I wanted to explore the artistic side of St. Louis for a few days before New Year's Eve 2013, and I have felt staying at the Homestay Artist Residency gave me a window upon that scene an ordinary hotel wouldn't have provided. Managed by Emily Hemeyer, an artist active on the St. Louis scene for around a decade, the flat in an brownstone near the corner of Jefferson and Shenandoah. I found the artist residency through AirBNB, now one of my favorite ways to plan an overnight stay. Booking through the website avoided one of my dreaded travel rituals, the extended wait checking in at a counter with a tired clerk. By the time I arrived, my financial arrangements were already in place, and I just had to show up at the door and text Dennis to come downstairs for me. Dennis showed me around the place, explained all the house rules and gave me keys and offered assistance finding information about the town.
Dennis is a fine example of a Homestay resident. A retired professor from Boston, Dennis was wrapping up his residency and packing his car to drive south. In his room, he was staying up late scanning negatives into digital form, preserving a photographic career spanning many decades. He had established a strong routine of cooking meals in the well-appointed kitchen, visiting family in St. Louis and working long into the night to complete his project. The walls in my space and the hallways were posted with posters, photographs and artifacts donated by previous residents, which made a fascinating pastime. Many of the artifacts were created during Hemeyer's career as independent art instructor, business owner of a textile and curiosity shop on nearby Cherokee Street and as a performance artist. Fortunately, I had a chance to talk with Hemeyer twice, just to put a face to the phenomenon.
My space had superb sunlight through south facing windows, the sunlight breaking into rainbows on the found object sculptures that decorated an antique fireplace mantle. I was checked over by the resident cat, Rushbaw, and beyond that, not terribly required to entertain the furry resident. I am sure I slept the sleep of muses on an vintage wrought iron four post bed, outfitted with a dream catcher sewn together out of fiber doilies and cantina lights woven into the canopy. The dreamcatcher worked for me. The cantina lights I turned off at the surge protector. I enjoyed relaxing in the room on a Wabi Sabi collection of loungers and couches. The springs of the bed made a charming music for a few minutes as the tension fluctuated in the old metal. The quilt comforters, I learned, had been created by Hemeyer's family.
The brownstone in south St. Louis had amenities close to hand, including a piano bar on the Jefferson corned called Keypers where good music and congenial Cardinal fans could be found. Taking Bus Route 11 to the Metro Line at Civic Center, I was able to get around town easily without a car, visiting the St. Louis Art Museum, Lacledes Landing, Union Station and the funky eclectic shops and pubs of Cherokee Street. I especially enjoyed the Fortuneteller Bar and the newly opened Whiskey Ring, where a bartender recommended a Zeppelin Blend Straight Malt Whiskey from New Holland Brewing Company, an irony to this West Michigan writer. Upon leaving, I found the Kakao Chocolate Shop doing brisk business for New Year's Eve chocolates, another eclectic shop on the Jefferson corner.
Thus, if looking for a street level view of St. Louis from the viewpoint of an art insider, Homestay Artist Residency is clearly a pick for the visitor to this Mississippi River town.