuals or organizations that contribute something special to the community that enhances the quality of life, and Clayton, and the region."