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The Art of the Change-Up

Blink and you'll miss it

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Every once in a while, something new happens in St. Louis. Despite that persistent feeling that for months and years at a time, nothing seems to change in this town, things change. It's St. Louis' secret weapon, that soft slow lulling into a state of sameness. Blink once, and it's winter. Blink again, and it's spring. Blink enough times, and you'll find yourself wondering what happened to the past few years.

But St. Louis is never really the same. Every day brings something new, but to find it you need to keep your eyes open. Look in the corners, down the alleys; keep an eye on that stuff by the side of the road. Those little scraps and bits of other people's lives that drift across the city like 30 years of dirty snow: They're not just garbage. In the right hands, these cast-off objects can be revivified -- not resurrected, necessarily, but made alive again, made into something whole and beautiful. Something like St. Louis.

Mary Sprague has been hard at work transforming molehills of this stuff into mountains of art. Best known as a painter and maker of marks (and perhaps for that sly laugh she cuts loose with when you say something with which she agrees), Sprague has lately been working with found objects and ceramics. She brings her exceptionally keen eye for composition to three dimensions, creating objects that possess a reverent sense of welcoming (her Wrapt Colt made of wood and fiber) and her irreverent sense of humor (her Locked Teapot). Sprague exhibits her new work made of old items in the show Sum and Substance at the Regional Arts Commission. The paintings of James M. Smith complete the exhibit. Smith's paintings are also a departure from the ordinary, as he normally works with sculptural wooden forms. Perhaps it's just spring in the air that's causing the artists to change mediums in favor of something new. Or maybe this is how it's always been, and you just blinked.

Sum and Substance opens with a snazzy reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the Regional Arts Commission (6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or The show remains up through May 20. -- Paul Friswold

Paint Is Power
And so is theater

The energy of the world is a difficult thing to grasp, especially since it comprises so many things. It only stands to reason that a pretty decent-sized chunk of the global energy is artistic creativity, be it in the theatrical arts, painting or even something else. Fortunately for you, the Gallery at Monarch (7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-644-3995) harnesses some of that creative power from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at the free opening reception for Energy, an exhibit of Barb Flunker's works (including the Energy of the World triptych). This show not only captures the paint-to-canvas kind of energy, but it also benefits the theatrical kind: Off-Ramp, a new offshoot of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, will receive a portion of the proceeds from the exhibit's opening night. Energy remains up through April 30. -- Alison Sieloff

Brown Bottle Bliss

SAT 4/9

In the late 1920s, you might have spent your evening hours slipping over to the east side, giving the saloon keeper at a speakeasy the secret password and enjoying an imported Canadian whiskey -- not much has changed, has it? Fortunately, for the last 72 years, trips to the east side have been for reasons other than scoring a little moonshine. Celebrate your American rights and the 21st Amendment at the Schlafly Bottleworks' (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood) Repeal of Prohibition Beer Festival from 3 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 314-241-2337 or visit -- Amy Helms

Dunn and Dumber

SAT 4/9

Participate in the endless dumbing-down of America with Ryan Dunn's Motherfuckin' Rock Night World Tour at Three-1-Three (20 Mascoutah Avenue, Belleville, Illinois; 618-239-6885 or Dunn, of Jackass fame, films for the new Viva La Bam DVD with the cast of that MTV show in tow, so you can bet your Hot Topic wardrobe that plenty of moronic antics and audience participation/humiliation will ensue. The 7 p.m. show is for minors and costs $22.50 (one free adult admission per group of five students), and the 11 p.m. show for those eighteen and older costs $17.50. Punk/metal bands the Alter Boys and Disengage perform at both shows. -- Guy Gray

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