This week’s Budget Bites highlights a longtime ministry of Union Avenue Christian Church, the Arts Group of Union Avenue ( AGUA), currently led by Carla Duncan and members Jennifer Darnell, Naomi Pope, Jeanne Heitman, Carolyn Smith, Rose Fischer, Karen Tye, Daniel Leach, Roni Hildreth, Dianne Benjamin, JoAnne Leach, Gary Brandenburger, and Kathy Davis.  

The art gallery in UACC has served the St. Louis community for more than half a century, contributing toward fulfilling the congregation’s mission to be artistically alive. Throughout its history, church members have brought artists into our Gallery to create exhibits for public display. UACC members have provided leadership to bring these exhibits to life, as well as organizing and hosting special activities. 

During her tenure as director of our Gallery, longtime UACC member Gretchen Brigham provided strong leadership as she brought together artists for exhibits, principally from the St. Louis Artist Guild, which she also led, and had at one time been located across the street from UACC. Gretchen led the formation of AGUA in 1988. After Gretchen’s passing, UACC formally named this wonderful gathering space The Gretchen Brigham Gallery. 

In addition to hosting at least six exhibits each year, AGUA has engaged directly with the local community, including art students from Soldan International Studies High School. This year AGUA is considering other, new possibilities that include collaborating with the St. Louis Regional Psychiatric Stabilization Center, as well as the nearby Hylton Point Center. 

After a year’s hiatus, the Gretchen Brigham Gallery will host Peace, Who is God? Midwest Exhibit from October 5 – November 25, 2023 – the fourth in our series of exhibits entitled, Who Is God? David Brinker, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) at Saint Louis University, will serve as our new juror for this year’s Who is God? exhibit.

With considerable effort, AGUA managed to keep the Who Is God? series alive during the pandemic with a totally virtual show in 2020 and a hybrid in-gallery and virtual show in 2021. The gallery calendar is already filled for 2023 and most of 2024, and is also scheduling into 2025.

A unique feature of The Gretchen Brigham Gallery is that it lowers the barrier for artists who have never exhibited their art in a formal gallery: we do not charge fees. Although we routinely feature established artists, we’ve had the joy of hearing artists exclaim, “This is my first solo show,” and “This is the first time I’ve sold my art!” Even established artists have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to show in our fabulous gallery space as well as sales arising from their exhibit.

AGUA receives a 25% commission on artwork sold during exhibits in our gallery, which is low compared with other galleries. We forgo this charge for exhibits by special and charitable groups and schools. These sales have enabled AGUA to function with a relatively modest budget from UACC. Our resources have enabled us to provide limited support to local community organizations and Union Avenue Opera, as well as give funds back to UACC to support infrastructure projects. AGUA deeply appreciates the stability provided by our church.

The Gallery continues to contribute to the community in more subtle, yet powerful ways. AGUA and the Gallery bring people together. This has spawned collaborations, and even the formation of a new artistic organization from two artists who met in an exhibit at UACC and later founded The Gateway Pastel Society.

The AGUA ministry team is exploring new possibilities for events and gatherings to build new connections within our church and our community. When AGUA hosts events, please plan to participate and invite your friends and family to attend.

To read previous issues of Budget Bites, click on the following links:

  • January 26, 2023 Budget Bites focus on Building Ministry Partners II HERE

  • January 19, 2023 Budget Bites focus on Building Ministry Partners I HERE

  • January 12, 2023 Budget Bites focus on Outreach & Justice Ministries HERE

  • January 5, 2023 Budget Bites focus on the Martha Morgan Short Funds HERE

  • December 29, 2022 Budget Bites focus on Plant & Property HERE

  • December 22, 2022 Budget Bites focus on Congregational Meeting and approval of 2023 provisional budget HERE

Please feel free to email or speak in person with Ad Hoc Budget Committee members: Doug Rademaker (Finance chair), Neil McNeill (Plant & Property chair), Richard Jones (Investment chair) and Michelle Mueller (Board Vice President) with any questions, concerns or ideas to strengthen the budget. A Town Hall meeting to discuss the budget will be Sunday, February 12 following worship. Together, with God’s guidance, we will continue to build God’s kingdom right here in St. Louis.

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